First Lady in Fashion

Lauren Sneath joins the designers’ debate on dressing Melania Trump

editor
13th February 2017

Supermodel, actress, socialite, and now First Lady of the United States of America- Melania Trump has no shortage of material for her CV. One thing I’ll bet she’s never been before, however, is rejected…that is until now. Following suit with the boycott of Ivanka Trump’s multiple businesses, many high-end clothing designers have publicly refused to dress Melania over their distaste for her husband’s policies as he continues to rock the boat of world politics.

Such is the anger of French designer Sophie Theallet that she wrote an open letter begging her fellow designers not to “participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady”. She explained that the “rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by” and asked designers to rally in opposition to Trump and his wife. This was met with support from many high ranking members of the fashion industry: Marc Jacobs stated that he would rather channel his energy into “helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters”.

Despite the obvious positive elements to this boycott, it’s also easy to sympathize with the new FLOTUS. No one knows if she really agrees with her husband’s decisions, and yet she has been widely demonised by the press and the public. Must she fall victim, like so many others, to the antiquated yet deeply rooted idea that a woman is defined by her husband? Perhaps she is a real advocate for Donald Trump’s policies, or perhaps she loves her husband, but doesn’t share all his views. Where it is her responsibility to both support her partner and defend her own values, it is our responsibility as the public not to judge her based on the people she associates with, but to see her as a person in her own right. The idea that a woman is an extension of her husband is outdated. It is entirely unfair to limit Melania to “Donald Trump’s wife”, when, given the chance, she could be so much more.

“Following suit with the boycott of Ivanka Trump’s multiple businesses, many high-end clothing designers have publicly refused to dress Melania over their distaste for her husband’s policies as he continues to rock the boat of world politics”

Of course, if a designer feels it unethical to dress a person who so blatantly conflicts with their personal or political persuasions, it is logical that they refuse. I personally find admirable that these designers have done so in order to take a stand against the incredibly intolerant policies of Donald Trump. However, one could question whether this refusal will have any real effect. So what if Melania has to wear dresses from the rack? It won’t affect the manner in which Donald Trump bulldozes through his four-year stint as President. Are his decisions on immigration or the refugee crisis in any way affected by the person who designed his wife a dress? Absolutely not.

In the end, it comes down to personal responsibility. Designers can cooperate with the new First Lady if they so desire; seeing past the orange man she stands beside and showing her the respect she arguably deserves as a member of The First Family. On the other hand; would you sleep soundly at night, knowing you had contributed to the campaign of potentially the most dangerous President yet?

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