She’s not going naked. Probably.
The short version
Speculation is high regarding which designer might be selected to outfit soon-to-be first lady Melania Trump for the inauguration and its related parties. Normally, whoever is selected receives a noticeable market bump from the relationship. However, since December many designers have been saying they want nothing to do with anything or anyone related to the incoming administration. This raises the possibility that the new first lady may have to buy off the rack.
The core of the problem
Normally, dressing the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is a huge honor. Fashion industry reports show hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue going to designers who FLOTUS wears to special events such as state dinners. No event is more special than the inauguration and the formal balls that evening. Everyone in fashion is watching to see not only which designer the new first lady chooses, but how her taste in clothing matches up in comparison to her predecessors.
For most women, the task of getting dressed revolves around decisions such as which blouse isn’t stained and which pair of slacks aren’t too tight around the waist. For the first lady, however, the label in the clothing is often as important as the garments themselves. The first lady is, after all, a representative of the United States. Therefore, she is expected to wear predominantly American designers. This is going to be all the more true now given her husband’s rhetoric about things being made in America. While she might look good in a Versace dress, the backlash would be significant.
Equally important is how much the dress costs, which is something that could be a significant issue for the incoming first lady. More than a few president’s wives have been criticized for wearing garments whose price tags were dramatically out of reach of the average American. However, given her previous position as the wife of a billionaire, the new first lady isn’t especially accustomed to worrying about price tags. Expect significant backlash if she repeatedly wears dresses with high five-figure pricing.
Those are the normal problems with dressing a first lady. This year, however, there is a new matter: designers don’t want anything to do with her husband’s politics. The row started back right after the election when designer Sophie Theallet, who dressed Mrs. Obama on multiple occasions, penned a widely-publicized open letter stating that she would not dress the incoming first lady. Ms. Theallet said: “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live buy.”
Since then, the number of designers speaking up about the issue has been significant, to the point that many are wondering who, if anyone is going to dress the first lady, or if she might end up buying off the rack. Since first ladies are expected to look their very best, custom-fitted clothing has been the norm for generations, but the lack of cooperating designers may leave this FLOTUS with little choice.
Who is saying no
- Marc Jacobs
- Derek Lam
- Tom Ford
- Timo Weiland
- Philip Lim
- Humberto Leon
- Naeem Khan
- Josef Altuzarra
- Donna Karan
These are the most recognizable names on the list. Many other designers have declined to make a public statement. However, it is also likely that Alexander Wang and Jason Wu, both of whom dressed Mrs. Obama, would likely decline.
Who is saying yes
The incoming first lady isn’t without options. A few designers have stuck their necks out to say they will dress the first lady. However, there is no confirmation that anyone has been selected and no one has been seen entering or leaving the Trump residence.
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Diane Von Furstenberg
- Sam & Libby
- Marcus Wainright (rag & bone)
- Thom Browne
It is worth noting that none of the designers state a dislike for the new first lady herself. Rather, it is the association with her husband’s policies that cause significant philosophical issues. Aside from all the controversy her husband creates every time he picks up a phone, this issue may determine whether the new first lady gets along with the social elite. All eyes will be on her this Friday. This first decision is extremely important.