Melania Trump: We need to talk about her ‘Out of Africa’ wardrobe

Colonial helmet, movie-Nazi fedora – and the first lady wants us to take her seriously?

Colonial chic?: Melania Trump in her pith helmet and whites in Nairobi. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Colonial chic?: Melania Trump in her pith helmet and whites in Nairobi. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

 

Are we allowed to talk about Melania Trump’s outfits, or is it too belittling? I can’t keep up any more. – Daniel, by email

Ooh, it’s a tricky one, isn’t it, Daniel? On the one hand, seriously, is that woman actually wearing a pith helmet in Nairobi? And, on the other, are we being unfeminist talking about it? Where is Andrea Dworkin when you need her, or maybe just Emily Post? Let’s hear from Trump herself, as she gave a marvellously huffy TV interview about this very subject when she was in Egypt last week:

“I want to talk about my trip, not what I wear. That’s very important, what I do, what we’re doing with USAid, what I do with my initiatives, and I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear,” she harrumphed.

I’m sorry, Melania, it’s just really hard to listen to a woman when she’s wearing the clothes of one of the most famous fictional Nazis of all time. Call me crazy

Yet her words might have had more impact if she hadn’t said them while dressed like Belloq the Nazi from the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m sorry, Melania, it’s just really hard to listen to a woman when she’s wearing the clothes of one of the most famous fictional Nazis of all time. Call me crazy.

Yes, aid is important. But what is Melania Trump doing with USAid, the US Agency for International Development? Last time I checked, the Trump administration, which she is there to represent, tried to slash its funding by almost a third in the president’s first two budgets. Of course, anyone who asked her about that was promptly shut down, as Time magazine reported, because, it turned out in an amazing plot twist, Melania did not want to talk about US aid either.

But her programme. Yes, her famously hard-hitting Be Best programme. Something about cracking down on bullying, wasn’t it? But wait, whose husband was it who, last Friday, as Melania was doing her Out of Africa cosplay tour, was telling the world that Dr Christine Blasey Ford had “made up” her sexual-assault claims against Brett Kavanaugh and, on Tuesday, that the allegations were “brought about by people that are evil”? Take your time to think about it.

Fun reminder: Ford, her husband and children are still not able to live in their own home because they are receiving “endless death threats”, according to her attorneys. Gosh, if only someone close to the president was supposed to give a toss about bullying.

Egyptian ensemble: the first lady’s outfit drew comparisons to that of a well-known film villain. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty
Egyptian ensemble: the first lady’s outfit drew comparisons to that of a well-known film villain. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

It’s almost sweet that the first lady wants to draw attention to her baloney platform, given how little she does for it. In 2017 she gave eight speeches. Eight. To put that into some kind of perspective, Laura Bush gave 42 speeches in her first year. Michelle Obama gave 72. Do we have time to mention that a booklet published in May as part of the Be Best initiative, about “encouraging wellbeing for children online”, was found to be basically identical to one published by the Obama administration? Oh, look at that. I think we just did.

So, given that we have now followed Trump’s instructions and thoroughly discussed what she is doing with USAid and her programme, let’s take a look at her damn clothes.

First of all, you cannot be all, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, stop paying attention to my clothes, you shallow fools,” when you are wearing a pith helmet. A pith helmet. To recap, on her trip to Egypt she was dressed in a ludicrous outfit of cream trousers, white shirt, black neck tie and white fedora that was, as the entire internet instantly pointed out, three-quarters Belloq and one-quarter Michael Jackson.

Then, in Nairobi, she wore safari trousers, brown boots over her trousers, a white shirt and that helmet. (Seriously, where does one even buy a pith helmet these days? White Saviours R Us?) So, in other words, for her trip to Africa, Melania Trump’s mood board ran from movie Nazi to old-timey colonialist. Really, she makes it look so effortless.

For a while I suspected Trump was playing some weird game, telling people to stop talking about her clothes and then wearing a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do uu?” while en route to an immigrant-child detention centre. Was she gaslighting us with fashion? Then I wondered if perhaps the problem was that she was just so used to having to be mute around the spray-tanned Stay Puft Marshmallow Man she married that she could not help herself but try to talk through her clothes. But after jacketgate and what I am calling Belloqgate, I think it’s simpler: her stylist is a genius insurrectionist on the inside, working to make the Trumps look even more deranged than they are. There really is no other explanation. I salute that stylist. I cannot wait for her SS-inspired wardrobe for her trip to Germany. Start polishing those black boots, Melania! – Guardian

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