Wednesday, June 7, 2017

No Holds Barred: Melania's Arrival

Original Source: Fairchild Archive
by Blair Sabol

I am not a fan of First Ladies. It has always been an awkward, highly pressurized role for each one. Although Mamie Eisenhower suffered from Menieres Disease which affects the inner ear and equilibrium. It got progressively worse over the years and she had to hold on to someone's arm when she walked. In addition, she was limited in her physical activities because she had an enlarged heart from Rheumatic Fever which she contracted as a child. So she did most of her work from bed -- correspondence, management of the family quarters of the White House, and entertainment planning etc. to save her energy for the many public appearances required by the job. Her being uneasy on her feet mistakenly fed rumors that she had drinking problem, which she did not. Lady Bird Johnson was always sweet and into wild flowers; Pat Nixon was just long suffering and sad, and Betty Ford at least had rehab.  And dear Nancy Reagan had astrology and her “Just Say No” campaign. 
Yes, Jackie Kennedy Onassis was The Gold Standard, but she became more important after she left the White House (I actually remember making fun of the pillbox hats and huge submarine floater pumps and her strange Marilyn Monroe voice while she was First Lady. I stopped ridiculing her years later). As for the Bush ladies — Barbara was a battle axe in huge KJL gumball pearl chokers and Laura Bush was charmingly appropriate and into reading books. 
Michelle Obama had a lot going for her in the way of hula-hoops for obese children, a vegetable garden, and her bare arms. But her best fashion moment was her pre-election J.Crew appearance on The Tonight Show; she admitted she bought her cardigan and pencil skirt online ... like the rest of us! 
Credit Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press
Her Election Day walk up Presidential Boulevard in green leather gloves and matching green kitten heels was heart warming.  Her Election Ball gown was famous for being white and one-shouldered and who knew from designer Jason Wu?! 

Michelle Obama wearing the white Jason Wu gown at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. Photo: AP/Getty
She put him on the map.  But after eight years and many haircuts and silhouettes from almost every designer in the world, she became a blur!  It seems Vogue and 100 stylists had their way with her and in the end she became a Wintour Cover Girl and at her final White House dinner she resembled Beyoncé in a solid rose gold chainmail gown by Versace and a stick straight hairstyle. Now Michelle is ready to host the Oscars, or at least be a judge on American Idol.  Oddly, Michelle is reality show ready while Melania Trump never went through that, though her husband was born of it!

Enter Melania Trump. Frankly, the road hasn’t been easy following the popularity of Michelle Obama. But suddenly during the recent Middle East tour, Melania became an overnight showstopper. And who would have thought?  After all, she has been MIA for so long it seemed like she didn’t want the job, or didn’t know what her job was!

I didn’t care about the rumors of divorce, separate bedrooms, separate homes, separate states. We had all that with Bill and Hillary.  But Hillary brought her pantsuits and her own need to be spotlighted into the equation as a future Senator and President.  Melania has chosen to be aloof, and out of focus — though we all respected her Garbo need of “vanting to be alone” and with her 11-year-old son.

But let's get clear as to what a First Lady is.  Or can we?  Is it just a big fat PR job?  The First Cheerleader to the President, a do-gooder for the charity of her choice — a symbol of style and diplomacy — or none of this, or all of it, or Who Cares?!
Melania arrived under a haze of rumors.  Yes, she was known to be super kind and intelligent, very quiet and humble and devoted to her son. Unlike Nancy Reagan — she didn’t have a bevy of hotshot gal pals to lunch with.  After all, she wasn’t American — Melania is “The First Immigrant First Lady.”  And unlike Nancy Reagan she didn’t come with a drug cause to push.  How refreshing!  The public and she had to come up with her particular plan — a message — a theme.  For a brief moment last September she mentioned being opposed to cyber-bullying amongst children — interesting considering her husband’s raucous addiction to tweeting. I gave her brave points for that.
First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush (standing, left to right), Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter, and Betty Ford (seated, left to right) at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, November 1991.
What Melania does have for the job is a real fashion sense (so did Jackie O) and a real history as a successful model.  But beauty nowadays isn’t really enough. After all, who can’t “buy” beauty nowadays with face fillers, boob jobs and stomach reduction?  Look at the new French Prime Minister’s wife Brigitte Trogneux, Madame Macron, the attractive nipped-and-tucked 64-year-old spouse ... who continues to “work” it!
Madame Macron still “working" it!
Melania has had to rise out of the rough waters of fake press fury and jealousy over her beauty and her money.  She is currently making her own statement in the roughest seas of public opinion in history. Not easy. She is going to have to do it her way: through sheer appearance and clothing — call it superficial but how perfect for our materialistic culture of late. She formed her cause ... her purpose; just show up and look great next to your controversial husband.
Like him or hate him — you have to hand it to Donald Trump who does have great taste in “Miss Universe” women around him – Ivana, Ivanka and Melania are the best “executive cabinet” he has.

So Melania really did show up and dazzle on this Middle East tour and in 9 days, five countries and over 18 outfits she make her presence known.  I didn’t care which outfit went with what country, and to veil or not to veil. 
Melania on her Middle East tour ...
She had me the very first day when she walked across the White House lawn in a tight orange leather below-the-knee skirt and white sweater with 9-inch beige leather stilettos.  Her feet didn’t sink into the soil once and she stayed on her toes. (Maybe a metaphor?) 

She had me at hello. ©Reuters
She had that stride all over the tour and up and down the plane steps.  Rarely did she hold onto a railing.  Give the gal a hand for that alone.  As for that hand swat in the Israel airport?  Maybe Donald was reaching back behind him to make sure she was okay, and believe me Melania didn’t need his assurance — she was right on point and right there and didn’t need his help.

I was not into all the individual designers credited for creating her splash — and there were many.  Certainly Dolce & Gabbana became a household word that week. By the time she got to the Pope, she was a “saviour.”  Particularly since the Pope looked so glum with Donald and came alive in front of Melania with his eyebrows raised and laughter about what she was feeding Donald — Slovenian nut bread?

“Mel” also managed to upstage Ivanka — the fashionista of the family who has managed to get photographed every day from her hoodie and tights n’ sneakered mornings to her Band-Aid dress and high pumped nights.

Even the New York Times gave Melania at least three serious articles (by Vanessa Friedman) on the impact of Melania’s “Ambivalence and Armor” attire on this recent tour.  And the New York Post called her trip “sweet revenge” and rightly so, considering all the numerous American designers who refused to dress her like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs.  While many of the designers stood for “pussy hats” she went on to Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors and the $51,500 magnificent D&G floral jacket and did just fine.

If WWD’s John Fairchild were still alive, I wonder what tag line he would give her?

“Queen of her own Domain?”

If this is a new kind of presidency, then it is obvious that this is a new kind of First Lady. And now she is owning it. Standing in front of the Western Wall in a classy Kors white suit and red and white zebra stilettos! Gold belting her black jumpsuit in Arabia to resemble their abaya robes.
In classy Kors at the Western Wall.
Gold belting it in Arabia.
Let’s be honest — the truth is her body is beyond statuesque.  Who can wear tight skirts, huge belts and military jackets like that? Big boobs — no hips, long legs — it works. All her hemlines were appropriately knee length or longer, necklines were button-upped or slightly scooped!  I want to know what shaper she wears since there wasn’t a bulge or roll or lump in her torso! Her bust line was perfect and there wasn’t a hint of a Kardashian flesh explosion. Her hair and makeup was natural, but not airbrushed to fake proportions. 
It makes you wonder about her own personal “glam squad.”  I bet it is mostly herself and all alone. She is definitely “First Stylist and Chief.”  And no doubt she could or does OWN everything she wears. Brava!  Michele Obama was given most everything she wore and she still had trouble competing with the likes of Carla Bruni, the wife of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy when they stood side by side with their husbands.  Then again, clothes weren’t ever Michelle’s “thing.” Yet at the end of her term she certainly became something ELSE.  Recently Melania outshined Brigitte Macron in their picture together, and here I thought Madame Macron was supposed to be an elder Fashionista Supreme?
People have called Melania’s style cool minimalistic chic — she needs less jewelry and finery because she already has “the goods.”  And she doesn’t need couture because she can afford “the rack.”  This is a First Lady who arrived with her own taste and needs nobody’s help!

Now Melania gets to create who and what she is by moving from her New York “Tower” to the White House ... with Barron. I hope she just continues to “show up and look great.”  That’s all we need. More visual eye candy and less rhetoric in these times of partisanship, global disgust and noisy outrage.

Melania Trump will deliver that!