Donald Trump Compared "Melania T." to Jackie O. — and He's Not Completely Off the Mark
"We have our own Jackie O. today, it’s called Melania."
After Donald Trump compared his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, to former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Twitter users erupted into a chorus of criticisms (many of them sexist), calling the comparison utterly blasphemous.
"We have our own Jackie O. today, it’s called Melania," Trump said during a Fox & Friends interview on Friday morning while speaking of his decision to change the color of Air Force One from baby blue — Jackie O.'s original choice — to navy.
He added, "We'll call it Melania T." Referring to his wife as "it" aside, Trump isn't the first person to point out similarities between the two first ladies — specifically their fashion choices.
The major difference between them, however, lies in messaging.
Fashion commentators have compared the two FLOTUS's similar aesthetics from day one — literally. On inauguration day in 2017, more than one outlet said the conservative style of Melania's powder blue Ralph Lauren coat, which she styled with a tight chignon and stilettos, was a call back to Jackie O. However, whereas Jackie was on the cutting edge of fashion at the time she wore such similar garments, Melania's look, in the 21st century, is nostalgic, clearly playing into her husband's "Make America Great Again" idea that the America of the past (which was in the midst of the civil rights movement and the Cold War during the Kennedy presidency) was a better one.
Like many first ladies to come after her, Jackie was very aware of how her outfits were being analyzed by the press — and though we now think of her as something of a fashion icon, recently discovered letters between the the former FLOTUS and fashion designer Oleg Cassini show that Jackie saw press about her style getting "vulgarly out-of-hand."
"One reason I am so happy to be working with you is that I have some control over my fashion press, which has gotten so vulgarly out-of-hand," she wrote during her time as FLOTUS. "You realize that I know that I am so much more of fashion interest than other First Ladies."
Both Melania and her predecessor, Michelle Obama, have similarly criticized the press's coverage of their fashion — however they had very different reactions to the attention.
Like Jackie, former former First Lady Michelle Obama made pointed, meaningful fashion choices during her time in office. Her fashion story is perhaps more parallel with Jackie's, as they both modernized the role of fashion in the White House. With the help of her stylist, Meredith Koop, Obama took care to pay tribute to foreign dignitaries by wearing creations by designers from their countries. Whereas Jackie set a precedent for the first lady as a fashion icon, Michelle set a precedent for the first lady as a diplomat through fashion.
Melania, for her part, has set a precedent as first lady as fashion fire-starter. In June of last year, she infamously wore a $39 Zara jacket with the words, "I really don't care. Do u?" stamped on the back. Donald Trump later stated it was a message to the media (after Melania's camp first denied there was any meaning to the words at all), however, the fact that FLOTUS was boarding a plane to visit a migrant children's detention center in Texas gave off a very different impression to the rest of the world. Similarly, the Pith helmet worn by the first lady during her trip to Africa earlier this year read not only as insensitive but simply out of touch ... or as though she was still living in the '60s.
During her trip to Britain just a few weeks ago, Melania seemed to be putting more effort into meaningful fashion, wearing British brand Burberry as well as a caped dress by Givenchy's Clare Waight Keller, a Brit who also designed Meghan Markle's wedding dress. Perhaps she's pulling from both Jackie's and Michelle's style philosophies, and attempting to distance herself from her controversy-courting looks of the past.
With half a year left in her husband's presidential term, she may be trying to beat the buzzer with a new fashion legacy, one that's on par with the most noted of fashionable first ladies — to, as Trump put it, mark herself "Melania T." in our collective memories. But it's hard to imagine even her most glamorous looks leaving a more lasting impression than one Zara coat.