Fact: What the First Lady of the United States wears is culturally significant. Don’t think so? Take into account that the American government has placed some of their most iconic gowns in the First Ladies Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Their styles also defined the eras during which they served. Jacqueline Kennedy is famously remembered for her pillbox hats while Betty Ford did the ‘70s in color; Hillary Clinton owned the pantsuit, and Michelle Obama redefined First Lady style with frequently exposed shoulders and affordable dresses.
Which brings us to Melania Trump, one of the White House’s most polarizing figures. Trump's sartorial choices make headlines time and time again, as the media scrupulously chronicles every dress, hat, and statement jacket. (As they did for the looks of every other first lady before her.)
Early on, Melania made it clear that she wasn’t necessarily looking to speak to the common woman, turning to pricey, custom looks like a blue Ralph Lauren coat or an Hervé Pierre gown (over Inauguration weekend), not to mention the $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana coat she wore for a visit to Italy. With her fashion, the First Lady invariably sends a message—though it’s not always a clear one.
VIDEO: A Theory About Melania Trump's Giant White Hat
Some of Melania's most memorable looks are shrouded in controversy. For example, before departing Washington, D.C. to visit the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston in August 2017, she faced waves of backlash for boarding the plane in a set of sky-high black Manolo Blahnik heels. And most recently, she faced criticism for sporting a $39 Zara coat that read, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” before visiting an immigrant children’s detention center in McAllen, Texas. Maybe she should stay clear of the Lone Star State?
One thing's for sure—Melania's outfits are never boring. Here's a look back at her memorable ensembles as FLOTUS.