If there's anything we know about the Trumps, it's that they love bold, over-the-top and verging-on-corny displays of patriotism.
As a reminder, here's a photo of our President, um, hugging the flag:
And Donald Trump Jr. posted this testosterone-infused meme in honor of the July Fourth holiday:
It should come as no surprise, then, that First Lady Melania Trump opted for a Fourth of July outfit that was dripping in patriotic symbolism.
While attending a picnic for military families at the White House, Melania stepped out in a blue and white gingham floor-length dress which she cinched at the waist with a bold, fire-engine red bow belt. The high-slit, which was only visible when the First Lady descended the stairs, gave us a peek at color-coordinated cherry pumps. The look—by Melania's favorite American designer, Ralph Lauren—is about as patriotic as you can get, save for literally wearing the American flag and accessorizing with a Bald Eagle.
Like most ensembles worn by first ladies, the $2,795 look (available here) was no doubt chosen for its message. Though gingham print has European origins, it has widely been associated with mid-century Americana—think Norman Rockwell images of the '50s, perhaps a picture-perfect family gathered on red-and-white checkered picnic blanket. Even the style of the shirt dress—with its tall collar and traditional fit-and-flare silhouette—seems like a nod to something old, something classic. Something of idyllic America.
We aren't surprised to see the First Lady in Ralph Lauren, either. She did, after all, choose to wear his design during the 2017 inauguration, stepping out in a powder blue skirt suit that was widely compared to Jackie Kennedy's posh style. The designer has long been synonymous with an "All-American" look, however, like the Trumps' style—which worships the old guard and wealth—Lauren's yacht-chic aesthetic has been called "exasperatingly hollow" by some critics in recent seasons.
"[Lauren]'s goal has always been to exploit a particularly American notion of exceptionalism, aspiration and success—the kind of success that begets wealth," wrote critic Robin Givhan of the designer's spring 2018 collection, bringing to mind similar criticisms of the Trump administration, which has been labeled "out of touch." She added that this "glossy" look of Lauren's collection was both "ill-timed" and suspicious in this particular political and social climate. "It leaves one feeling unsettled. It leaves one asking: What fresh lie is this?"
After the pretty, albeit bland, looks that she's been wearing in the wake of The Great Jacket fiasco of 2018, Melania has returned to bold and bright ensembles that may not spell out a statement in white letters, but convey a message nonetheless. On the occasion of celebrating her adopted country's most significant national holiday, Melania wanted to make it clear that she, like her family, can don the red, white, and blue like the best of them—and that she stands behind her husband's administration.