Melania Trump: The Language of Fashion Obscures the Real Story


Laurie and Debbie say:

Far too much attention has been paid to Melania Trump’s stiletto heels as  inappropriate attire for floodwater. Writing at The Cut, Rhonda Garelick makes a much more important point about the First Lady’s presentation:

The problem is not that Melania Trump wore an unsuitable, blithely out-of-touch outfit, although she did. The problem is that this administration turns every event — no matter how dire — into a kind of anesthetized luxury fashion shoot, which leads us to some disturbing political truths. …

[Fashion] photos exist to cast the fetishizing spell of the commodity over us. They create, that is, a dissociative relationship with the viewer. And while Melania Trump was known to have been somewhat stiff as a model, she has clearly mastered that squinty, middle-distance gaze, which she regularly employs as First Lady.

The camera lies, even before the Photoshop manipulation begins. The  person being photographed and the photographer have a vast array of decisions to make, decisions that can humanize or commodify, that can create intimacy or invoke power, that can equalize or separate.

Photographs of Donald Trump veer between the two. He isn’t any good at humanizing himself. Nor do his photographers often seem to have that in mind. Still, he has a certain level of wanting to be, or seem to be, Everyman, and there are pictures of him that convey that desire. But the women in his family, and the women in his administration, never cross that gap. They are always the (mythical) unavailable woman of Everyman’s dreams, the woman too desirable to be attainable, too arrogant to be the least bit interested in anything around her.

Here’s Garelick’s conclusion:

On Tuesday, this meant that instead of being a supporting presence in the president’s trip to survey flood damage, Melania became the star and the trip morphed into a simulacrum, a kind of Vogue shoot “simulating” a president’s trip. In other words, the realness of everyone and everything else (including hurricane victims) faded and the evacuated blankness of the commercial overtook the scene.

And this is how something as apparently trivial as women’s style reveals a profound truth at the heart of this administration and its relationship to America’s citizens: It is as dissociative as a fashion advertisement, brought to power by manipulating and rechanneling the electorate’s desires for wealth and possessions. This truth seeps out of every photographed occasion, including and especially those featuring the Trump women.