ON THE RUNWAY
The nudge the first lady gave President Trump, apparently to remind him to put his hand over his heart for the national anthem at the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, may have become the tell that went round the world (and then there was that giant bunny on the president’s other side). But her choice of dress was, in many ways, just as revealing.
A spun-sugar pink midcalf sleeveless layered organza confection by Hervé Pierre, the designer who created Mrs. Trump’s inaugural ball gown, it was made according to her instructions, Mr. Pierre said. And though it looked as classic as an Easter dress could be, it was actually something of a break with tradition, at least from recent administrations.
In what way? You might ask. It looked like a throwback to the days of “Easter Parade.” Well, yes. In exactly that way.
Since the Easter Egg Roll was revived under Betty Ford, most of the first ladies who have hosted the event wore suits, or at least jackets, suggesting it was a professional commitment. Hillary Clinton displayed her penchant for rainbow-colored pantsuits when she was host, resplendent one year in buttercup yellow, another in grass green. When the Obamas were in the White House, they significantly relaxed the rules, the president often going without a tie or jacket, and Michelle Obama most often in pants with a J. Crew T-shirt or cardigan and Converse (one Tracy Reese floral dress excepted). The message was one of a new, more relaxed, modern and active era.
But just as the Ralph Lauren suit that Mrs. Trump wore during the inaugural parade called to mind Jackie Kennedy and Camelot, the pink dress called to mind another, more rarefied time. It was for neither work nor play, but rather a Great Gatsby garden party.
Indeed, in its unique, made-to-order-ness, it was itself a rarefied garment — Mr. Pierre does not have his own commercial collection, so he will not be reproducing the dress, as he acknowledged — and thus in line with Mr. Trump’s image-making. This is not about outreach or accessibility. It’s about aspirational role-play of a highly telegenic kind.
(Some online commentary suggested that the color was “millennial pink,” and hence a kind of generational nod, but given that Mr. Pierre identified it as “peony” and said Mrs. Trump had chosen it herself, that seems unlikely.)
That’s why in so many ways Mrs. Trump’s clothes increasingly seem like costumes for a series titled “In The White House”: a perfect camera-ready version of what one imagines a first lady might wear, from the almost military-inspired suits and coats she has been choosing for various official appearances — the belted white trench coat from The Row she wore at the International Women of Courage Awards; the Dolce & Gabbana jacket she wore for her official portrait; the belted green dress she wore to accompany Queen Raina of Jordan to a Washington charter school — to the more romantic, but minimal, organzas of Mr. Pierre.
They are defining a certain approach to her position that leaves the woman inside a mystery, but makes sense for this particular TV-schooled administration. And it is, nevertheless, absorbing to — well — watch.