On the Runway: Louise Linton and Steve Mnuchin’s Money Moment

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On the Runway: Louise Linton and Steve Mnuchin’s Money Moment

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Though much has been made of the glowing glances with which Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and his wife, Louise Linton, ogled the first sheets of $1 bills with his signature during a trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on Wednesday, for my money it was Ms. Linton’s choice of dress that really made a statement.

Actresses of a certain fame are generally pretty canny about their visual messaging: They understand that every time they step out of their doorway they are potentially on show, and they tend to dress accordingly, as if every moment is a potential photo op.

Certainly, Ms. Linton, a former actress (guest appearances on “CSI: NY,” “Cold Case” and the like), should understand this, especially given her last major public appearance, in August. At that time she came under fire for Instagramming a photo of herself on a trip with her husband to Kentucky stepping off a government aircraft in lots of Hermès, and got into a social media spat in which she appeared to brag about her ability to buy such designer names while denigrating those who could not.

So what does it say that for her recent close-up Ms. Linton dressed in black, with long leather dominatrix gloves, a long leather skirt, wide black belt, black blouse and black stilettos?

That either she is the most tone-deaf image maker in the administration or its most Machiavellian.

Black leather, after all — unlike, say, brown leather — is one of the most emotive sartorial symbols in the wardrobe, imbued with a host of cultural and historical associations for almost everyone.

It is the de facto outfit of villains everywhere, from generic Nazis with their black leather trench coats to Hermann Goering’s black leather boots, The Terminator (Version 1), Darth Vader and assorted Disney witches.

Indeed, Disney has a propensity for using leather on its baddies, which should suggest the extent to which the material has become a popular signifier of low character.

It can indicate moral ambiguity (Catwoman/Batman), and rebellion: See “The Matrix,” where the good guys in black leather do bad things against worse guys. It is the basic uniform of the screen dominatrix, the sadist, the motorcycle gang and the rock ’n’ roll primal scream (all telling references in light of the current tax plans).

What it is not is bland, noncontroversial, cheap (the skirt reportedly was a Michael Kors $2,250 style) or the clothes of a classic helpmeet, which is the way this administration tends to position its political wives.

As for the opera gloves: Well, few accessories equate with elitism like elbow-length nappa. Or imply that the wearer does not want to leave DNA evidence behind. After all, they weren’t there for warmth, as her bare legs demonstrated. They were there as part of a costume.

To think that any of this escaped Ms. Linton is pretty hard to imagine. It certainly did not escape observers on social media, who immediately jumped to the obvious comparisons.

To be fair, maybe all that leather was a defensive gesture, given the last outcry over Ms. Linton. The material, after all, also serves as a protective coating. Maybe it was a suggestion that if she’s going to be painted as the bad guy, she’ll play the part.

Maybe it was there to draw attention away from the fact that for his big moment her husband chose to dress like a mini-me of his boss, President Trump. Or to make the other women in the administration seem like paragons of propriety in comparison.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was to hint that instead of Marie Antoinette, Ms. Linton is now positioning herself as … Maleficent, the famed recent Disney leather-wearer (as played by Angelina Jolie).

That queen, after all, was tortured by her love/hate relationship with the princess who eventually became Sleeping Beauty and her corrupt father. Sound familiar?

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