Melania Trump wears black to the president's speech - and Twitter reacts

First lady Melania Trump arriving at a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday (Feb 28) in the House chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
First lady Melania Trump arriving at a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday (Feb 28) in the House chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP
Some deemed Mrs Melania Trump's outfit inappropriate for Congress.
Some deemed Mrs Melania Trump's outfit inappropriate for Congress.PHOTO: AFP
Plenty of Twitter users found the choice to be tasteful and elegant, and defended the first lady.
Plenty of Twitter users found the choice to be tasteful and elegant, and defended the first lady.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The black suit appeared straightforward enough: monochrome, well fitting and designed by the well-known American designer Michael Kors.

As it turned out, the choice was more contentious than it seemed.

On Tuesday evening (Feb 28), as US President Donald Trump delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress, Twitter began dissecting Mrs Melania Trump's outfit. The sequins covering the wool dinner jacket and skirt: too flashy. The price: at US$4,595 (S$6,500) for the skirt and US$4,995 for the jacket, too high.

Some online commenters deemed the entire look inappropriate for Congress.

Others, like the actress Alyssa Milano, highlighted the price tag.

Of course, plenty of Twitter users found the choice to be tasteful and elegant, and defended the first lady.

But then there was the issue of the colour: black. Why choose black on a night when many Democratic women in Congress had decided to wear white as a show of unity for women's rights?

The effort, led by Representative Lois Frankel of Florida, the chairman of the House Democratic Women's Working Group, had been communicated to the group on Monday (Feb 27) in a letter that called for members to wear white to "stand in solidarity with the women of our nation".


House Democratic women wore white to the speech to support women’s rights. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Had Mrs Trump been aware of the plan? Was her choice a comment on the matter? After all, as on past occasions, Mrs Trump picked out the dress herself.

At least that's the impression Mr Kors gave in a statement issued on Wednesday morning (March 1): "Mrs Trump has been a longtime client at our New York boutique. She has a keen understanding of what works best for her and her lifestyle."


Republicans applauding while most Democrats remain seated as President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. PHOTO: NYTIMES

The debate had echoes of the one over the pussy-bow blouse Mrs Trump wore in her first appearance after the surfacing of the infamous "Access Hollywood" audio tape in which Mr Trump talked to Mr Billy Bush about groping women.

At the time, people wondered whether her choice of the Gucci blouse was a pointed statement or a simple coincidence. And then, of course, there was the white Ralph Lauren jumpsuit that Mrs Trump wore on election night, a not-so-subtle echo of one of Mrs Hillary Clinton's signature looks.

On those two occasions, as on Tuesday night (Feb 28), no answer was evident, but calculated or not, the end result served to create something of an us-versus-them message.


Ms Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. PHOTO: NYTIMES

The president's daughter Ivanka Trump felt a similar sting of backlash for the red off-the-shoulder dress (reportedly designed by Roland Mouret) that she wore on Tuesday evening, with some saying it was more appropriate for a night out than for a high-profile speech.

All the hubbub over the Trumps' attire almost overshadowed another notable sartorial moment: the almost eerily coordinated outfits worn by Mr Mike Pence and Mr Paul Ryan.


Vice-President Mike Pence (left) and House Speaker Paul Ryan listening as US President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Both the vice-president and the speaker of the House of Representatives wore dark suits with bright blue ties, leading some to compare the two to proud parents beaming at their son.

Maybe their matching looks - which bracketed the dark suit and blue-and-white tie worn by Mr Trump - were meant to signal cooperation between the White House and Congress. Or maybe their choices were just another example of the politico's Capitol Hill uniform, just as Mrs Trump's suit was simply an expression of her personal tastes.