The politics of fashion

Mrs Clinton and her husband Bill arriving for the inauguration. She wore white too when she agreed to run on the Democrats' ticket. Mrs Trump has received praise for her choices - a Ralph Lauren dress, with Mr Trump (left), and a Herve Pierre number
Mrs Trump has received praise for her choices - a Ralph Lauren dress, with Mr Trump (above), and a Herve Pierre number.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Ms Trump and her husband Jared Kushner at the Freedom Ball in Washington, DC.
Ms Trump and her husband Jared Kushner at the Freedom Ball in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mrs Clinton and her husband Bill arriving for the inauguration. She wore white too when she agreed to run on the Democrats' ticket. Mrs Trump has received praise for her choices - a Ralph Lauren dress, with Mr Trump (left), and a Herve Pierre number
Mrs Clinton and her husband Bill arriving for the inauguration. She wore white too when she agreed to run on the Democrats' ticket. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Melania Trump scores with her outfits from a migrant designer and US icon Ralph Lauren

WASHINGTON • US First Lady Melania Trump stunned fashion watchers by donning a sleek, off-the-shoulder cream dress with a daring thigh-high slit to dance with President Donald Trump at the inaugural balls.

Her column dress, finished with a sculpted ruffle that cascaded down the front of the gown and cinched at the waist with a red ribbon, won praise for being fresh, modern, elegant and yet understated.

She received rave reviews for her originality in choosing Herve Pierre, a New York-based designer who was born in France and spent 14 years in the atelier at Carolina Herrera before leaving last year.

Picking Pierre "seemed like a bit of an olive branch after so much talk of closed borders and nationalism", the Washington Post said. Pierre earned his US citizenship last year.

Women's Wear Daily, quoting Pierre, said Mrs Trump collaborated on the gown. Her choice is likely to boost sales and publicity for the relatively unknown designer, much like her predecessor Michelle Obama's choice of Jason Wu in 2009 turned him into a star, reported Agence France-Presse.


Mrs Trump has received praise for her choices - a Ralph Lauren dress, with Mr Trump, and a Herve Pierre number (above). PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The former model, 46, glowed as she stepped onto the dance floor with her husband, who was in a tuxedo. Their first dance was to the song My Way, made popular by Frank Sinatra and considered something of a personal anthem for Mr Trump.

Earlier, she donned a custom- made powder blue suit from US fashion royalty Ralph Lauren for her husband's swearing-in event. Her cashmere turtleneck dress fell to her knee, paired with a cropped bolero jacket and matching suede gloves.

The Slovenian-born First Lady wore her hair swept up, showcasing diamond stud earrings. The choice of blue - the colour of patriotism - was seen as significant, something that could reflect the tone of her husband's administration.

"Because this presidential election was so terribly fraught, even the subject of fashion became a matter of political debate, moral outrage and pained circumspection," the Washington Post said.

Lauren, 77, is perhaps the country's most iconic living designer, whose clothes define a uniquely American sense of elegance.

His decision to work with the new First Lady comes after a string of other designers refused to dress her, citing opposition to her husband's controversial policies on immigration and campaign insults.

"The Presidential Inauguration is a time for the US to look our best to the world. It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating an iconic American style for this moment," read a statement from his company.

Lauren had also designed the signature pantsuits worn by Mr Trump's rival Hillary Clinton. She wore an ivory pantsuit, topped with matching cashmere coat for the inauguration. Her choice of white is notable, said Vanity Fair. It was the same colour she wore the night she accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president. White was also one of the colours worn by suffragettes in the early 20th century.

Meanwhile, Ms Ivanka Trump donned a white pantsuit with an asymmetrical cut designed by Oscar de la Renta during the day.

In the evening, she changed into a pink bead-encrusted princess cut Carolina Herrera gown, reported The New York Times.

Vice-President Mike Pence's wife Karen wore a cobalt blue gown for the balls, a day after she was criticised for wearing a lace dress - made by her wedding dress designer in Indiana - to another event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline 'The politics of fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe