“I always wear what I like and what is appropriate for the occasion,” states Melania Trump in a 2016 interview with Elle.
Jump to, the First Lady wearing a military jacket embossed with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” while she boarded a plane to visit a detention center for immigrant children in Texas on Thursday.
The jacket, sold for $39 at Zara, can be seen in several photos and was confirmed by her spokesperson in a statement, who tried to quell the rising social media backlash.
ABC’s White House correspondent Meredith McGraw tweeted that when asked about it, the spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”
Grisham is right, in a way: There was no hidden message because the message was loud and clear, and emblazoned in very large letters.
In a tweet later sent from her own account, accompanied with self-created hashtags like #ItsJustAJacket and #SheCares, Grisham said, “Today’s visit with the children in Texas impacted @flotus greatly. If media would spend their time and energy on her actions and efforts to help kids — rather than speculate and focus on her wardrobe — we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children.”
It’s true that the first lady’s fashion choices are sometimes overanalyzed. Was the “pussy bow” she wore to one of her husband’s debates in October 2016 a coded message about his then-recent Access Hollywood tape? Probably not. Was the Dior suit she sported at the State of the Union address worn in “the spirit of protest”? Wishful thinking. But, then again, maybe they aren’t being analyzed enough.
In 1995, Marcia Clark was astonished to discover that in the media her wardrobe was just as much on trial as O.J. Simpson while she prosecuted him for murder. 20 years later during the Hillary Clinton campaign, we learned that if you are a woman your appearance is often louder than your own voice. So, perhaps someone in the Trump administration, or Melania herself, watched and learned from these and numerous other sexist blites in the media, and to their credit have learned to expertly turn lemons into lemonade. This time, however, Melania is not just using clothing to pull focus from the issue we should be discussing—the estimated 2,000 children who have been separated from their families at the border, in just the last six weeks—but has also thrown a smoke bomb on it.
Between April 19 and May 31 of this year, 1,995 children have been abducted from their parents by the US government—indicating at present, an average of 45 children per day—but, we aren’t talking about that. Instead, we’re trading Melania Jacket Memes, and discussing the glaring punctuation and syntax issues in the latest Trump tweet (like seriously, hire someone to do your copy, girl). And, while most just roll their eyes at Trump once again using any news story as an opportunity to criticize the media (and others baffle as to why his thoughts are in direct conflict with his own spokesperson’s), the fact is, he too is trying to deflecting our attention with as much nonsense as he can muster. This is not thoughtless, it’s purposeful. We’re all talking about the jacket instead of the incarceration of thousands of innocent children. These stunts are meant to distract the populace from the real issues and turn our attention to something we can all universally be angry about, and bond over, but doesn’t actually matter.
And, ironically enough, the administration behind the current president—who will be fondly remembered as a sexual predator and failed businessman—may be guilty of stealing this political maneuver from a show about millennial women who despise him.
In an early episode of the 2017 breakout-hit series The Bold Type, Jane, a young journalist realizes that a tactful congresswoman known for her recent bout of fashion blunders, may, in fact, be using misogyny in the media to her own benefit. She sits staring at various news clips on her computer, comparing the timing of the politician’s criticized wardrobe malfunctions, and that of the work she is doing. Jane recounts, “This was the day that she voted to rollback the clean-water act, but instead of talking about that they are all talking about this hideous lime green [suit]. Then she turned around and said that she was being unfairly attacked as a woman, and that became the story.” Hmm, sound familiar?
Let’s entertain the possibility that Melania meant nothing by wearing this particular, discount fast-fashion outlet jacket, even though, she has a tendency to wear exclusively high-end designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino when she appears in public. Perhaps the former fashion model who has never been seen with a hair out of place in more than a decade in the public eye wasn’t thinking about the fact that she would be photographed. Perhaps her staff—who did not stop her from wearing the jacket to a high-profile appearance—are horrendously ill-equipped to do their jobs, and failed to predict what would happen. Perhaps—No, this singular moment was not a coincidence. It was a targeted scheme to obscure our attention, which has been the current administration’s m.o. this entire presidency.
Bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without permission? “It’s just words, folks. It’s just words,” Trump told us. “That was locker-room talk”. His tweets? We’ve been told to ignore them. And now, when the first lady wears a jacket emblazoned in huge letters with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, and we are told we are foolish or disingenuous for reading and interpreting those words.
In the aforementioned episode of the Freeform cable channel series, the fictionalized congresswoman says “we all saw what Hillary went through. The day after each debate, her pantsuits were more scrutinized than her policy.” She elaborates, “when I choose an outfit, I’m always thinking… How can I use fashion to my advantage?” Looking back to this episode, and Melania’s own words in 2016, about how she, and her team, methodically plan her wardrobe for each and every occasion, it’s pretty clear there was intention behind the jacket was all along.