“My top three style tips for women at work are context, modesty, and femininity,” Ivanka Trump said in a 2010 Forbes interview. “Understand what is appropriate for your industry and in terms of how much skin is being shown.” Ivanka was a fashion model and a fashion designer before she was the United States’ First Daughter. But when her father began involving himself in politics, the context surrounding Ivanka’s clothes shifted and made way for several fashion faux pas.
Once Donald Trump entered the White House, the Ivanka Trump brand fell into the crosshairs of a storm of controversies, including ethical concerns and conflict-of-interest accusations. Within weeks of the 45th president’s inauguration, Nordstrom announced it would pull Ivanka Trump clothes, shoes, and accessories from its shelves, citing poor performance. Discount stores like T.J. Maxx soon followed suit. Fashion has continued to be a contentious subject in the conversation surrounding the First Daughter, particularly when she has worn outfits that have been deemed inappropriate or insensitive to political events that have directly involved the Trump administration.
Women of the White House are often scrutinized for what they wear, and some of this scrutiny has, in turn, been scrutinized for its sexism. But when the sartorial gaffes in question relate to purposeful trolling, political insensitivity, or even sheer ignorance — Melania Trump’s “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket falls into at least one of these categories — they become part of a larger political discussion. So, let’s discuss.
She's been involved in some shameless self-promotion
After Donald Trump was confirmed as the Republican nominee in 2016, Ivanka Trump seized her Republican National Convention appearance as an opportunity to publicize her own business interests while touching on American labor laws and women in the workforce.
Capitalizing on her own work, Ivanka wore the baby pink “Ivanka Trump Sleeveless Studded Sheath Dress” from her fashion line. The following day, a tweet was posted on her verified Twitter account that said, “Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech,” followed by a link to the dress on the Macy’s website. It was an affiliate link, which indicated Ivanka could have earned additional commission from any purchases made. The $138 dress promptly sold out at both Macy’s and Nordstrom.
Some saw the outfit choice and the subsequent tweet as shameless self-promotion. And despite Ivanka’s mention of American labor, the Macy’s site listed her dress as “imported” (via NBC News).
Ivanka Trump flashed her finery on 60 Minutes
In November 2016, four months after the RNC controversy, Ivanka Trump wore the $10,800 “Metropolis Diamond Bangle” from her jewelry line in an appearance on 60 Minutes alongside her family. When host Lesley Stahl asked whether Donald Trump’s polarizing campaign had negatively impacted the Trump brand, Ivanka responded, “I don’t think it matters. This is so much more important. And more serious … That’s the focus” (via NBC News).
Ivanka’s decision to wear the bracelet was not particularly controversial in itself, but the marketing tactics that followed were. After the interview aired, Monica Marder, former vice president of sales for Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, sent out a “style alert” press release to journalists that stated Ivanka’s “favorite bangle” was available to buy (per PopSugar). “Please share this with your clients,” Marder added.
“White House as QVC. It has started,” New York Times reporter Eric Lipton tweeted in response. The next day, Abigail Klem, the former president of the Ivanka Trump brand, told NBC News that the “style alert” email “was sent by a well-intentioned marketing employee … who, like many of us, is still making adjustments post-election.”
Her silver dress sparked controversy twice
In January 2017, Ivanka Trump posted a photo on Twitter of herself wearing an iridescent silver gown two days after Donald Trump had announced his “Muslim ban” executive order. Ivanka’s dress, which was designed by Carolina Herrera and cost $5,000, drew criticism because it highlighted Ivanka’s lavish lifestyle at a time when racism and human rights were central to the cultural conversation, per Glamour.
When the Trump administration came under fire for the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border in 2018, photos circulated of immigrant kids using sheets of silver foil as blankets. The photo of Ivanka’s silver dress resurfaced (via Yahoo!), again as a reflection of the real disparity between those in power and those affected by their policies. Multiple Twitter users, including comedian and writer Orli Matlow, posted split-screen photos of Ivanka’s dress and the detained immigrant children. “Who wore it better: Children detained in McAllen, Texas or Ivanka Trump,” Matlow wrote.
Ivanka Trump does not always 'buy American'
In February 2017, Donald Trump gave his first address to Congress. The speech pushed the slogan “Buy American, Hire American” and focused on encouraging Americans to buy American products. Ivanka Trump did not appear to have known the contents of the speech in advance, because she wore a fuschia cocktail dress by French designer Roland Mouret to the event. A representative for the designer told The Independent that the dress cost $1,868 and was made in the United Kingdom.
Many onlookers pointed out the irony and hypocrisy of Ivanka’s dress, given her father’s message. Members of the public also questioned why the First Daughter was not treated the same as former First Lady Michelle Obama, noting the off-the-shoulder cut of Ivanka’s dress. “Remember all that crap about Michelle Obama showing her arms and if it was appropriate? Well, behold Ivanka and her shoulders,” one Twitter user wrote (via The Independent).
Her outfits suggest Park Avenue is far from Main Street
In December 2017, the Senate passed the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill included a Child Tax Credit provision, which Ivanka Trump had publicly lobbied for, according to ABC News. While Ivanka was lobbying, CNBC published an article called, “Ivanka Trump is the wrong person to be selling tax reform,” with political commentator Jake Novak writing, “President Trump needs someone who can connect with Main Street — Ivanka is from Park Avenue.”
The Trump tax cut applied to working families in need, as well as those who were already rich. In June 2018, Ivanka posted a photo on Instagram and Twitter of herself at a celebration of the tax cuts at the White House, posing with working parent LaSonya Hill and her family. Ivanka wore a $2,110 Emilia Wickstead dress and a Chanel handbag and stilettos for the appearance. According to Express, Ivanka and her family later boarded the helicopter Marine One from the White House to Bedminster, New Jersey, which is home to the Trump National Golf Club, for a vacation with the rest of the Trump family.
Ivanka Trump's state banquet dress was a royal misstep
“Black tie” events indicate a formal dress code, but the lesser-known “white tie” dress code is even fancier. According to British GQ, “white tie” is synonymous with “full evening dress.”
“In a bygone era it was the standard dress of a formal event,” the magazine reported. “But in these more liberal, modern times it is a rarity and only seen at royal, state or livery ceremonies, balls or banquets.”
During the Trump family’s state visit to the United Kingdom in June 2019, they attended a state banquet at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II. According to Yahoo!, the event was a “white tie affair.” The Trump family dined alongside Duchess Kate Middleton, who wore a white ruffled Alexander McQueen gown, a sash, a brooch, a tiara, and sapphire earrings. Ivanka Trump wore an embellished, collared, cornflower blue dress by Carolina Herrera, which provoked commentary from the people of Twitter for being too casual. “Ivanka looks like she’s wearing a denim dress that she personally bedazzled,” one of the platform’s users wrote.
Ivanka Trump wears loungewear-inspired workwear
In 2018, Ivanka Trump wore a cozy, floral-print jacket tied with a sash to work in Washington, D.C. According to the Daily Mail, the coat was designed by Rebecca Taylor and cost $895. “It’ll be interesting to see if Ivanka Trump will make pajama-like styles a trend after wearing the bathrobe coat,” read an Inquisitr article at the time.
Trend or not, it wasn’t the last time Ivanka wore what looked like a housecoat outside of the house. On Oct. 10, 2019, she posted a photo to Instagram of her visit to the Guadalupe Center childcare facility on the Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley campus in Kansas City, Mo. The photo showed Ivanka wearing a white wrap dress with a large sash, which some found to be an odd choice for visiting children. “Is she having a sleepover with these kids? Can’t think of another reason she would be in her bathrobe,” one Twitter user wrote (via Express). “Ivanka, are you wearing a terry cloth bathrobe?” wrote another. “Does it have a Trump logo on the front?”
She wore an unfortunate print as COVID-19 spread in the US
If there were one pattern that summed up the trends of 2020, it would be the red, spiky, angry spheres of coronavirus. As the virus began to spread stateside at the beginning of 2020, Ivanka Trump took a pre-lockdown trip to India and posed with a smile in front of the Taj Mahal. “The grandeur and beauty of the Taj Mahal is awe inspiring!” she captioned the snap on Instagram and Twitter on Feb. 24. She wore a Proenza Schouler splattered with striking crimson flowers, which, to the horror and delight of some Twitter users, resembled a COVID-19 print.
Others gave Ivanka props for re-wearing the dress, which she had previously worn during a September 2019 visit to Purmamarca, Argentina. And Slate had a different response to the post, publishing a “brief investigation” titled, “Did Ivanka Photoshop This Instagram of Her at the Taj Mahal?” (The verdict: “Who knows?”)
The Handmaid's Tale fans noticed Ivanka Trump's 'Gilead green' dress
In today’s pop culture-informed world, some left-wing voters have compared right-wing politics to the silencing and policing of women and their bodies in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and its acclaimed TV adaptation. The Hulu show features handmaids in jewel-toned uniforms, including a deep emerald green, which a PopSugar article described as “like something old and decaying, the green of something once alive, but now left to rot.”
On Dec. 3, 2020, Ivanka Trump joined her father and several administration officials in the Oval Office as the president signed the Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act. As InStyle noted, while the act itself got lost among the headlines swirling around Donald Trump at the time, many noticed Ivanka’s “Gilead green” dress.
She had previously worn similar shades on multiple occasions, including in March 2018 (as pictured). The dress she wore in December 2020 was not only the same “decaying” forest green as the Handmaid’s Tale costumes, but it also bore the same shape: long and tailored, with a high neck and a secretary-bow tie around the collar. The style is worn on the show most notably by the character Serena Joy, “the anti-feminist first lady of Gilead that happens to be, ahem, complicit in all of the things going on around her.”
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