THE BEST WAY to get a glimpse of First Lady Melania Trump (and her terrific wardrobe) is when she’s overseas. Kate Bennett should know. Co-author of CNN Politics’ Cover/Line (a chatty political/pop cultural email that drops every day just in time for your lunch break), Bennett reports on Melania Trump with her features “Dress Like the First Lady” and “Our Daily Melania.” “These foreign trips are an opportunity to see the first lady on a day-to-day public schedule, which still hasn’t happened in full back home,” says Bennett. In fact, Mrs. Trump has been so illusive, Cover/Line (which launched last February) used to keep a running tally of how often they saw her.
A former fashion and style reporter, Bennett says writing about Melania’s clothing is a fun outlet. “I can be on air talking about serious stuff but still indulge my fascination with fashion.” She began following first lady fashion while on staff at the Independent Journal Review, where she often tweeted about what Michelle Obama wore.
We were curious. So, Kate, how do you recognize exactly what Melania is wearing? Do you have an amazing eye and memory, a passel of assistants or does the White House give you the information? Bennett laughs that she has a special, “useless” talent. “It’s about the same as my ability to handicap the Miss America contest.”
“I can remember what people wore two seasons ago. I identify clothing through pattern and cut and then can narrow the field down. Melania Trump only wears between 6 and 10 designers, only shops off the rack and online. (Mrs. Obama was more difficult because she would customize everything and I’d have to recognize the generic dress).”
Bennett sees what Mrs. Trump wears and thinks it may be a Dolce & Gabbana or a Michael Kors and then digs around on websites like Neiman Marcus and Net-A- Porter. Occasionally she’ll ask Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, whether a dress is, say, a D&G or a Ralph Lauren. Grisham might tell her off the record. But it’s often the other way around: White House staff text Bennett to ask what Trump is wearing.
A savvy shopper, the former model knows what flatters her figure, mixing femme, flowy dresses with tailored suits, coat dresses and waist-defining belts. “When she’s hostessing, she does a more casual look. When she’s out and about, she does the suiting thing,” Bennett observes.
The first lady’s loyalty to Dolce & Gabbana is a very Trumpian thing, notes Bennett. D&G are happy to let her wear their clothes. Which is why she has worn them more than any other designer and why Tom Ford and Sophie Theallet, among others, are personae non gratae.
Michelle Obama had stylist Meredith Koop; Melania Trump has her helpers but does her own shopping (Michael Kors says she has been a long-time customer of his New York store). For special occasions, she does rely on designer and stylist Hervé Pierre, the man behind her inauguration ball gown and her blush-colored dress for the White House Easter Egg Roll and who counseled her on the fabulous red Christian Dior skirt suit she wore on last week’s trip to Paris.
Trump is a stiletto-wearing kind of woman, particularly partial to Louboutins (Bennett says she usually wears the So Kate style , named for model Kate Moss). But wise to the situation at the White House Egg Roll, she wore flats to match her dress.
Whether the first lady’s style will have a trickle-down effect in fashion is hard to know. Bennett believes we’ll have a better idea when the fall 2018 fashion shows kick off in the beginning of February. In the meantime, at the Council of Fashion Designers’ Awards in June, Bella Hadid, one of the models of the moment, wore a hot pink, bell-sleeve, blazer-style dress looking a lot like something a young Melania Trump would have worn. Hmm.
And, while some (we’re not one of those) would consider what the first lady wears to be of no consequence, what she does with her time in the service of the country can make a difference. Think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, for one, to improve children’s health. So, as we’ve said before, we have found a worthwhile cause for Melania: Championing English as a Second Language classes. If you’re reading this, Melania, you can comment below.