In times of crisis, some turn to sweatpants. Plush, loose fleece can feel like a much-needed hug. Others go a different, more restrictive route and opt for business-as-usual, buttoned-up looks that communicate control. Ivanka Trump belongs to the second group. As chaos comes for her father’s administration, the first daughter will not go down wearing consolatory Uniqlo joggers.
Ivanka has not directly recognized the impeachment inquiry launched this week against Donald Trump, at least publicly. (She did tweet an ambiguous, “Thank you Mr. President!” on Tuesday.) She has never responded to detractors who tag her #Unwanted as she floats from one “female empowerment” event to the next. And she stays quiet on Instagram, when commentators go after photos of her children and wonder in the comments how she would feel if they were in cages like those at the border are.
Time after time, Ivanka chooses to flash rehearsed smiles for the tabloid photographers who stake out her home and document her family's every move. Considering her inaction, it might be easy to call her a do-nothing, sitting duck in stilettos just waiting for the many investigatory committees to swoop in on her dealings.
But Ivanka is not entirely silent; she lets her clothes speak for her. Her wardrobe this week paints a portrait of authority. She’s dressing as she always has: powerfully, looking like someone who can command her own destiny through sheer willpower.
At the United Nations on Tuesday, Ivanka watched her father rail against “globalists” in a teleprompter speech. She wore a pristine white pantsuit for the occasion with a broad lapel which felt a little Hillary Clinton.
When Melania wore a similar ivory hue to last year’s State of the Union, some interpreted the move as a dissenting nod to the Suffragettes, or at least modern, popular feminists who have adopted the color as a statement.
But Ivanka showed up to the U.N. in full force with her family (and family’s entourage of hangers-on). She sat stoically, watching her father speak, at one point putting her hand on husband Jared Kushner’s lap like a robot who had just been programmed to show affection. This nixes the idea that she wanted to be a style renegade.
Maybe Ivanka chose the sterile color to project innocence. Maybe she was challenging an outdated fashion commandment—no white after Labor Day—to flex that she can get away with breaking the rules. Or, again, maybe it was just an agenda-less pantsuit she plucked simply because she wanted to.
Whatever the reason, white clothing has always belonged to the leisure class, those who lead chaos-free lives and rarely risk staining things. White is the color of a vacation chaise lounge, not a woman sweating over the fact that your father risks impeachment.
A day earlier, Ivanka returned to the States after a three-day Roman holiday, where she celebrated at Misha Nonoo’s star-studded wedding. Her welcome back outfit included a blue button-up and $1,120 A-line Prada skirt. The bottom came blazoned with 3-D floral appliqué that hung past her hemline. It was business on the top and Little Shop of Horrors on the bottom.
Ivanka appeared as if mimicking their straight silhouettes like someone who has copied a classic van Gogh via Paint by Numbers. She had the requisite collared shirt, pencil skirt, and sensible-for-her heels. Check, check, check. To quote the title of her book, for Ivanka, it really is that easy to be a “Woman Who Works.”
Last Wednesday, when early details about her father’s phone call with a foreign leader (later acknowledged to be Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky) began circulating in the press, Ivanka attended a policy meeting in D. C.
Again, she wore Prada. The polka dot frock cost $3,300, or more than two paychecks for someone who makes minimum wage in the United States. With its knee-length hem and gold-button detailing at the bust, the style was pure ’80s decadent.
It could have been a riff on either Dynasty costumes, or a nod to her own mother, Ivana, who is practically synonymous with the decade’s sartorial excess. But there was also a schoolmarmish quality to the high-necked, prim frock that seemed to shrug, “Who, me?”
Time will reveal how Ivanka acknowledges the impeachment inquiry. For now, all we have are a series of nothing-to-see-here photographs of the first daughter smiling tightly and practicing her princess wave at the U.N.
Until Ivanka starts to really talk, we can only go off of her revolving stream of designer dresses. As previously mentioned, two of her ensembles from this week have come from Prada, an Italian fashion house best known by most Americans as belonging to the title of a famous Meryl Streep film. Maybe not the best association for someone trying to come off as guilt-free.