Standing at 5-foot-11—over 6 feet if you count the stilettos she’s fond of wearing—Ivanka Trump cuts an imposing figure. Especially in red.
Unlike her father, who sometimes wears the color hunched over in his taped-up ties, the presidential advisor commands attention when she puts on her go-to fire brick Sandro suit. The ensemble makes a statement, even if we’re not quite sure what she’s trying to say.
She wore the double-breasted coat and flared capris in 2018 at a Trump rally. That same year, she put on a similar, tuxedo-inspired crimson suit while her father signed the Perkins Act. She’s so fond of red that Refinery29 published a story calling her use of it “strategic.” In the piece, Ashley Alese Edwards wrote that, “Ivanka’s use of it can be seen as a way of her standing up to her detractors.”
This week, Trump suited up once more in her Sandro pantsuit for a trip to Bloomington, Minnesota, where she marked the opening of the first Indian Affairs task force office meant to solve cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. (It is an extension of Attorney General William Barr’s Operation Lady Justice initiative.)
Around fifty people came to protest the event, which occurred the same month as her father’s garish Fourth of July fireworks display, which he insisted occur on stolen Native land. Twenty activists were arrested for demonstrating against the event on Mt. Rushmore, where Trump decried protestors as “angry mobs.”
Ivanka, of course, did not stand in solidarity with those calling for Indigenous rights on that day. Instead, she was vacationing with Jared Kushner and their three children, riding horses and trying her hand at fishing somewhere “out west.”
As NBC News reported, Ivanka’s visit came off to some as a “cheap media stunt,” considering her father’s track record. Many longtime organizers who have worked to draw attention to the underreporting of violence against Indigenous women had no idea the bureau would be opening until the very last minute.
Ivanka’s red pantsuit had a double meeting: the color has long been used to call attention to the issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women.
The Canadian artist Jaime Black began the ReDress Project in 2011. The traveling art exhibition showcases dozens of red dresses hanging from installations to represent lives lost or impacted by violence. According to a report from the US Commission on Civil Rights, Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered and four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the national average.
It’s a haunting statistic, and one that the ReDress Project expertly symbolizes. But as Annita Lucchesi, executive director of the research center Sovereign Bodies Project told The Daily Beast, “Ultimately, a red pantsuit doesn’t make up for the exclusion of grieving families” from Operation Lady Justice investigations.
“Overwhelming evidence has shown that President Trump is a man who does not respect women’s boundaries,” Lucchesi said. “He is a perpetrator himself, so I think that the optics of him sending his daughter—who he has also been inappropriate with and said bizarre things about—to do the ribbon cutting for this cold case review center in a place as racially-charged as Minneapolis is right now [feels like] a stunt.
“I think it’s insulting that the administration thinks the Native community is going to celebrate [the opening] when we know how they have treated our people. We know how they have treated our women.”
Lucchesi said that Monday’s press conference “was an example of what not to do” when it comes to tackling the issue. On Thursday, Sovereign Bodies plans to publish a report on missing and murdered women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in Northern California. “We’re looking forward to amplifying some of the voices of families and survivors later this week,” she said.
“Missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people is an important issue that must be addressed with proper input and coordination from Tribal communities and the surviving families,” Lucy Simpson, the Executive Director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, said. “There are also numerous grassroots advocates who have been and will continue to seek justice for their missing and murdered relatives, and their advocacy and work needs to be included to inform the next steps forward on this issue.”
It is an issue Trump’s hastily-assembled cold case bureau seems ill-equipped to handle—a fact Ivanka in her “power suit” might want to disguise. When she spoke at the ceremony, her remarks only served to congratulate her father’s efforts.
“This historic day is another fulfillment of the promise that under President @realdonaldtrump, he will always fight for the forgotten men and women across our country,” Ivanka said.
On Instagram, her preferred mode of communication, Ivanka rattled off her father's policies “that empower tribal communities and ensure that all Americans live with dignity and the promise of a brighter future.”
The comments on Monday were slapped together and gestural, delivered in Ivanka’s typically measured, emotionless cadence. In a sense, her words matched her outfit. The color was appropriate for the event. The suit was something the person in her place should have worn. But was Ivanka Trump the most convincing person to wear it?