Ivanka Trump’s Presidential Clothes Crisis Is More Than a ‘Bra Strap’

At her father’s address last night, Ivanka Trump’s one-shouldered dress drew criticism. The trickiness of her transition from CEO to political operative is reflected in her wardrobe.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Let’s talk about the “bra strap” dress that Ivanka Trump wore to her father’s first address to a joint session of Congress last night, a pink, one-shouldered number reportedly by French designer Roland Mouret.

Its boudoir-ish black strap was meant to look like a bra strap, of course, and it heightened the sex appeal of Ivanka’s bare-shoulder look, which was perhaps better suited for date night than a speech in Congress.

It was an unconventional choice for such a serious occasion, which made it all the more un-Ivanka. Since moving to Washington, she’s glammed it up for black-tie affairs like the Governors Ball and the Alfalfa Dinner, but has otherwise dressed on the conservative side, particularly for meetings and appearances alongside her father. This is in keeping with the old Ivanka—the #WomenWhoWork entrepreneur whose own fashion line bills itself as “appropriately sexy.”

The old Ivanka would have likely chosen something safer and more traditional for a Capital Hill gathering where both chambers of commerce heard the president discuss budgets, foreign policy, and health care. Instead, she opted for a dress that Emily Ratajkowski, the chesty actress known for her less-is-more approach to dressing, might go for if she wanted to look modest. Or that Courtney Love would have worn to the Grammys ten years ago.

It looked all wrong on Ivanka, surrounded as she was by Democratic congresswomen in white suiting (the color is meant to represent women’s suffrage) and demurely dressed, seasoned politicos. First Lady Melania Trump also stood out in a Dynasty-esque, embellished black Michael Kors ensemble—more 1985 cocktail party than 2017 Congressional attire. But this seemed less out of step for Melania, who hasn’t been in the political spotlight as much as the president’s daughter, and who isn’t afraid to court the ‘wow’ factor in her choice of outfits—as per her audacious Jackie Kennedy-style get-up worn on Inauguration Day.

Ivanka, on the other hand, has long been known for having a more one-note, mainstream fashion sense. Indeed, there is nothing hip or offbeat about her eponymous clothing line, which she has worn more often than not over the years, including throughout her father’s campaign.

This helped her come across as an extension of her brand, which is creatively uninspiring but features plenty of serviceable, feminine basics in muted pinks and flower prints. Now that she’s no longer selling that image, the new Ivanka seems to be struggling to find her sartorial stride in her role as unofficial adviser and advocate for women’s economic empowerment in the Trump administration.

Take, for instance, the black choker she wore with a red and black blazer earlier Tuesday in the Oval Office, while President Trump signed a pair of bills that encourage women to enter fields like environmental sciences and information technology. (“Gender diversity in #STEM is key to empowering women & girls. @realDonaldTrump signed two bills bringing us closer to #ClosingTheGenderGap,” Ivanka tweeted of the occasion, along with a picture of herself and other women surrounding the president.)

Ivanka has worn chokers in the past, but they hardly suit her style. The ‘90s throwback necklace saw a trend resurgence last year and was spotted on the Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid types at Coachella, which is about as far from Ivanka’s scene as Williamsburg. The rocker-chic, goth princess look isn’t suited to an Upper East Side real estate heiress turned fashion entrepreneur, particularly one who has looked and played that part to an exacting degree.

The bills Trump signed are geared towards younger women, and Ivanka seemed to be striving to appeal to that demographic with her ribbon-like neck accessory. But the effect was too try-hard, and the choker looked particularly strange paired with her boxy red blazer.

The color-block skirt that Ivanka wore while visiting Boeing’s headquarters in South Carolina several weeks back was a statement-making piece that drew attention to the first daughter’s presence that day.

Aesthetically, this was one of the more creative separates Ivanka has ever worn. It also seemed an unsubtle suggestion that, despite claiming she’d only act as a “daughter” in the White House, Ivanka is an increasingly prominent political force in her father’s administration.

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Ivanka looks most like herself when she dresses more classically—in pointy-toed black flats, fitted black slacks, and a black turtleneck, for instance, while playing with her son in the White House.

Perhaps it’s “unfair,” as Trump would say, to parse and harshly judge some of the first daughter’s recent sartorial decisions. She has thrown herself into her new role as unofficial adviser to the president and an advocate for women’s economic empowerment in the Trump administration. We don’t know whether she will be the leveling force on her father as foreseen by some. But her fashion missteps indicate that she’s struggling to navigate her transition from real estate mogul and fashion entrepreneur to political operative.