Melania Trump shimmered in silver, sequin Chanel couture, and looked as if she wanted to scream.
Mrs. Trump held hands with her husband, the president, on Tuesday night and she did not swat his hand away, at least not in front of the cameras. Her hand did not try to escape his as it seemed to do earlier in the day.
Instead, the couple waited, looking somber and frozen, to welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, for the Trumps’ first state dinner. Perhaps we should assume that Chanel, the pre-eminent French fashion label, was chosen in honor of her guests.
Goat cheese gateau, buttermilk biscuit crumbles, Carolina gold rice jambalaya, rack of lamb, nectarine tart, crème fraiche ice cream: The swamp was feasting royally Tuesday night.
All this, after a day of nervous politicking, and Trump finally finding someone happy to hold his hand—Macron himself. (These two and their handsy relationship—long-held wrist-locks, then “playtime, let’s go,” and now their two-cheek kissing—deserves its own fanfic.)
At the state dinner, Brigitte Macron wore something tasteful in cream and gold. Ivanka Trump wore a strange, tiered, pink polka dot dress. Louise Linton came in something that looked alarmingly slashed, ruched, and silver. Jerry Hall, with Rupert Murdoch, wore deep blue. Trump’s unbuttoned tux meant we saw the full shiny glory of his cummerbund.
But Melania Trump wore the dress of the evening, and even that didn’t come anywhere near The Hat.
For a part of Tuesday it was not 2018. It was 1985, and Melania Trump has just finished a Dynasty viewing marathon, particularly inspired by Joan Collins’ debut outfit at the beginning of Season 2 of the ABC hit of the 1980s, when Collins sat glacially in a courtroom in her first scene as Alexis to testify against ex-husband Blake.
White suit. White hat. WITH BLACK VEIL and SUNGLASSES.
Melania Trump was in similar power-dressing mood before the state dinner, when she was pictured during the day, in The White Hat of Ultimate Power, apparently trying to wriggle out of holding her husband’s hand.
On day one of the strange odyssey of the Trumps’ first state visit, it was Brigitte Macron’s fabulous pink Vuitton jacket that triumphed.
The echo of this fashion salvo lasted as long as she and Melania had to watch their husbands plant a tree. Then Melania struck back with the most intense gardening outfit ever worn: a $2,790 Givenchy tuxedo cape worn over a Dolce & Gabbana dress and Christian Louboutin heels; Brigitte stayed in Vuitton in a pale yellow coat over a matching dress.
But pre-state dinner, it all became about the white wide-brimmed hat, which like the all-white outfit was by Michael Kors, leaving onlookers dazed and online mischief-makers creating memes invoking Beyoncé.
On anyone else, it would like trying too hard, but Melania Trump dresses—like Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan—like a soap opera diva. Refreshingly, she does not labor under the burden of having to look approachable, or trying to reassure voters how normal she is. Coats are shrugged on shoulders. Stuck in a goldfish bowl she looks pretty pissed off to be in, she has decided—reasonably enough—to dress to kill.
Fashion for all of us is an expression of self and ownership. It’s an assertion. And during this state visit, Melania Trump has been asserting herself without any words necessary. This is power dressing at its most literal.