Melania Trump's Most Controversial Fashion Moments

Before Melania Trump was First Lady of the United States, she was a model, so it's not shocking that she's made sartorial fashion choices that are different than those first ladies who came before her. The wife of President Donald Trump is used to designer clothes that stand out, making the typical conservative cardigan-and-pearls uniform of most of her predecessors the most shocking thing she, as an individual, could possibly wear. Everything in Melania Trump's wardrobe is always impeccably tailored; every color seems to flatter her; and she's statuesque to the point where she could probably get away with wearing a potato sack and still look fantastic. (They'd have to be really expensive potatoes, though.)

While some of her style choices have been considered admirably diplomatic, others have been criticized for appearing completely tone-deaf and outright insensitive. For her part, former Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote in her 2018 book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, that she believes Trump's missteps "have been intentionally misleading" (via Racked). Of course, Newman's claim was purely speculative, but one thing is for certain: Sometimes what looks good simply isn't a good look. It's time to dish the dirt on Melania Trump's most controversial fashion moments.

Melania Trump and that pussy-bow blouse

Melania Trump's first controversial fashion statement came at the second presidential debate in October 2016. It was shortly after her husband, the then Republican presidential candidate and future POTUS, Donald Trump's infamous "grab 'em by the p***y" tape leaked. At the time, Melania opted for fuchsia pants and a matching Gucci top called ... a pussy-bow blouse. The irony wasn't lost on the Internet, and the Twittersphere pretty much went crazy over the choice, with one particularly clever user observing, "Love Melania's pussy-bow blouse, wonder if her husband grabbed it from the closet for her?" 

According to Vanity Fair, a campaign rep said the name of the top, which coincided with the political controversy, "was not intentional." Of course, it's likely that the future first lady saw a high-necked (and thereby conservative) pink top and simply thought it was pretty. However, Melania Trump's intentions may have also been more feminist than flippant: In 2013, the Makers: Women Who Make America documentary revealed that the pussy-bow blouse was actually one of the first shirts women wore to work in offices, noting that the bow at the neck was a feminine way of emulating menswear at the time (via Jezebel).

This suit was more controversial for Ralph Lauren than for FLOTUS

The media and fashion worlds waited with bated breath to see which designer would dress Melania Trump for Donald Trump's presidential inauguration in January 2017. At the time, her rep announced in part to Women's Wear Daily, "The First Lady–elect will become America's new First Lady wearing an American designer who transformed American fashion, Ralph Lauren."

Melania Trump sported a pale blue cashmere ensemble from the American brand and she looked lovely, but Ralph Lauren's work with the first lady caught the Internet's ire, with many social media users calling for a boycott of the label. However, WWD points out that the designer has never played favorites when it comes to politics, having previously dressed Hillary Clinton, Betty Ford, and Nancy Reagan in their clothes. In fact, Clinton wore Ralph Lauren at the inauguration, as well. While Ralph Lauren the man has never made any political statements publicly, the fashion house released in a statement at the time, "The Presidential Inauguration is a time for the United States to look our best to the world. It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment."

Melania Trump's bling stole the show in her White House portrait

Melania Trump wore basic, classic black for her White House portrait. Her hair and makeup were styled in an equally classic look, with loose waves and a subtler smoky eye than we're used to seeing from the FLOTUS. However, it wasn't her stunning beauty that gave many pause when the portrait was released in April 2017 — it was her massive rock. Intentional or not, the first lady's 25-carat, 10-year anniversary ring has remained one of the focal points of the piece. The noteworthy bling, which was given to her by her presidential husband in 2014, is estimated to be worth a whopping $3 million, Glamour reports.

The Internet was quick to note what many interpreted as a somewhat gratuitous display of wealth. "Melania's official portrait is out. All the airbrushing could almost make you ignore the $3 million ring," one user tweeted, while another wrote, "Really you had [to] wear that ring?? Might have been a little sympathetic with America and worn a simpler piece. That's gaudy in more ways than 1." Still, others were kinder (or just more diplomatic), with one person tweeting out in part that the "beautiful" portrait would make "an excellent conversation piece" at the White House.

Did the First Lady channel Marie Antoinette while discussing world hunger?

When addressing poverty and trying to appear sympathetic, wearing designer clothes can come across as, well, a bit hollow. As a result, Melania Trump's speech to the United Nations in 2017, which decried cyberbullying and child hunger, didn't resonate well when she wore a hot pink dress with balloon sleeves. From designer label Delpozo, it cost an estimated $2,950, according to Glamour.

"No child should ever feel hungry, stalked, frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated, or afraid, with nowhere to turn," Trump said during her speech. "We must teach each child the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of the kindness, mindfulness, integrity and leadership which can only be taught by example. By our own example we must teach children to be good stewards of the world they will inherit." Sure. But as many furious netizens on Twitter noted, you can see how saying this while wearing a designer outfit like that could possibly give off a bit of a "let them eat cake" vibe, no?

Melania Trump's monochromatic pantsuits may be contrarian

Just days after The Wall Street Journal reported that POTUS allegedly paid hush money to Stormy Daniels in January 2018, Melania Trump wore a white pantsuit to the State of the Union address. The cream-colored selection paralleled the white ensembles that female Democrats wore to Donald Trump's first Congressional address in 2017, Vanity Fair notes. According to CNN, they did so in the spirit of the suffragette and women's rights movements. "We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) stated at the time. "And we will continue to support the advancement of all women."

However, Democratic women weren't wearing white to the 2018 State of the Union, The New York Times reports. Instead, they donned black in solidarity with the Time's Up and #MeToo movements, making Melania Trump's ivory really stand out in their sea of ebony. What's more, when the Democratic women wore white to the February 2017 Congressional address, the first lady donned a sequined black Michael Kors suit with a $10,000 price tag.

Of course, no one knows what Melania Trump's motives were for either suit. But when it comes to controversial, and perhaps contrarian, statements, the ex-model's clothes often make it seem pretty black and white.

FLOTUS spends big bucks on controversial fashion designers

In May 2017, Melania Trump wore a gorgeous floral coat by Italian designer Dolce & Gabbana for an appearance in the boot-shaped European country — a sweet, diplomatic tribute. However, the issue people had with this particular coat was that it retailed for more than $50,000 (via The Washington Post). Of course, this didn't bother Stefano Gabbana. W magazine reports that he bragged about the first lady's topper option on Instagram in a series of since-deleted posts and comments.

This wouldn't be the only time Trump came under fire for wearing the brand (but more on this below), largely due to Dolce & Gabbana's own string of controversies. Teen Vogue reports that the brand was slammed for an ad that was culturally and racially insensitive towards Chinese people in November 2018. This incident notably followed the time this fashion house faced backlash over selling blackamoor earrings and what they dubbed "slave sandals." Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana also previously shamed body positivity activists, criticized parents who turned to in vitro fertilization, infamously called Selena Gomez "ugly," and denounced adoption for LGBTQ couples. Essentially, money can buy designer clothes, but it doesn't necessarily give those designers (nor, arguably, those who wear their clothes) class.

The message behind Trump's infamous 'I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?' jacket

Melania Trump wore what was probably the cheapest thing in her entire wardrobe while visiting children at a border detention center in June 2018: a $39 Zara jacket, which was later sold for nearly $1,000, that reads "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" on the back. While FLOTUS' rep initially told ABC News that it was just a jacket with "no hidden message," a source cited by The New York Times claimed that the words were "actually directed at anyone — both outside and inside the White House — who wanted to criticize her decision to visit the children in light of the administration's aggressive immigration policies." 

During a sit-down interview with ABC News that October, Trump said as much: "It's obvious I didn't wear that jacket for the children ... It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. I want to show them that I don't care. You could criticize whatever you want to say. But it will not stop me to do what feels right." However, she admitted that she somewhat regretted the fashion choice, noting, "I would prefer they would focus on what I do and on my initiatives than what I wear."

Melania Trump wore heels to visit hurricane-damaged areas

In August 2017, Melania Trump joined President Donald Trump in a visit to Houston, Texas after the area was struck by Hurricane Harvey. While the former Apprentice star wore khakis, a windbreaker, and what Vanity Fair described as "sturdy shoes," the first lady donned a jacket, aviators, black pants and ... stilettos to board Air Force One. Naturally, Twitter had a lot to say at the sight of the high-heeled FLOTUS visiting sites that had dealt with nearly 30 inches of rain. Hurricane Harvey left at least 10 people dead and destroyed countless homes, so this fashion move struck many as insensitive or, at best, tone deaf. Soon after the backlash, Melania Trump was snapped sporting the purest of white sneakers — but later that week, she was once again photographed in heels at post-hurricane sites.

Manolo Blahnik, who designed the stilettos, later defended Trump's footwear foibles, stating to Harper's Bazaar in September 2017 (via Teen Vogue), "I don't think she's insensitive. I think she's working nonstop to make it work — possibly she was just wearing the shoes she left New York in. Yes, I think probably she could have worn Hunter boots, but she was wearing what she was wearing." In fairness, maybe the first lady thought the heels elevated her enough to keep her ankles dry.

The First Lady's gardening gear costs more than a used car

When most people garden, they wear old, janky clothes they don't mind getting ripped, dirty, or otherwise destroyed in the sometimes grueling, often filth-inducing process. This may or may not include one Melania Trump. Perhaps learning from wearing heels to hurricane-stricken locales, the first lady sported a confusingly clean Converse sneakers and jeans combo to harvest veggies in the White House Kitchen Garden at a Boys and Girls Club event in September 2017. Not so unusual, right? Except she paired all that seemingly down-to-earth gear with a plaid shirt ... from Balmain. The button-down top boasted a price tag of $1,380, according to Elle.

In fairness to the first lady, this was a lot cheaper than her infamous pantsuits and may well have been, relatively speaking, the closest thing she owned to a throwaway item. Still, as Chrissy Teigen cracked about Trump's spotless kicks on Twitter, "These look exactly like my workout soles. Because I work out as much as this chick gardens."

This Melania Trump fashion moment invoked 'Out of Africa' in Africa

When Melania Trump traveled to Africa in October 2018, her choice in accessories struck some as culturally insensitive. While on a Kenyan safari excursion, FLOTUS sported a white pith helmet, which The Guardian reports served as a symbol of colonialism and imperialism, as they were frequently worn by European explorers and imperialists in the 1800s. Eventually, the helmets became part of military gear, furthering the image of oppression they can evoke in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. One Twitter user wrote, "That pith helmet you have carried was used by colonialists during the dark days. Doesn't sit well with us Africans. Who advised you?"

Of course, it wasn't just the historical implications of Trump's ensemble that drew reactions. According to Vogue, the look was also compared to the garb worn by Oscar-winning goddess Meryl Streep in Out of Africa (1985), a film in which Streep's character essentially plays a white savior in 1937. Another outfit, topped with a cream fedora with black band, drew comparisons to Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Hannibal Lecter during his visit to the Bahamas in Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Melania Trump channeled royal fashion across the pond

Ahead of First Couple Donald and Melania Trump's state visit to the U.K. in June 2019, the first lady took off in an adorable Gucci dress printed with London landmarks like Big Ben. Upon arriving across the pond, she reportedly took style cues from British royals, including Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and the late Princess Diana. While out for lunch with Prince Charles and wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, Melania Trump wore a custom white dress and hat ensemble with a navy blue belt and trimmings. The look was noticeably reminiscent of similar outfits rocked by Prince Harry's mother and later by his wife. However, FLOTUS drew comparisons not just to the royals, but also to Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle character in My Fair Lady (1964). 

Melania Trump looked lovely, of course, but the outfit was, yet again, a Dolce & Gabbana number. Clearly, the first lady looking her best but not without a fair bit of controversy is an ongoing phenomenon that probably won't end any time soon. But perhaps Omarosa Manigault Newman put it best in her book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House (via Racked): "Taken as a whole, all of her style rebellions have served the same purpose, and not only misdirection and distraction — strategies her husband knows all too well."

That time the color 'nude' really looked literal on FLOTUS

In December 2018, Melania Trump played tricks on the eyes of the whole world when she stepped out in nude leather leggings that, at first (and sometimes second and third) glance looked like her legs were just, well, nude. The leggings were paired with matching shoes and a green coat, making some spectators believe she was dressed like a really elegant Central Park flasher. However, if you focused on her knees, you could see the material crinkle as she moved, and there was also a visible seam going down the length of her stems. 

All in all, this outfit wasn't so much offensive to anyone as it was baffling, much like her decision to wear sunglasses at night. While discussing Trump's penchant for headline-making fashion moments, Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote in her Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House book, "As a student of fashion and a keenly image-conscious woman, she knows that every one of her style choices will be scrutinized and debated" (via Racked). Hmm, perhaps Melania Trump could've seen the optics of this one coming.

Was Melania Trump's 9/11 coat insensitive?

On the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a photo from the year before resurfaced in the Twittersphere of Melania Trump wearing a coat with seams that some considered insensitive. The first lady's A-line navy blue coat, which Yahoo! Lifestyle reported was custom made by Hervé Pierre, had white stitching on the back that some people interpreted to resemble a tower being attacked. "I'm sure I'm not the first one to spot this but who in the world thought it was a good idea for Melania to wear this coat in the 9/11 photo," one Twitter user wrote. "It legit looks like an object is flying into a tower or the Washington Monument."

In reality, it was an unfortunate button detail, which many other social media users reluctantly pointed out. "I am not at all a fan nor a supporter of President Trump. He is an embarrassment and a moron," one person tweeted in response to the offended party. "But to say that the back pleat of Melania's coat looks like a plane and the towers is the stupidest, most ridiculous reaching I've ever seen! Give me a break."