By any fashionable standard, the little black dress that Melania Trump wore on New Year’s Eve was quite chic: a $3,000 cocktail dress designed by Dolce & Gabbana with bejeweled bows on the shoulders.
Italian designer Stefano Gabbana thought the incoming first lady looked quite fetching in his dress and said so on Instagram, where he thanked her for wearing it.
He called Trump, a reported longtime fan of the label, a #DGwoman.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But the post infuriated Donald Trump critics and further fueled the ongoing debate in fashion circles about whether designers who dress the future first lady are, in turn, endorsing her husband’s politics.
“Gabbana’s eagerness to see Trump wearing his brand puts him at the far side of one of the fashion industry’s biggest divides,” notes W magazine.
One commenter noted that Gabbana should think twice before dressing Trump. “Sad when a gay designer doesn’t care about other groups being repressed, how much more money do u need?!?” the post read.
One of Italy’s leading newspapers covered the controversy under the headline: “Who’s Afraid of Dressing Melania?”
Gabbana got defensive over all the criticism and shot back at several people, at one point writing: “please you dont buy anymore my fashion please!!! I dont need a ignorant costumer!!!,” presumably meaning “customer.”
So far, writes the Los Angeles Times, “such enthusiastic endorsements of Melania’s sartorial selections have been scarce among designers.”
Lines in the sand have been drawn in an industry that heavily endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
Vanity Fair noticed the lack of press releases from fashion houses about Trump wearing their clothing, “usually the sort of thing fashion brands are very happy to call to attention.”
After Election Day, designer Sophie Theallet, who has dressed Michelle Obama, issued a statement saying she would not dress Trump because of her husband’s campaign and urged other designers to do the same.
“The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by,” she wrote.
Fashion heavyweights Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs have both said they will not work with Trump. Ford said Trump is “not necessarily my image. I was asked to dress her quite a few years ago. I declined.”
He added that he would not have dressed Clinton, either, if she had won.
“I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump,” Jacobs told WWD, which asked designers in late November if they would dress the nation’s new first lady.
“Personally, I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by (Donald) Trump and his supporters.”
American designer Derek Lam is also taking a pass.
“While I have incredible respect for our country’s political institutions, I find it challenging to be personally involved in dressing the new first lady,” he told WWD. “I would rather concentrate my energies on efforts towards a more just, honorable and a mutually respectful world.
“I don’t know Melania Trump personally, so I don’t wish my comments to seem I am prejudging her personal values, but I really don’t see myself getting involved with the Trump presidency.”
Other designers, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Diane von Furstenberg, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Carolina Herrera, have said they have no problem with dressing Trump.
“Donald Trump was elected, and he will be our president. Melania deserves the respect of any first lady before her,” von Furstenberg told WWD.
“Our role as part of the fashion industry is to promote beauty, inclusiveness, diversity. We should each be the best we can be and influence by our example.”