As she nears her own first 100 days, as first lady, Melania Trump went head-to-head — or more aptly, toe-to-fashionable-toe — with Argentina’s first lady Juliana Awada on Thursday.
A scrum of photographers crowded around Trump in the Oval Office like they had just seen a unicorn.
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Trump wore military chic, a $4,100 gabardine jacket and matching pencil skirt from the Altuzarra Spring 2017 collection, according to the Daily Mail.
(Note of irony: Before designer Joseph Altuzarra introduced the collection last September, he said, “The election is hard. I wanted something that felt happy, joyous, flirty and fun.”)
Her python stilettos matched the snake-stamped trim on the skirt and jacket, which Trump wore as a blouse.
Vogue noted that “the look fell in line with Trump’s typical style, from the Balmain military-esque topper she wore to cast her ballot in November on to tailored pieces from Karl Lagerfeld, Norisol Ferrari, The Row, and Alice Roi.”
The fashion expectations for the former model ran high from the get-go. Critics have largely been kind and admiring in their critiques of FLOTUS (first lady of the United States) fashion in Trump’s first 100 days on the job.
The love-in began with the powder blue outfit with a Jackie Kennedy-esque vibe she wore on Inauguration Day and continued through the pale pink tea-length dress by Herve Pierre she paired with flats for the White House Easter Egg Roll last week.
(The flat shoes drew a gasp; Trump is almost always photographed wearing stilettos. She loves her Christian Louboutins.)
Pierre also designed, with help from Trump, the vanilla crepe gown with a red silk faille ribbon around the waist she wore to the inaugural balls in January.
Female dignitaries who come within air-kiss proximity of her are caught in a fashion face-off.
In February Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, held her own posing next to America’s First Glamazon who wore a custom-made Karl Lagerfeld suit of white cashmere for her first official hostess duties.
To greet Queen Rania of Jordan, recognized as one of the most stylish royals in the world, Trump wore an impeccably tailored emerald green dress. Both women were cinched within an inch of their lives and, expertly balanced on heels, seemed to be playing whose-stilettos-are-higher.
Trump’s signature style is monochromatic and strongly tailored, with emphasis many times on her waist. Her signature off-duty accessories, noted by Vogue, are her oversized Gucci shades, her 12-carat diamond engagement ring and Gianvito Rossi sand-colored stilettos.
“I think at this point we know that Melania will never look bad,” Rachel Lubitz, a senior style writer for the website Mic, told Philly.com.
“She knows what silhouettes look good on her body, exactly, as in she’s always cinched at the waist and everything hits perfectly right below the knee. When I see her, she’s always composed.”
The first lady favors coatdresses and has worn them several times. On St. Patrick’s Day she skipped the green and wore a red custom coatdress by New York-based designer Alice Roi.
Last month for an awards ceremony she wore a white coatdress from the highly lauded luxury American fashion label, The Row, founded by Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen.
“The coatdress is a favorite of Melania's,” Roi told the Hollywood Reporter. “It is a classic, and she is definitively responsible for its revival. It is the ultimate chic statement: The combination of strong tailoring and a delicate silhouette delivers the right message.”
Some of the loudest gripes about anything Trump has worn over the last 100 days were aimed at the black wool Michael Kors ensemble she wore when her husband addressed Congress in February.
The sequins were too flashy!
It was too expensive! ($4,995 for the jacket; $4,595 for the skirt)
It’s not appropriate for the halls of Congress!
People took more shots at her official first lady portrait, but most weren’t aimed at the Dolce & Gabbana she wore with an Hermès scarf.
Most of the dings were about her huge diamond ring, a little too let-them-eat-cake for some people’s taste.
Trump has tended to wear international designers - Dior, Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana - and fashion observers are taking notes. They compare her choices to those of former first lady Michelle Obama who made it a point early-on to wear clothes by American designers.
Several American designers have stated publicly that they will not dress Trump because they oppose her husband’s politics. That list thus far, according to Glamour, includes Zac Posen, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Phillip Lim, Derek Lam, Timo Weiland, and Naeem Khan.
On the other hand, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Rag & Bone, Tommy Hilfiger, and Diane von Furstenberg have either all dressed her or are not opposed to dressing her.
“Project Runway” alum Christian Siriano joined the won’t-dress-her list a few days ago.
“I don’t think I would. I think for a while everyone was trying to figure out what to do,” the designer told Time. “Unfortunately, it really doesn’t have anything to do with her, but she is representing what’s happening politically and what’s happening politically right now is not really good for anyone.”
The tsk-tsking that the first lady’s wardrobe choices are at odds with her husband’s “America First” motto prompted a statement from her senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff to the New York Times in February.
“Mrs. Trump is a proud and longtime supporter of American fashion. She appreciates fashion as art,” the statement read. “As a former model, she has always been a patron of the world’s most distinguished designers both here and abroad. Mrs. Trump buys from an international mix of brands because that is what reflects her uniquely American life experience and style.
“She is more excited than ever to make a platform for American designers ...”
Designers might shun her, but there’s always Vogue, which has a history of presenting America’s first ladies in its hallowed pages.
Hillary Clinton was the first first lady to appear on the cover of the fashion bible. Michelle Obama scored three Vogue covers as first lady.
Trump already has a Vogue cover under her stylish belt. The magazine featured her in February 2005 wearing the gown she wore to marry Donald Trump.
Anna Wintour, American Vogue’s long-time editor-in-chief who campaigned for Clinton against Donald Trump, has not closed the magazine’s pages to the new first lady.
“We always photograph or cover in some way the first ladies, so as I’ve said before, I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t at some point cover the first lady,” Wintour told Business of Fashion this week, “but we’ve got nothing planned right now.”