• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Jacket Backlash

June 2018

But a few weeks ago, we were all completely besotted with the whereabouts of First Lady Melania Trump. Though not known to be someone ever-present on the public scene, as is her dearly beloved Donald, she certainly is ever-elegant and attention-grabbing when and if she does appear. A model by trade, whose countenance and whose curves have saucily and revealingly graced the covers of such publications as Vanity Fair, Bazar, and GQ, she, like her husband, is no stranger to the gloss and the limelight of center stage.

It’s for that reason why, after having undergone a small abdominal surgery a little over a month ago, the media has been so bent on seeing her face again. In fact, in her absence, conspiracy theories were beginning to swirl. So goes the imagination of a press corps with nothing but gossip and frivolity to fill its time and our minds. Nevertheless, some in the media attributed her absence to marital strife, others to a sort of relationship coup de grace—some kind of merciful break that might save her from the man for whom she appears to enjoy such scant intimacy. Others conjectured a kidnapping, a poisoning, a repatriation back to Slovenia. Still others (admittedly, a far less imaginative few) thought that her health was failing because of some type of insidious chronic disease. In any case, for any number of these reasons or for none of them at all, she was hidden from the light of day.

Or so she was. At long last, all seemed to be well (the President assured us via Tweet that his wife was getting along and recuperating just fine) until she stepped outside the other day. Now, after having emerged from her convalescence in what was quite possibly history’s most distasteful jacket ever put on display, everyone who was clamoring to see her radiant smile and her runway strut is left wishing she’d stayed a bit longer in the dark.

Just how bad was this now infamous jacket? Unspeakably and bewilderingly so. It will go down as the crowning achievement of fashion's faux pas—supplanting on its ascent to the bottom the shiver-inducing mom jeans, socks with sandals, and fanny packs. En route to the southern border, where no fewer than two-thousand immigrant children have been separated from their families in the past eighteen months, Melania donned a cargo-green army coat bespattered with the following inscription on its rear: “I don’t really care, do u?”.

A more unprepossessing, un-presidential, unaware, and above all, uncaring sartorial choice has never been put on display. Purchased from the Spanish-based women’s shop, Zara (for less than $40, no less) Melania warmed herself in Washington’s late-June heat with what’s become the jacket seen around the world. Travelling to Texas (itself no cool clime, with stultifying summer temperatures that regularly laugh as they pass triple digits—inhospitable, one would think, to a long, dark trench coat, no matter its price nor its adolescent appeal), Melania was photographed wearing the garment as if it mattered not.

And that’s the First Lady’s contention: it mattered not. Speaking on her behalf, Ms. Trump’s public representative put to rest all angry inquiries by declaring that the jacket had no ulterior motive. There was nothing subliminal in its inscription—nothing untoward in its text. Are we to believe this unbelievable line of reasoning, that this was “just a jacket” and merely the last thing Ms. Trump saw on her way out the door? Grabbing it in haste, she probably hadn’t even checked its obverse or worn it in months.

But for a lady so fastidiously accoutered, so gaudily prinked, and so fashionably forward and well-endowed, this meager defense defies all logic. More than that, it’s insulting. It assumes that the lot of us watching—surely, as mine is, with a mouth agape upon witnessing such an unforgivable faux pas—are mere simpletons without wardrobes or scruples our own. Are we so credulous as to think that a message blatantly plastered on her back hadn’t intended to be explicitly seen? Add to this the fact that this was Ms. Trump’s first official entrée into the public eye in over a month. Wearing this jacket almost certainly had its intention, and it can’t be so easily swept away by Ms. Trump, by her linguistic gap, nor by the sophistry of her public relations team.

So, taking seriously her public-relations explanation and suspending our disbelief, the jacket had no hidden message. What’s more, we’d be wrong to let such a superficiality blind us to the that fact which really mattered most. That fact, of course, was her sojourn to the border in the south. There our First Lady was, the absolute paragon of altruism and sympathy as she tended to those children riven of their parents at our country’s pervious gates. That’s the only “message”, if one could use the word, to which our attention should turn.

Or is it?

According to President Trump, his wife’s jacket wasn’t intended to be silent nor innocuous as her spokeswoman had claimed it to be. Rather, the message on her jacket was intended to be mockingly and invidiously clear. Spilling his two cents on Twitter, the president gave the lie to Melania’s spokeswoman’s claim when he explained that the message on Melania’s jacket was in fact meant to be a jab at none other than the fake news media. What’s his is hers, as any prosperous marriage knows full well, so it should come as no surprise that Melania has taken finally to sharing in her husband’s bête noire.

The scapegoat of every scandal (sometimes deservedly, though most often not), it was in fact the CNNs and MSNBCs and the Washington Posts and the New York Times of the world at which her jacket’s message was directed. In his words, the president expounded on the wardrobe controversy by saying that “Melania has learned how dishonest they (the fake news media) are and she truly no longer cares!” Apathy, then, is the new policy. At least now it’s been made explicit. Some had suspected it, others insinuated it. But this instance, quite unequivocally, puts to rest all feeble hopes that this administration has any decorum or heart.

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