For the second year in a row, Melania Trump wore a dark color to attend her husband’s State of the Union address. In 2019, she stepped out in a black ensemble with gold buttons, which stood in sharp contrast to the sea of Democratic female lawmakers who opted to wear head-to-toe white. That scene repeated itself at the 2020 SOTU on Tuesday night, where Melania was very clearly not participating in the Democratic women’s all-white dress code. Instead, she wore a Dolce & Gabbana navy blazer and a matching pencil skirt that erred on the conservative side.
Interestingly enough, back in 2018 at Trump’s first SOTU, Melania arrived wearing a white pantsuit. But that was the year female Democrats wore black in solidarity with the growing #MeToo movement. That also happened to be around the time news about Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels became public. Perhaps Melania going for white that year was intended to send some sort of message? At any rate, she’s strayed away from white at the SOTU ever since, choosing to play it safe with the somber-toned looks she’s worn these last two years.
Before her speech-shredding moment seen around the world, Nancy Pelosi tweeted a photo of her and the Democratic women who wore wear white this year: “Proud to join my fellow @HouseDemWomen today as we #WearWhite to show support for the ongoing fight to achieve equality for women across the country.”
While dissecting a politician’s wardrobe may seem trivial, fashion has always played a subtle but substantial role in shaping political discourse. Wearing all-white to the SOTU, for example, began as both a protest against the Trump administration and a nod to the suffrage movement that led to women gaining the right to vote. Although Congress passed the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote in June 1919, it wasn’t ratified until August 18, 1920, which means the landmark legislation will celebrate its 100th birthday this year. In theory, the 19th amendment guaranteed the right to vote to all women, but in reality, many Black women and women of color would go on to fight for their voting rights for many years to come.
Since the women of Congress have been wearing white to the SOTU for several years, it stands to reason that Melania's choice to gravitate toward darker colors is intentional. And let’s not forget: Melania knows exactly what she’s doing when she chooses to communicate through her clothing. Although she’s relatively reclusive — especially in contrast to the outgoing former First Lady Michelle Obama — she has confirmed on one occasion that her outfits are intentional. In an ABC News interview, she said wearing that jacket that read, “I Really Don't Care, Do U?” on the back was making a reference to “to the left-wing media who are criticizing me.”