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2 Schools of Thought Emerge Over First Lady's Jacket

Either she's calculating or she's 'clueless'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2018 9:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – The first lady made headlines by visiting immigrant facilities at the border, then much bigger headlines by wearing a jacket with the message "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" scrawled on the back. Her own rep said there was "no hidden message," but then her husband said it was a message directed at the "dishonest" media. So what gives? At the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman finds it impossible to believe that Melania Trump wasn't fully aware of the sensation her message would create—and that the fashion-conscious first lady would wear an inexpensive, mass-market coat accidentally. But if that's the case, who was the message directed at? Well, that's the trickier part. Related coverage:

  • Deliberate: Sure, maybe it was for the media, or perhaps for the president himself, writes Friedman. "Or maybe, just maybe, it was a message for those of us who like to read messages into her clothes. One that said, 'I’m going to wear whatever I want and I don’t care what you think about it.'" The first lady "seems to be using her clothes as a sort of private diary, yet one that is parsed by millions who don’t have the rest of the text." That's a "risky approach to her role."

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  • The flip side: By now, two camps have emerged, one saying it was coolly calculated and the other saying the first lady is "clueless," as Rhonda Garelick writes at the Cut. The latter group suggests Trump "'allowed' some vengeful or tone-deaf stylist to turn her into an unwitting billboard for this administration’s trademark sentiment of callous disregard." We may never know the reason, but Garelick digs into how we should pay attention to our personal reactions to it.
  • Late-night hosts: Not surprisingly, the late-night hosts had a field day, and the Hollywood Reporter rounds up the jokes. Examples: "What was her first choice, a jacket that says 'Womp womp?'" wondered Stephen Colbert. "I think it's nice that she had a jacket made to display her wedding vows," said Seth Meyers.
  • From the right: Twitchy takes Democrats to task for trying to cash in on the issue by selling a T-shirt. "The only mantra the Democrats seem to stick to more than ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ is ‘exploit people and horrible situations for money,’ which when you think about it are really saying the same thing." A post at Townhall also sneers at how the "media freaked out" about the story.
  • A prediction: David Frum of the Atlantic has a prediction: "Every Democrat who visits the border from now on will wear a jacket or shirt that reads, 'I really do care, and i know you do too,' if only because the people who work for them are minimally competent at their jobs," he writes.
  • Counter-message: A new site has sprung up called IReallyDoCare.com where people can donate to groups helping immigrants, reports AdAge. It's the brainchild of writer Parker Molloy, whose tweet tweaks the jacket's message.

  • Another odd choice: Vogue thinks the first lady has trumped her earlier choice to wear stilettos to view hurricane damage. The site finds the $39 jacket choice "baffling" and ends with a slam: It "neatly sums up the apathy that many feel both Ivanka and Melania Trump display underneath rhetoric that positions themselves as public figures that see themselves first as wives and mothers," writes Bridget Read.
  • Unwanted attention: The jacket is made by Zara, whose parent company is Spain's Inditex SA, and Bloomberg reports that the company usually tries to maintain a low profile and generally avoids even advertising. Inditex has not commented on the controversy, and a marketing expert suggests that's a wise strategy.
  • How to redeem: Melania Trump's communications chief scolded the media for focusing on the jacket, but the first lady "chose to display a statement in plain English on her body" on an official trip, writes PR prof Kara Alaimo at CNN. It's more than fair game. "Here is the problem: The role of the first family is TO care," and Alaimo thinks Trump can redeem herself by publicly pressing her husband to reunite separated families.
(Read more Melania Trump stories.)

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