After Melania Trump’s most recent public appearance, a visit to the White House garden with American schoolchildren, people have been talking about her shirt. Specifically, the $1380 Balmain shift the first lady wore to plant vegetables.
Initial news coverage focused on the event itself, with reporters commenting on Trump continuing former First Lady Michelle Obama’s gardening traditions. But after First Lady fashion-watcher Kate Bennett noted the shirt’s price on her Twitter, the media exploded.
According to Net-A-Porter, the online designer store that stocks it, Trump’s shirt is meant to have a “rebellious ’80s attitude,” and draws its inspiration from counterculture icons David Bowie, George Michael and Prince. It’s a part of their “grunge” collection, meant to be worn with distressed jeans to emphasize its “laid-back feel.”
Trump isn’t the first First Lady to make waves for the cost of her outfits.
Obama was famous for her gorgeous-yet-affordable J. Crew chic, and her “sartorial diplomacy” helped define her role as the administration’s approachable “mom-in-chief.”
And as Obama drew criticism for “not looking like a First Lady,” and showing her scandalously-gorgeous upper arms, Trump is currently under fire for wearing a shirt worth almost half the average monthly American salary.
Reactions online were split evenly; some deriding the First Lady’s expensive fashion choices, others calling the focus on it “typical liberal fake news.”
While some lashed out at Bennet for what they saw as a partisan tweet, Bennett pointed out that she had given the exact same coverage to former FLOTUS Obama, including the pricing research.
And while some frustration about Melania’s outfit focused on the shirt’s political optics, other Twitter users expressed bafflement that Trump’s thrift-store-chic tartan had been that much, to begin with.
Finally, some opined that, given Trump’s obvious discomfort getting up close and personal with the dirt, the fact that she was wearing such an expensive outfit to do so was unsurprising.
Implications about the Trump family’s “out-of-toughness” aside, the story gave people a chance for a few bipartisan laughs. In a month when the world faced nuclear woes, mass shootings, monster storms and political crises, the moment of levity was well-needed.