NEW YORK While Melania Trump’s speech dominated the talk following the first night of the Republican National Convention, her fashion choice, a $2,100 white frock by a European designer, was completely unique and shows that she understands the power of the visual cue.
In fact, that moment has been years in the making, one that I found to be true after my only encounter with her years ago.
It was 2011, and we sat in her home, the Trump penthouse in Trump Tower, gabbing about fashion, her husband’s hair, and her upcoming jewelry line for QVC. I was distracted by how grandiose and a tad gauche it all seemed to be.
Everything in the home seemed larger than life. The entire suite was laden in gold, from the bathroom tiles to the walls and flooring. The furniture looked as if it was preserved from Viennese royalty, hand-carved and regal.
But more than anything else, it was Mrs. Trump herself, who had a quiet charisma that seemed bigger than the appointments to the multi-million dollar home. Even then, it was as if she was calculating every small move, patiently awaiting her turn, which would arrive five years later.
“Some people would say I’m very shy,” she told me. “But I’m not shy, I’m not shy at all. I just know when it is time to talk and when it’s not time to talk. I’m not the person who will jump over and want to take the spotlight.”
These words would ring truer than ever Monday, when we saw her truly emerge as the potential First Lady.
Throughout her husband’s polarizing campaign and contentious speeches, she’s been in the background. But as we know, Mrs. Trump is hardly shy. She’s savvy, smart, sexy, and leverages all of her assets.
Sporting a similar style to what she wore that day in 2011, her look was completely controversial. And deliberately so.
The white frock was from London-based, Serbian-born designer Roksanda Ilincic, and retails for $2,100 from Net-A-Porter. Most potential First Lady candidates opt for American fashion designers (Michelle Obama wore Maria Pinto in 2008 and Tracy Reese in 2012).
Trump decided to wear something that resonated with her. Ilincic, after all, is also an immigrant in her country, one who worked hard to gain her fortune. Both share their experiences within the fashion industries though Trump was not a bona fide fashion designer, rather, a supermodel in her own right.
The style was fashion-y enough without being off-putting, sexy enough without showing skin. With bell sleeves, a slinky back zipper and a round neck, it was the perfect political visual cue.
Other potential First Ladies have traditionally chosen more welcoming colors its associations with weddings and purity notwithstanding, white is simply not a color that just anyone can pull off.
“The color was controversial,” Lauren Rothman, political stylist and author of Style Bible: What To Wear To Work, told Mashable. “White is not a color every woman can wear. It’s an enviable color. You have to have the right figure. You have to be at a place in life where you can’t get it dirty. Many women are afraid of it.”
Still, white also symbolizes a fresh start, a baptism of sorts. It also shows that Melania Trump knows you have to stand out to win. Playing it safe is for losers.
As we wrapped up the 2011 conversation, overlooking Central Park, I remember something distinctly: Behind Melania’s smile was determination and intense ambition.
“People, they don’t know me,” she told me. “I’m not really an open book. You need to be very quick and smart and juggling a lot of stuff.”
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