There is only one thing we will miss when Trump is finally escorted out of the Oval Office. And that’s the double standard that allowed the liberal media (me!) to characterize right-wing women by what they wear.
O.K., so here goes, one last chance: take Sidney Powell, one of the nuttier lawyers (too nutty, it seems, even for Rudy) who worked on Trump’s contorted election-reversal efforts. It wasn’t just her crazy conspiracy-tangled accusations that forced the legal team to dump her. She defended Trump’s legal strategy in a sparkling gold and silver leopard-print cardigan over a turtleneck and a noose-shaped necklace. Yes, Powell is from Dallas, but still. She looks less like a former federal prosecutor with a Neiman Marcus account than a presenter on QHSN—the QAnon Home Shopping Network.
The Donald regime has been brutal, but one saving grace was that, once Trump’s family blew up all notions of fairness, decorum, and decency, critics and the press were emboldened to loosen their self-imposed strictures against sexist characterizations.
When Hillary Clinton was a candidate, it was considered unfair and reductionist to focus on her pantsuits, hairstyles, and the tone of voice. (Remember the fatwa against using the word “shrill” anywhere near a female politician?) In 2008, even Sarah Palin got a pass despite running up a $150,000 wardrobe tab, paid for by the R.N.C.
Once Trump’s family blew up all notions of fairness, decorum, and decency, critics and the press were emboldened to loosen their self-imposed strictures against sexist characterizations.
Under Trump, all that restraint felt quaint, even outmoded. The costume drama put on by the Trump women—Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany, the Stepford Wife daughters-in-law—was too extreme, too inappropriate, and too revealing (in both senses of the word) to ignore.
With her Fox News–anchor hair, tight dresses, and hooker heels, Ivanka signaled every day that she was Daddy’s Little Pinup. Melania mismatched her outfits to the occasion—Out of Africa colonialist in Africa, 1920s Hong Kong madam in China, Bedouin Barbie in Saudi Arabia—signaling that she hasn’t read the newspapers, maybe ever.
Most people focus on the bizarre messaging behind the I REALLY DON’T CARE jacket Melania wore to visit Mexican children detained by ICE, but there was also something bizarre about her wearing a bomber jacket, aviator sunglasses, and stiletto heels to tour Hurricane Harvey destruction.
And then there is Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. She tagged her trophy by wearing a low-cut, home-wrecker red sheath to address the Republican National Convention. (She then undercut the message by shouting her speech and wearing her dress so tight it looked like sausage casing.)
The Trumps probably won’t go to the inauguration. So this White House Christmas may be the last chance we get to savor their outlandishly garish bad taste. It’s not just the outfits. It’s everything they choose. How will they outdo the blood-red Christmas trees of 2018? Maybe, given the funereal mood over there, black Christmas trees and purple wreaths. Or maybe Trump will claim Biden stole Christmas and not decorate the White House at all. As Melania, while unaware that her friend was recording their conversation, so eloquently put it, “Who gives a f*ck about Christmas stuff and decoration?”
Come January, we will not be allowed to say anything about Jill Biden except how soigné she looks. And that will be easy. No exegeses of Nancy Pelosi’s scarves or send-ups of A.O.C. and her mod squad. There will be no coy or catty observations about hairstyles, makeup, or White House décor.
That’s how it should be—we don’t define men by the styling of their suits and ties—but let’s face it: fashion-shaming the Trumps was the one silver lamé lining in an otherwise consistently horrible and corrosive presidency. Enjoy it while it lasts.