The day we have all been waiting for is imminent, and hopefully, if all goes well, the Trump administration will be a terrible pile of roadkill in history’s rearview mirror. While the horrors of the administration have been well-documented, with each character in this macabre play getting ample stage time, it might be nice to look back at the women of the Trump presidency, who have done what they can to ruin everything they touch in whatever time they’ve been given. Trump’s women are quieter than his men, but what they don’t say with their mouths, they certainly have said with their clothes. Let’s take a look.
Long after Trump leaves the White House, by force or by his own will, the women in his inner circle are armed to carry out his legacy.
Ivanka is the most dangerous weapon in her father’s curio cabinet and while everyone was making a big stink about how scary her father was, she was and has always been content to slink in the shadows like a stoat, biding her time. Ivanka’s appeal has always been respectability—she is the aspirational guiding light for the new conservative woman. Ivanka is smooth, she is well-educated, she is quietly, expensively blonde. She will never let you forget that she is a mother—a clever tactic wielded in an attempt to create relatability. Ivanka’s style is therefore aspirational to the upper-class Republican women with whom she already brushes shoulders, and to the middle-class women who want the kind of American Ivanka promises: clean, tidy, white.
Something about this curious outfit, which Ivanka wore to the Doha Forum in December 2019, sums it up nicely. The strange, two-toned blazer is powder pink at the top, but black at the bottom, which is maybe a metaphor for Ivanka’s true self. Really, the jacket is just “interesting” enough to be slightly edgy, polished enough to look professional, and absurdly expensive. Ivanka projects an air of Lean In-adjacent empowerment feminism through her clothing, dressing like the poison-sweet, villainous boss in a middling romcom. It’s a look that projects safety, a sartorial feint that provides a nice smokescreen for the giant truckload of bullshit she’s got parked out back.
If Ivanka is the actual brains of the women in Trump’s orbit, Melania, bless her, is its face. She’s Donald Trump’s beaming wife, gentle, kind to children, a good mother to her son, Barron, who the American public only knows as tall and nothing else. While her day-to-day looks for being mistress of the White House are relatively unremarkable, what she wears for public displays of patriotism, like the Republican National Convention, are more demonstrative of the role she’s played.
Melania’s penchant for military-inspired outfits, like the drab green Alexander McQueen skirt suit that she wore to speak at this year’s RNC, projects an authoritarian air: Her husband cannot dress like a little dictator, so she must do so in his stead. It’s not that she’s saying or doing anything with her outfits that are close to intelligent or savvy but she is trying to convey some sort of powerful message that her husband cannot. Someone in this house has dictatorial aspirations, and you’ll just have to sit down and figure out who.
It’s important to remember that Kimberly Guilfoyle, accused sex pest and lovemaking partner of the dreaded Don Jr., has not always looked like a terra cotta Barbie doll. Her current iteration is a heightened, more brazen Fox News brunette, shellacked, bronzed, and willing to squeeze herself into a sheath dress of any color. There was a point in the game where Guilfoyle did not look like she does now, but her tour of duty in Rupert Murdoch’s army of women left an indelible mark on her wardrobe. Because she’s merely a side dish and not the main course, Kimberly is dressing for herself and her man, but also for the women who might’ve looked to the Fox News stable of women for sartorial inspiration—success and accolades via right-wing punditry and the power of a bandage dress.
Say what you will about the jade green, peplum hem monster above, but at least Guilfoyle knows her colors.
They did their duty, got their checks, and, for the most part, have escaped relatively unscathed, the devils.
It feels like an eternity since Sarah Huckabee Sanders worked in the White House, but I am pleased to report that it has somehow only been a year. For the duration of her time in the spotlight, Sanders stuck to Talbots’s finest (truly no shade to Talbots), opting for sheath dresses in bright colors, always accessorized with a string of pearls. Where Ivanka and Melania are aspirational, Sanders’s looks throughout her tour of duty in the White House felt attainable—a mother who is responsible not only for her children, but the children that populate her workplace. Something about Sanders’ careful public appearance suggests that she was dressing for the people in Trump’s base who feel intimidated by Melania and Ivanka’s designer sheen. While I’m sure Sanders is doing something worthwhile with her time now that she’s escaped the drudgery and morally questionable work of lying routinely for the president, part of me wonders if she misses dressing up like the bitchiest woman at the PTA meeting every day.
Take two ounces of Melania’s glossy, strong-jawed charm and predilection for ice-pick stilettos, add a heaping handful of the work Ivanka may or may not have had done (Botox? Fillers? Please, what is your secret!) and blitz in a Nutri-Bullet until smooth, and you’ll get Hope Hicks, the Trump administration’s former director of communications and currently one of the many “special advisors” to the President. Hicks is best known for getting coronavirus right before the President and Melania got it and also for being the cover model for The It Girl, a book written by Cecily von Ziegesar, the woman responsible for Gossip Girl. Hicks sits somewhere in the middle between Melania and Ivanka, hewing to the same skirt suits and professional “business but make it fashion” attire that Ivanka prefers, but with a little more pep in her step. See how much fun she has descending the steps of Air Force 1 in the photo above, wearing a dress that looks like the second-most expensive garment at the Saks Off 5th in the outlet mall.
No part of me thinks that Kellyanne Conway is a good or decent person, but what I will say for the former special counselor to the president is that after she left the White House, something about her appearance improved. For the duration of her time as the president’s favorite liar, Conway looked perpetually harried, as if she’d just stepped off a helipad and rushed to the podium to brief the press. Perhaps some time away from the spotlight gave Conway the space she needed to find a hot oil treatment and some inner peace, or maybe she just has time now for herself and her teenage daughter, Claudia, who was seemingly engineered in the pits of hell to specifically torture her parents. Regardless, Kellyanne has experienced a small glow-up as of late that throws her previous looks into stark relief.
Enough things have been said about the American Girl Doll x Revolutionary War hero cosplay she wore to the inauguration in 2016; that look is, unfortunately, iconic, and will be for the rest of time. It perfectly encapsulates the small and curious sartorial flourishes that she employed throughout her time in the public eye. Kellyanne Conway never met a statement necklace she didn’t love, and could not be bothered to find a hairbrush, but the ensemble that summarizes her aesthetic is this red velvet suit, paired with an air cast, unhemmed pants, and a high-necked blouse. This entire outfit would look great on Harry Styles, Stevie Nicks, and also, maybe, Drew Barrymore. For Kellyanne?? I don’t know.