A Visual History of the Trump Administration


Few presidents have exploited the theatrical grandeur of the job fairly as enthusiastically or as cynically as Donald Trump, from his proliferating forests of flags to his gilding of the Oval Office. Few have been as strategic about the energy of caricature, or had such a complicit spouse and courtroom to bolster the spectacle. As a gaggle, they tapped into the dregs of “Dynasty” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities” previous that sits nestled in our lizard brains. For 4 years, we parsed cleaning soap opera stylish as a substitute of “The West Wing.” The visuals demanded consideration, identical to the tweets.

But whereas we won’t have that ultimate photo-op closure as the departing first household welcomes the new residents to the White House — that norm, like so many others, has been trampled — the Trumps go away behind a legacy of image-making and manipulation that will probably be as a lot a reference for political pundits and elegance strategists as that of the Reagans, the Kennedys and the Obamas.

The political costume division of our collective creativeness won’t ever be the identical.

There was a cause the president complained, publicly, about Vogue by no means giving his spouse Melania a canopy (a minimum of not after he entered politics). A cause he complained, too, about designers vociferously asserting early in his time period that they would not dress the first lady. (Who cares? The Trumps could always buy the stuff.) A reason he and his family built chunks of their empire on the wardrobe of ersatz aspiration. They understood the mythmaking power of appearance, and how it sends tendrils of connection to us all.

They were embodiments of the president’s ideas of outmoded gender norms and what it meant to “dress like a woman” — and as a man for that matter — in matching red, white and blue Chiara Boni wrap dresses and pumps, false eyelashes batting against their cheeks, carefully tended locks blowing in the breeze, artfully cultivated stubble like an advertisement for masculinity from the school of Axe body spray.

President Trump is vacating office with the look, if not his reputation, intact, though increasingly it has taken on a whole new cast. What was once seen, on screens and in many the mind’s eye, as the brazen self-branding and narcissism of a reality TV star looks more like simple mendacity. From the beginning, Mr. Trump’s appearance was a sham. We should have known that such artifice was as much a part of his moral makeup as his cosmetic kit, and there was more to come. It was always part of the picture.

The scene was set even before Mr. Trump entered the White House, when Melania Trump wore a fuchsia pussy-bow Gucci blouse to watch her husband debate Hillary Clinton just days after The Washington Post released the now notorious “Access Hollywood” audio tape. Immediately the gleeful speculation started: She was trolling her husband. She was using clothes to send a message.

If it wasn’t the message we expect potential first ladies to send through fashion — that would be about political outreach and economic boosterism, not marital discord — still, it seemed like a message of some sort, suggesting that Mrs. Trump was attuned to the tools of her potential job.

Besides, if it wasn’t a message, what was it? A wardrobe coincidence? Could such willful disregard of external perception be possible for a woman who had been a model? Or was it all meta-commentary on our own expectations of first ladies? Who, exactly, was she toying with?

Mrs. Trump remained enigmatically silent, and thus began a popular addiction to reading her clothes for clues.

Featuring the first couple in matching tuxedos, it suggested: We’re in this together and always have been. (That’s what Mrs. Trump’s former best friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff kept saying, too, after she published a tell-all on her own traumatic experience with the first family.) Even if the conspiracy theorists who thought the portrait had been Photoshopped were right.

Maybe especially if the conspiracy theorists were right.

Now the Trumps are expected to fall back to Florida, with the gold-plated environs of Mar-a-Lago as their empire in exile. They still have their trademarks, and a potential consumer base clutching their MAGA hats, even as the real estate and hospitality industries begin to publicly distance themselves from the family name, as some financial institutions and major companies disavow the president’s actions, and Mr. Trump is shut out of social media. Television and talk radio may be their natural habitats — but then, so is fashion.

This emperor will likely don some new clothes.

Mr. Trump did cut the ribbon on the Louis Vuitton factory in Texas. Vuitton is owned by LVMH, which now owns Tiffany, which is snuggled up in the shadow of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. The group, the largest luxury conglomerate in the world, has not commented on the riots in Washington. Indeed, Shopify aside, the industry is one of the few major business sectors that has remained notably silent on the subject of the president, despite some designers having been so vocal four years ago.

And the Trumps haven’t exactly made a secret of their vision when it comes to product potential.

Remember the libel lawsuit Mrs. Trump filed in 2017 against The Daily Mail? In the suit, her lawyers argued that an article it published insinuating that her modeling career had involved more than just posing had endangered her potential to “launch a broad-based commercial line in multiple product categories,” thanks to her position as “one of the most photographed women in the world.” (The allegations were retracted, an apology was issued and a settlement was made.)

At the time, her office said she had no such plans to use her “position for profit.” But when she is no longer in that position, it’s not hard to imagine the potential (particularly for someone who once upon a time had a QVC jewelry line). After all, some of the categories the lawsuit mentioned include “apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.” A coffee-table book is apparently already being considered, the better to memorialize (and monetize) her style.

Ivanka Trump, of course, has her own history with fashion, having effectively begun her time as her father’s surrogate while doubling as her company’s own best model in ladder-climbing sheath dresses, statement bangles, and Cinderella court shoes. Her business may have been dissolved after the blowback about her using her position for profit — not to mention her let-them-eat-cake evening gown Instagram shots — but it could easily return.

Meantime, her increasingly unshaven brothers have also increasingly positioned themselves as the avatars of the hunter-gatherer set.

The Trumps may be leaving the White House, but their personal brands will live on, even with the shine tarnished, the substance beneath revealed as fool’s gold. It is up to us whether we buy them.



Source link Nytimes.com

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