First lady Melania Trump accompanied the president on a visit to the storm-ravaged part of Texas that was slammed by Hurricane Harvey on Friday and is still being drenched in the rains of its remnants. But the first lady courted a flurry of social media critics who took issue with what she wore and the bag she used to carry her change of clothes. By Wednesday, the first lady’s spokesperson had issued a statement on the controversy, and reactions to her wardrobe choices that were more fully thought out than the instant hot takes appearing on Twitter were still pouring in, with Melania receiving support from some surprising places.
Melania was seen leaving the White House Tuesday morning and boarding Marine One wearing of “storm stilettos” and almost immediately was criticized and poked fun at by casual observers, journalists and celebrities on Twitter.
One reporter even pointed out that the Trumps had packed some belongings in a Louis Vuitton bag.
However, when Melania emerged alongside the president in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Harvey made landfall, she was sporting a pair of white sneakers instead of the stilettos, prompting The Boston Globe to run the headline: ‘Relax, Melania Trump is not wearing sky-high heels in a disaster zone.”
But by then, people had found something new to disapprove of: the blue “FLOTUS” baseball cap she also wore after arriving in Texas. The term ‘FLOTUS” trended on the Merriam Webster site as a result. Others derided the hat as “awkward.”
The commotion elicited an official response from the White House. A spokesperson for Melania said, “It’s sad that we have an active and ongoing natural disaster in Texas, and people are worried about her shoes.”
Of course, some people were able to keep things in the proper perspective given the scope of the story in which this mini-narrative was taking place. Journalist Soledad O’Brien got to the point succinctly:
By the end of the day, Daily Show host Trevor Noah mounted a full-throated defense of the first lady, The Washington Post reported. Noah said all of the clamoring over Melania’s choice of footwear overshadowed more pressing issues in the news, like Kim Jong Un having fired a missile over Japan. He also wondered why people fixated on things like someone’s wardrobe in the midst of such a sweeping natural disaster.
“Here’s the thing, I don’t know why anyone should care what anyone wears when they’re on their way to help people,” Noah said. “Who cares? Look at the pope, you see how he dresses? All white … he looks like he’s going to a P. Diddy party. But we don’t say, hey he can’t go out helping people dressed like that.”
However, Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic for The New York Times, conceded that the first lady’s spokesperson made a “fair point,” but contended that “in an environment as fraught as the current one, there is no such thing as offstage. Even boarding a plane becomes a quasi-official moment in which all messaging, spoken or assumed, is mined for meaning.” Friedman concluded that “In Mrs. Trump’s job, as in her husband’s, details matter. Even shoes.”
In the end, though, nothing Melania wore was nearly as awkward as her husband’s actual visit, as summed up in this recap from the pool reporter for The Dallas Morning News. According to that account, President Trump held a “rally-style speech” after touring a portion of the flood zone and meeting with rescue officials. The president made no mention about those who have perished in the disaster and the thousands who have been forced to flee the floodwaters. Instead, he returned to one of his favorite topics and reportedly said, “What a crowd. What a turnout.”
Below, watch Trevor Noah’s segment from The Daily Show.
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