Trump’s dress code

posted in: Style advice | 29

Am I alone in feeling this is a still from a 1980s TV programme about power in the city?There is something rather old-fashioned about this photograph, don’t you think?

There are two groups of men. The older generation – proud of their hair – wearing baggy sack suits that pool at the hem, white shirts and boring ties. They are shaking hands (or perhaps just touching the tips of their fingers) and looking deeply into each others eyes. Everyone else is merely decorative.

To their left it looks like three power couples. The men (Trump juniors) are tall and handsome with good haircuts but with a bland samey look. You could switch their heads around and no-one would be much the wiser.  One has a Modern cut-off shirt collar and brown shoes. One has a pink tie and a daring blue shirt, but his trousers are at least two inches too long. The final one is ultra-conservative. But these look like city boys

The women all have long, blondish long hair and legs, slim figures and sport body-con dresses – probably “designer” dresses. Maybe even Ivanka dresses. They are glossy and feminine with high heels in light colours to make their legs look longer. They were knee-length or longer skirts and show off their shapely arms. These girls work out. They are smiling and enthusiastic – cheer leaders, hostesses, beauty pageant queens. The king and queen are Ivanka and Jared who are actually the centre of the picture. Maybe this is all about positioning them for the future (if previous US elections are anything to go by).

There are two ladies on the left – maybe posed to the side so the photograph can be cropped at a later date. These two are a bit down market perhaps. Short, a little bit dumpy and frumpy. They look like a somewhat different species. They wear more conservative black court shoes, that match their basically black, high street outfits in jersey fabrics. One has managed a cream, stretch lace top, over a skirt that is just too short for the occasion, I would say. The other women (far left) is Karen Pence, the wife of the Vice President. Bunny suggested I might critique her look, but to be honest Bunny there is not a lot to say. She is Mrs Ordinary America and she dresses like she shops local. Her inauguration dress was made by the same dress-maker who made her wedding dress. I guess ten out ten for loyalty, and ten out of ten for doing what she wants. Is the dress stylish, fashionable, flattering, appropriate? How about the belt? No.

Karen and Mike Pence

Have you noticed this eye-thing that the wives are forced to adopt? I think Nancy Reagan started it. Now all the women have to model the most intense listening skills, showing the audience that if they are rapt after hundreds of campaign trail meetings, then everyone else will be advised to listen up.

In the line up above Melania is missing, as she was for much of the campaign. And one can’t help but notice she hasn’t really worked out how to dress yet. Despite having a sensational figure and looking really great in her underwear/anything that reveals cleavage the outfits she has chosen since she became the first lady are uncomfortable and unbearably prissy. Compared to Michelle who seemed happy in her skin this first lady seems stiff, uncomfortable and acting out a role. To me the long pale blue gloves and the fussy, bulky neckline were all about negating who she is. Her cleavage is completely enclosed, double wrapped and hopefully forgotten. Maybe Melania will grow into the role and find a way of becoming her “own woman” as she says she is (but we find hard to believe). Obama always looked like he was in awe of his wife and I am certain he really loved her. I am not sure Melania feels loved. Or maybe a little facial enhancement has made her smiles look rigid.

Inauguration dress (Ralph Lauren)

Anyway this week a rumour went round that Trump was insisting that those who work in the White House should smarten up their act. The women should dress like women. And the men needed to look sharp, getting a quality tie round their necks. Maybe this is true, or maybe not. One has no idea what is fact and what is fiction these days. But the rumour sparked a lovely Twitter campaign where women – soldiers, surgeons, high court judges, astronauts – posted photos of themselves dressed for work. This is what dressing “like a woman” looks like. But the modern idea that women at work should wear tight, sexy (but not “cheap”) dresses, barely-there hosiery and high heels makes me want to scream. I do meet women who dress like this in the City, but gradually things are changing as more and more women resist the ridiculous stereotype, dressing for comfort, style and to please themselves.

As for Donald himself I can’t help but agree with GQ’s analysis of how he should get his own house in order first.

I think dress codes have had their day. Do you?


29 Responses

  1. Catherine Daze

    Yes indeed. So glad my workplace doesn’t have one. This is something I think has changed a lot in the UK: I remember my school telling us that the girls had to wear skirts and not trousers when we went out on work experience (this would have been about 1990) and I can’t imagine any workplace banning (smart) trousers now.

  2. Annie

    Trump is a joke that would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening.

    There is an argument for dress codes, or a least guidance with perhaps more of the emphasis on grooming and styling than uniformity in look. I remember seeing a colleague dressed in baggy loose patterned jersey thigh length top and floral harem pants and bare feet in mules, she looked blousy liked she’d just got out of bed so I do think there is a middle ground between regulation and looking groomed.

  3. eimear

    I had noticed the ‘gazing’ wife of all the nominees, and found it so strange and antiquated (and forgot that Nancy did it too) – and I dislike the over-groomed look (ie nails matching shoes) , its like everything is becoming some strange instagram post (or have I been watching too much black mirror?)

  4. Christine

    It’s a depressing photograph in many ways. All of the women appear as either trophy or handmaiden. Perhaps with the exception of Ivanka who seems to be stepping into the position of first lady. But the comparison with the 70’s is a fair one and not just about the clothes.

  5. Hélène

    Your style analysis is so sharp. While reading, I felt I was on a museum tour with the most knowledgeable guide. Everything you read in that picture opens up my eyes and helps me understand my feeling of disgust!

  6. Lynn Mally

    I didn’t notice the too-long pants on all the men until you pointed it out. Maybe they all wish that they were taller? It is a nice distraction to have some style analysis in the morning. I have been avoiding the news first thing to keep down my anxiety levels.

    • Jane

      “Maybe they all wish that they were taller?”

      Your posted comment made me laugh out….consider that all the men in the Trump family are over 6 feet tall!! Not sure they wish to be taller. As for the trouser length…correct tailored lenght is for the trouser hem to rest on the top front of the shoe.
      Btw….Obama’s trouser hem also rested on the top front of the shoe.

      That being said….I get what direction this blog is coming from. ?

  7. Ellen

    Agree with Lynn Mally–your style analysis a much more positive way to start the day, and spot on as well!

    Not even four weeks in and we are all exhausted, and continue to fear for America’s future. Dark days.

  8. neucarol

    Do feel that President Trump’s suits and overcoat are appropriate for his body type. The open coats and jackets are a good disguise for a mature middle–just guessing here.
    The red tie is boring, but his signature.

  9. mrsmole

    The sooner this bunch disappear from public view and the White House, the better the rest of the world can sleep at night. If this photo was changed to black and white or sepia, it could be assumed it WAS from a bygone era. Yes, dress codes have changed and for a good reason especially for women. We make up 51% of the population and work in all levels in all jobs and wear all types of appropriate uniforms. To start telling us to become Stepford wives/secretaries/file clerks and wear tight skirts and high heels for men’s fantasies will not fly! Poor Mrs Pence had the same seamstress who made her wedding dress whip up that Inaugural dress…to me it still looks like a wedding dress for an older bride and I agree with you, Kate…no need for that sad skinny belt.

  10. Bunny

    This so reminds me of a job I had in the seventies. All women were required to wear skirts AND high heels, all! There was a glass staircase that we all had to go up and down each day which offered the perfect view for the more prurient employees. The company saying was you got hired or not as you walked that staircase down to your interview! If only our younger women today knew what we put up with and fought for.

    All that to say that Trump and fam clearly still live in that era of women must “dress like women.” It’s disgusting and disheartening.

    I agree with your sentiments completely regarding Ms. Pence’s fashion choices. Kudos to her for utilizing the skills of local dressmakers, but it appears someone with real design sense was not part of that group. Upon closeup, I thought her dress looked like it came from the 99 dollar rack at David’s Bridal and wondered why the color choice and look. The belt? Mon Dieu, tres non. Nothing about this dress is flattering but it does tie in perfectly with her fundamentalist religious beliefs. Many such groups in this country, and around my area particularly, dress similarly. I don’t think we will be looking to her for forward fashion.

    I actually like Melania’s outfit but she does seem uncomfortable in it or perhaps she is uncomfortable with the whole concept of Washington and its traditions. I don’t know, but she rarely seems happy.

    Thank you so much for having this discussion. People in such high profile positions will always have their fashion senses critiqued and need to expect same. I really think by examining the fashion of others we can improve our own look/s. Don’t we all do this while in line at the supermarket or bank?

  11. Renita

    I have read that Melanie has not moved into the White House, which could be why we don’t see her much. Maybe stayed in NY so as not to disrupt children’s schedule. I also read she was a nude model not a fashion model. Hard to tell what is true these days. Re the “look” of the group–this is the oldest president and cabinet in the 241years of USA government. That could explain a lot!

    • SJ Kurtz

      The public tours of the White House have been “on hold” or suspended at present. Apparently they are a part of the First Lady’s job (? why would that be?); they are to be resumed in March.
      I wonder if either one of them ‘get’ what the job is. The White House is the people’s house and we are allowed to trudge through it and look at the national treasures. Why it is the First Lady’s job I have no idea.

  12. Jay

    I thought I was alone, but Bunny also likes the blue dress and jacket. I shall miss the easy naturalness of the previous Presidential couple, the weird gestures, facial expressions and can we say inept pronouncements of the present incumbent are unsettling.

  13. Fabrickated

    Dawn Sheppard

    • 1d ago

    Dual citizen speaking here…I agree with it all, and love the video. However, don’t hold your breath. At least we can cross our fingers.


    • 1d ago

    I think they bring an elegance to Washington! Melania is lovely, hope America can give her a chance. Let’s show grace and kindness to our first family.

    Jenny L

    • 23h ago

    What a wonderful fun post. I love your analysis of the clothes and context. Mind you you scared the wits out of me suggesting the spawning of a generation of Trump presidents… Problem is it is only too believable. Re dress code I can understand with customer facing roles a code may be the right thing but when one was drafted for the corporate I worked in response to a couple of the younger employees who were just a little too daring in their choice of clothes it was unwieldy document, smacked of school uniform rules (which in that context I fully support) and was inherently sexist. The obvious solution was a quiet word with the employees whose dress sense wasn’t fitting in and the code bit the dust.

    Jenny L

    • 23h ago

    Sorry to dominate your comments but the entertaining GQ clip suggest ‘brown and blue is a winning combination’. As my fashion guru do you agree?

  14. fabrickated

    I only just discovered, via Jenny L, that Bloglovin’ posted comments don’t appear on the site. So I have reproduced them here. In response to the blue and brown question – most certainly. Deep colours can look fantastic together, especially if you set them off with white. Try bottle green and dark brown, navy and deep maroon, a navy suit and a brown tie, or shoes and a belt.

  15. Sue

    I am so pleased you have done one of these pieces on the Trumps. I have seen many similar photos, but they could all be the same, and it’s nice to deconstruct the poses and the clothing, and you do it so well! Possibly the only good thing about the current state of politics is that it gives you lots of opportunities for this sort of post, and I, for one, love them.

  16. Janice

    What scares me about the Trump offspring from the oldest right down to the youngest is their permanent glassy eyed expression. There is nothing natural or spontaneous about their facial expressions or their movements.
    On the subject of dress code – I agree with Annie who posted earlier. I think there is a place for some degree of dress code but without a ridiculous degree of rigidity .

  17. ceci

    Creepy. And the adoring wife stare looks like lip reading (I say that as an adoring wife and a lip reader…..who tries hard not to look like this in public!).


  18. Paola

    Your style analysis of the Trumps seems spot on to me. As for Melania Trump’s inauguration outfit: if I had to venture outdoors in Washington DC in January I’d be going the high neck- and- gloves option too.

  19. Jeannie

    It always seems so strange to me that men wear full suits, long-sleeved shirts and suit jackets, while the Trump relative women (Trumpettes?) wear dresses or top without sleeves. Don’t women get cold? Must we see those toned arms? The other two ladies look, for all the more ordinary bodies and clothes, far more comfortable. Thanks for your great blog!

    • Jane

      Michelle Obama always showed off her toned arms…her designer felt that it distracted from her high waistline….and so most of what she wore was sleevless.

  20. Brenda

    I enjoy your analysis of public figures! Dress codes are a double edged sword- they are constraining and can be cookie cutter, yet they also provide guidelines to keep people dressed appropriately for an occasion.

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