Melania Trump may be known as a woman of few words, but it seems that the First Lady is speaking volumes through her fashion choices.
With her aversion to public speaking and seemingly impenetrable façade, it has been hard to catch glimpses of the First Lady’s personality. But fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen believes that Melania gives away several clues through her personal style.
‘She may appear to be difficult to read because she isn’t as flamboyant or as vocal as most First Ladies that we’ve seen in the past,’ Ms Karen says. ‘But as a fashion psychologist, when I analyze her I see her as speaking without saying words. She speaks very loudly through her clothing.’
Fashion forward: Fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen believes that First Lady Melania Trump has her own distinctive sense of style that reveals several clues about her personality
She notes that as a former model Melania has been trained to keep an impassive expression and maintain a quiet demeanor in public. ‘She seems to be very introverted. Maybe the most introverted First Lady we’ve ever had,’ Ms Karen says. But she adds that Melania’s style betrays a sense of her personality.
Drawing on a few key styles that Melania favors, Ms Karen, who is known as a pioneer in the world of fashion psychology and founded the Fashion Psychology Institute, discusses what she believes the First Lady’s fashion can tell us about her as a person.
The protective coat cape
Melania is often photographed wearing her coat draped over her shoulders, creating a cape-like effect. When the First Lady sported this style as left the White House in February – with a canary yellow full-length overcoat hanging over a coordinating Ralph Lauren yellow sweater and Pierre Herve leather skirt – social media users speculated that her penchant for this style could be a crafty technique to avoid holding her husband’s hand.
Barrier: In February, Melania Trump was photographed wearing her signature style of a coat draped over her shoulders like a cape as she left the White House with the president
Reclusive: The First Lady draped her Stella McCartney floral coat over her shoulders at the Thanksgiving presidential turkey pardon last year, and wore her Bottega Veneta coat in the same style during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, last July
Ms Karen believes this is perhaps going a step too far, but she says that the style is a nod to Melania’s reclusive and introverted nature.
‘Covering her hands and arms lets her appear less inviting and less warm,’ she says. ‘[Melania] is saying: ‘I’m creating a barrier, a protective shield.’
Ms Karen suggests that this shield gives Melania a sense of invincibility. ‘When you wear capes you feel untouchable,’ she says.
‘And given that Melania is getting some flak from the media and from the citizens of America about her not being as vocal – especially coming in after the previous administration – I think wearing these cape-like structures gives her that feeling of dominion, that superwoman power.’
Invincible: The First Lady covered her shoulders with a $1,600 Calvin Klein plaid coat to greet the official White House Christmas tree last November (left), and an embellished $51,500 coat by Dolce & Gabanna as she arrived at in Sicily last May for a G7 summit (right)
Sky-high ‘power’ stilettos
Melania’s penchant for towering heels has drawn criticism in the past. The First Lady was mocked for her impractical footwear when she donned a pair of black Manolo Blahnik stilettos last August while on her way to visit Hurricane-stricken Texas.
But this has not deterred the First Lady’s fondness for sky-high designer pumps, and Ms Karen attributes this to her seeking confidence.
‘It’s the opposite of the Napoleon complex,’ she says. ‘When you’re wearing high heels your confidence goes up. Some women feel like they are towering over others and it helps them to feel powerful.’
Confidence: Melania was mocked for her impractical footwear when she donned a pair of black Manolo Blahnik stilettos last August to visit Hurricane-stricken Texas. Ms Karen believes the First Lady chooses this type of footwear to feel powerful
The ‘pure’ white suit
When Melania wore an all-white Dior pant suit to the State of the Union address in January, speculation was rife in the media over what point the First Lady was trying to convey.
The color was once considered the Democrats’ signature tone, with members of the party sporting all-white at the previous year’s address. White was favored by the suffragettes, and was famously worn by Hillary Clinton throughout much of her presidential campaign.
All white: When Melania wore this Dior pant suit to the State of the Union address in January, speculation was rife in the media over what point the First Lady was trying to convey
Purity: Melania wore a white Dior dress with flutter sleeves for the unveiling of the White House Christmas decorations last November, and a sharp white suit by Karl Lagerfeld Couture to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February 2017
Flowing: Melania stepped off Air Force One in a fit and flare classic Simone Rocha white dress with a gold belt as she arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in April 2017
But political motives aside, Ms Karen believes Melania’s fondness for wearing white is an attempt to portray an image of purity.
‘Some say that [Melania] has a lewd, salacious background,’ she says. ‘That she participated in other activities that were not so “First Lady-like”. Wearing white is kind of an ode to purity that she is trying to portray.’
‘Look but don’t touch’ sleeves
‘It’s kind of a paradox,’ says Ms Karen ‘She seems to not want to have contact or human touch, but she then embellishes the arm area.’
Ms Karen points out that Melania has a penchant for dresses and shirts that have flamboyant and detailed sleeves. Compared to her predecessor, Michelle Obama, who liked to show off her famously toned arms in sleeveless dresses, Melania prefers to keep her arms covered either with long sleeves or her coat draped over her shoulders.
Embellished: Melania wore a bordeaux zip-front Delpolzo coat dress with puffed out sleeves as she and President Donald Trump left Tokyo for South Korea last November
Attention: Melania often chooses pieces that embellish the arm area, including the hot pink Delpozo dress she sported at the UN last September (left) and the white Roksana Ilincic dress with bell sleeves that she wore to the RNC in 2016 (right)
But the former model is not afraid to draw attention to her arms, often picking pieces that embellish this area. She chose a Dior dress with wide flutter sleeves for the unveiling of the White House Christmas decorations, a white Roksana Ilincic dress with bell sleeves for the RNC in 2016, and a hot pink Delpozo dress with voluminous sleeves for a UN luncheon last September.
Ms Karen believes the First Lady opts for this style as it encourages people to pay attention to her, but to not get too close: ‘Again, she’s saying: Look at me but don’t touch.’
The Barbie style
Although Melania is known for her quiet demeanor, her clothes are often loud. It’s not uncommon for the First Lady to be seen in bright, eye-popping colors even when her style is classic and pared down. And it is rare to see the Melania without her hair flowing in long glossy waves and her make-up flawless.
Polished: Melania wore a $4,000 floral-embroidered sequin ERDEM gown at the Trump’s annual New Year’s Eve bash (left), and a silver high-necked custom Dolce & Gabanna gown during her visit to Sicily with President Trump last May (right)
Ms Karen, who worked as a model herself before entering the world of fashion psychology, attributes this very ‘put-together’ look to Melania’s own modelling experience.
She says: ‘That Barbie-ish look comes from her model background. [As a model] before you go in front of the camera or out on the runway, you have to have your face on, you have to be at your best, at a ten. You can’t step out of your house looking any less.’
The First Lady is often spotted with her face hidden behind huge sunglasses – even at nighttime. Last October, she was mocked on Twitter when she returned to the White House after visiting victims of the Las Vegas shooting sporting her signature dark shades, despite the fact it was dark outside.
Hidden: Melania donned her signature giant shades on the South Lawn of the White House last September while the president spoke to members of the media about Hurricane Irma (left), and again while departing the White House with her husband that same month (right)
Introverted: Melania covered her face with sunglasses as she stepped off Air Force One after arriving in Texas last summer (left), and as she departed the White House to visit Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas last November (right)
Just days earlier, Melania was also criticized for wearing sunglasses as she met with residents of hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, with several commentators expressing their outrage on social media that she didn’t make the effort to look the people she greeted in the eye.
But Ms Karen believes the First Lady adopts this fashion for that very reason – to avoid having to make too much contact with others by using the sunglasses as a shield.
She says: ‘Again, this is her being introverted and reclusive. [She’s saying]: “I really don’t want you to look at me, I’m not really a people-person but because of this presidency, because of this administration, I have to go out here and shake hands and be interactive, but I really feel shy. I really feel nervous.”’
Despite her tendency to shy away from the spotlight, Melania has frequently chosen to wear figure-hugging outfits that show off her curves, in a style that could be seen as daring for a First Lady.
Figure-hugging: Melania attended a Hispanic Heritage Month event last October in a dark pink fitted skirt with a ruffled mermaid hem paired with a fitted off-white sweater, and she wore a custom-made Reem Accra gown to a dinner and reception in Washington DC in January 2017
She showed off this fashion last October when she attended a Hispanic Heritage Month event alongside her husband dressed in a dark pink fitted skirt with a ruffled mermaid hem paired with a figure-hugging off-white sweater.
This style is similar to the styles worn by ‘sweater girls’ like Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, and Jane Russell, who sparked a trend in the 40s and 50s of wearing round-neck, skin-tight knits in order to emphasize their chests.
Ms Karen says: ‘It reminds me of when I was working out in the Middle East, and many women were conservative in their dress but they showed off their curves.
Throwback: Before Donald Trump entered politics, Melania appeared to be comfortable dressing provocatively and was not afraid to show some skin. Here she is pictured during 2005 spring Fashion Week (left) and at Time Magazine’s Time 100 party in 2004 (right)
‘I think Melania is saying: “I’m being conservative but I’m still letting you know: hey, Va va voom I am a woman.”’
She notes that before Melania’s husband entered politics, she appeared to be comfortable dressing provocatively and was not afraid to show some skin.
‘That’s still underneath there,’ Ms Karen says. ‘That’s still something about her, but she has to figure out another way to convey that sex appeal, without being jarring and without being inappropriate.’