black polo jacket Channels a Predecessor
Ralph Lauren has dressed his fifth first lady.
On Friday, Melania Trump wore a powder blue cashmere dress and matching bolero jacket by the designer as her husband, Donald J. Trump, was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Though Mr. Lauren’s designs have been worn by first ladies from Betty Ford to Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama, the reference this time was clear: Jacqueline Kennedy. From bouffant to mock turtleneck collar to light pastel shade.
The Ralph Lauren look was the third outfit by a New York designer that Mrs. Trump had worn since the inaugural festivities began, which connects Mrs. Trump not only to the American fashion establishment, but also to American history.
It was, in other words, a very considered choice. Especially because Mr. Lauren is a designer who has built his empire on selling the myth of the American dream. And especially because Mr. Lauren was most recently, and closely, associated with Hillary Clinton.
If you wanted to send a message about putting the past behind you, learning from peers, and embracing both the establishment and the office, you couldn’t do much better than that.
Along with Mrs. Trump’s appearance on Thursday in a dress and military inspired cashmere coat by indie brand Norisol Ferrari to the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony, followed by a beige sequined gown by the Lebanese born Reem Acra to the black tie donor dinner at Union Station, the choice of Mr. Lauren suggests that the new first lady and her team may indeed be thinking about how to use clothes to communicate.
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It remains to be seen whether there will be repercussions for Mr. Lauren, since he has just become the most high profile designer to break with peers who previously said they would not dress Mrs. Trump. But just minutes after the news broke that she was wearing the brand, disgruntled customers posted numerous messages on Twitter saying they would no longer shop at Polo Ralph Lauren.
A spokesman for Mr. Lauren explained the decision as being guided by his respect for the office. In a statement, he said: “The presidential inauguration is a time for the United States to look our best to the world. It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment.”
Now the question is whether this theme continues at the inaugural balls on Friday night, or whether Mrs. Trump will wear a gown by, as has been rumored, Karl Lagerfeld. He is the creative director of both Fendi and Chanel, but his namesake line is licensed to G III, an American group that also owns the license for the Ivanka Trump brand. We’ll find out soon enough.
Correction: January 20, 2017
An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation about why Ralph Lauren decided to design Melania Trump dress. It was from a statement issued by his office, not a comment by Mr. Lauren himself.