March 20, 2019

Why We Obsess Over First Lady Fashion

“This past weekend Melania Trump’s spokeswoman penned an op-ed for CNN in which she criticized the media’s unrelenting criticism of the first lady. Among her concerns was how news coverage of FLOTUS has focused on her clothing choices rather than her White House initiatives. Is it true that the media have a fixation on the first lady’s fashion sense?

During her trip to Africa this past October, Mrs. Trump drew attention to how much coverage her fashion choices receive, lamenting, “I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.” The New York Times’ response? “What she does is inextricably bound up in what she chooses to wear while doing it.”

Imagine the Times proclaiming that the president’s actions were tied to which suit he wore that day, in line with its conclusion that “the clothes make the first lady.”

One doesn’t have to look far to find media coverage of Mrs. Trump’s clothing choices. In all, at least 16.5 percent of worldwide online news coverage of the president’s wife over the past two years has mentioned her fashion selections, according to the GDELT Project. To be fair, before she became Donald Trump’s spouse, Melania Knavs was a fashion model – so her wardrobe choices are not untrodden ground. Moreover, she’s made a couple of famously provocative style statements as first lady. But that seems more an excuse for retro behavior on the part of the media, rather than an explanation, when you consider that Michelle Obama has not fared much better, with at least 18.4 percent of her coverage emphasizing her fashion choices.”

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