What’s happening in Texas is devastating. Hurricane Harvey has left people without homes and trying to get a grip on daily life as their hometown continues to bear strong waters. Help was asked for and people have responded with everything from food to diapers.
Even President Trump and his wife Melania chose to visit the people of Texas to show support in this moment of crisis. However, the latter’s outfit on her way to Texas, not the actual visit, has made more news. Now, people can’t stop talking about it.
But it’s mostly her shoes that have enraged people. Melania paired the somber outfit with a pair of sky-high court shoes. Inappropriate? I’d say so. I don’t even wear heels to the office anymore, let alone to a hurricane.
Her decision to wear those shoes suggests a number of things. Like the fact that this woman is clearly out of touch with how bad the situation is. Um, Hunter Boots would have been so much more appropriate.
Heels also suggest this woman is not ready to get right in there with the crowd. Is she not willing to immerse herself with those who are suffering and support them in this difficult time? “Trump is the kind of woman who refuses to pretend that her feet will, at any point, ever be immersed in cold, muddy, bacteria-infested Texas water,” wrote one reporter for the Washington Post.
People on Twitter were outraged by this photo. Some accused the president of using this trip simply as another photo op. “What was your first clue that this Texas trip was to be nothing more than a fake, useless photo op? Was it Melania's six-inch spike heels?” tweeted one user.
Others defended the First Lady. They accused critics of focusing on an irrelevant point rather than focusing on Hurricane Harvey. “Melania is in #Houston w/ POTUS & ppl are criticizing her choice of shoe wear? An entire city is flooded & this is pt of focus? Ridiculous,” tweeted one reporter.
But some believe there is more to this outfit than being coincidentally stylish. Rhonda Garelick, writing for The Cut, writes how Melania Trump’s “blithely out-of-touch outfit” speaks volumes. And it is doing so in a very subtle manner.
“There is more going on here,” Garelick writes, “and it’s being ignored by detractors and defenders alike. The problem is not that Melania Trump wore an unsuitable, blithely out-of-touch outfit, although she did. The problem is that this administration turns every event — no matter how dire — into a kind of anesthetized luxury fashion shoot, which leads us to some disturbing political truths.”
Garelick explains that what we’re seeing with Melania Trump is exactly what fashion magazines are so good at doing. “Fashion-magazine layouts have a particular feel to them....The photographs draw us in, but the models don’t return our gaze. Instead, they tend to wear a kind of frozen, faraway gaze, a look that frees us to gawk unashamedly, without fear of being caught staring…. Fashion models feign ignorance of the camera lens in order to signal that we are not their interlocutors, but rather voyeurs whose desires are roused only to be rechanneled toward the items for sale (clothes, jewels, handbags, etc.).”
“The Trump women,” Garelick adds, “evince a dazed blankness and anonymity that in turn cast doubt on the reality of everything around them. When you see Melania headed to Marine One, or dining with world leaders, or standing on a White House balcony, the entire scene looks like a magazine spread in which “real” people, equipment, and buildings are being used merely as dramatic backdrops for a fashion layout.”
This is also, Garelick suggests, what happened when Melania was photographed boarding the plane to Texas. “Melania,” Garelick writes, “became the star and the trip morphed into a simulacrum, a kind of Vogue shoot “simulating” a president’s trip. In other words, the realness of everyone and everything else (including hurricane victims) faded and the evacuated blankness of the commercial overtook the scene.”
Melania did change when she landed in Texas. She wore cropped black jeans and she swapped those infamous heels for sparkling white tennis shoes. She also wore a white buttoned up shirt, which she tried to sport effortlessly by raising the collar up.
But what do you think about all of this? Are we making too much of it because the First Lady wore heels to head to Texas? Or are the critics on to something when they see the first lady wearing inappropriate gear?