Americans admire stylish first ladies. But in recent years, they’ve also begun to criticize fashion-conscious first ladies for spending significant sums of money on their wardrobes. Case in point? Melania Trump and her head-to-toe designer looks. Like it or not, Trump dresses very differently than her predecessor, Michelle Obama.
But which first lady actually spends more money on her clothing and accessories? Read on to get all the details.
1. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump have worn designer clothes
Business Insider reports that while “fans of Obama paint her as a J. Crew-clad woman of the people,” Trump gets criticized for wearing expensive, high-fashion clothes. But both women do wear designer clothes. At the Republican National Convention, Trump wore a $2,190 Roksanda dress and $675 Christian Louboutin heels. And at the Democratic National Convention, Obama wore a $995 dress by Christian Siriano and $675 metallic Jimmy Choo heels — a less expensive ensemble than Trump’s, but still out of reach for most Americans.
Next: Both first ladies have chosen these pricy accessories, too.
2. They’ve both worn expensive shoes
Many Americans who consider themselves fashion-forward have a weakness for shoes. And it’s possible that both Melania Trump and Michelle Obama fall into that category, too. Business Insider notes that even when they do charity work, both first ladies have worn some expensive footwear. Trump wore a $1,150 pair of sandals to an event at an abuse prevention nonprofit. And Obama wore a $540 pair of sneakers to volunteer at a food bank. More notoriously, Trump wore a $595 pair of Manolo Blahnik heels as she departed for Texas to visit victims of Hurricane Harvey, prompting outrage, according to PopSugar.
Next: One of them wears designer clothes even in the White House garden.
3. Melania Trump wears expensive outfits even in the garden
Michelle Obama established a vegetable garden at the White House and installed a honeybee colony on the White House grounds. Melania Trump carried on the tradition of cultivating the garden. But she’s worn more expensive outfits in the garden than Obama did. Business Insider reports that Obama would usually wear J. Crew in the garden, opting for a $257.50 outfit, including a $29.50 shirt and a $228 jacket. But as USA Today reported in 2017, “Even Melania Trump’s gardening clothes are pricey.” As the publication noted, the first lady wore a $1,380 Balmain shirt to welcome members of the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Club to the garden.
Next: This holds true for Trump’s casual outfits.
4. In fact, Melania Trump’s casual outfits are usually expensive
Harpers Bazaar reported in 2017 that even when Melania Trump wears an outfit that looks approachable or casual, the ensemble is usually quite expensive. When the first lady moved into the White House, she wore a white T-shirt and a casual trousers — but came from Bally and Dolce & Gabbana, and were paired with a $10,000 Hermès bag. When Trump wore jeans and a button-down shirt, she paired them with a $3,000 handbag from Celine and $800 sandals from Manolo Blahnik. As Harpers Bazaar noted, “the First Lady is finally sporting some more casual looks — but approachable they are not.”
Next: But Trump does take this page out of the average American woman’s playbook.
5. Trump does re-wear her favorites
PopSugar pointed to Melania Trump’s $1,395 Christian Louboutin multicolored python pumps as one of the first lady’s more memorable expensive looks. She wore the heels to board a plane at Joint Base Andrews for a trip to Lily’s Place, an infant recovery center in West Virginia in October 2017. And many people were shocked at their price tag. But fans of the first lady may have recognized the pumps from a 2012 story by Elle, in which Trump cited them as one of her favorite accessories. Plus, the first lady repeats outfits, just like the rest of us.
Next: This is how the price of Trump’s clothes compares to that of Obama’s.
6. But Trump wears more expensive clothes than Obama
While both first ladies have designer outfits in their wardrobes, Trump’s are often more extravagant than Obama’s. Business Insider points to the outfits that the women wore to meet with foreign leaders as an easy example. At the G-7 Summit in Catania, Italy, Melania Trump wore a $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana jacket. She also carried a bag that came from the same label and cost $1,630. At the G-20 Summit in the United Kingdom, Michelle Obama wore a $474 J. Crew outfit that consisted of a $298 cardigan, $18 tank top, and $158 pencil skirt.
Next: But numbers don’t tell the whole story.
7. Nonetheless, the numbers don’t tell the whole story
Business Insider reports that even though Melania Trump’s clothes tend to cost more than Michelle Obama’s, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. The comparison gets complicated by the question of custom-made dresses. Some designers have refused to dress Trump due to her husband’s policies. But Obama wore outfits that designers made especially for her at some of the more formal events she attended as first lady. “Many of Obama’s most iconic looks are made specifically for her and are priceless, such as a custom-made Versace gown with a theoretical price tag of $12,000,” Business Insider reports.
Next: Trump also has these pricey accessories.
8. Melania Trump owns many designer handbags
PopSugar characterized keeping track of Melania Trump’s handbag collection as a dizzying effort. The day that Trump moved into the White House, she carried a brown Hermès Birkin bag, which retails for about $10,000. She has also carried a white Celine Luggage Phantom bag, which costs about $3,000. Another notable handbag in her collection? A black crocodile Birkin from Hermès, a rare bag which Inquisitr reports retails for about $75,000. Trump also owns a quilted Chanel bag, another black Hermès Birkin, and a beige Hermès Birkin.
Next: Did Obama carry expensive bags, too?
9. Michelle Obama rarely carried a handbag as first lady
The Huffington Post observed that unless she was boarding Air Force One or making a rare shopping trip, Michelle Obama rarely carried a handbag. “For formal appearances, Michelle is almost always empty-handed (or empty-armed, as the case may be),” the publication noted. There may be an element of practicality to that choice, as the first lady can probably get somebody else to carry anything she’d need with her. But as the Post noted, the choice likely said something about Obama’s style, too. Obama did carry a handbag on her final tour as first lady, opting for a Givenchy bag.
Next: Trump even wears these expensive items at home.
10. Trump even has expensive taste in dressing gowns
Even before her husband began campaigning for president, Melania Trump had honed her style. And as Elle reported in its 2012 profile of the future first lady, “there’s no denying that a gilded existence breeds luxurious taste.” The publication went on to explain that Melania “relaxes at home in silk dressing gowns, and her favorite shopping destinations include Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Valentino.” Under a photograph of Trump’s “silk dressing gowns,” the publication cited a $300 Stella McCartney chemise as a similar look.
Next: Do the price tags matter?
11. The cost of their clothes may not really matter
Nonetheless, Business Insider notes that the cost of whatever Melania Trump wears doesn’t matter. Just as it didn’t really matter how much Michelle Obama’s outfits cost. Taxpayers don’t pay for the first ladies’ outfits. And as Business Insider points out, “You could be horrified that anyone could buy a coat that costs more than the average American makes in a year. But if you’re going to criticize Trump for wearing $1,000 shoes, you have to criticize Obama as well.” Similarly, Melania Trump may spend more than Michelle Obama on her wardrobe. But both wear items that remain out of reach for most Americans — so the price difference doesn’t make much of a practical difference in the end.
Next: Even if the price doesn’t matter, this does.
12. But the reasons they choose their clothes do matter
Even if the price tags don’t matter, the reasons behind the clothes do matter and do have an impact. Both Melania Trump and Michelle Obama can afford expensive clothing, but they carefully craft their images to send specific messages to the American people. Clothes — and labels — affect the way first ladies are perceived. And “First-lady fashion is about the message, not the price tag,” Business Insider reports. While Michelle Obama’s clothes communicated her “mom-in-chief” image, as Business Insider puts it, InStyle reports that Melania Trump’s ensembles show her to be “all polish, no room for nonsense.”
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