First lady Melania Trump wears the heart of her husband’s administration on her sleeve.
On a surprise trip to the Texas border to visit immigrant kids, the first lady wore what appeared to be a $39 Zara green jacket with lettering on the back that read “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” In confirming the news, her spokeswoman said, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”
Too late. Let’s focus on her wardrobe.
First of all, as a native Texan, I wonder, what is it about Texas’s airspace that causes the first lady to make such poor fashion choices? Some of us still haven’t gotten over her decision to wear stilettos to visit areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. High waters call for higher heels, as the Texas saying goes. Just kidding, that’s not a saying. We don’t play such nonsense in the Lone Star State.
With Jacketgate, the first lady is Category 5 trolling us. Trump is a former model and no stranger to being in the public eye. She and her team know full well the power of clothes to convey a message — particularly when it’s the first lady wearing them. Michelle Obama conveyed relatability by wearing an affordable brand such as J. Crew. What did Trump convey with her clothing choice on Thursday — besides relatability to the 55 percent of Republicans who supported Trump’s policy of separating families?
For one of the most visible women in the world, with perhaps nearly unlimited access to clothing, to choose a jacket with such a message speaks of either complete tone-deafness or cruel, calculated apathy in the face of suffering children. Trump’s jacket is a reinforcement of what we knew about the Trump administration’s attitudes toward people of color: They don’t give a damn, and they’ve never tried to hide it. They don’t care about sending Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to lie about the fact that it was President Trump’s decision to implement the child separation policy in the first place. Trump doesn’t care about lying that “illegal immigrants” want to “infest our country.” He doesn’t care about scores of American citizens dying in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria, or about Flint still not having clean water.
And in her own basic yet unintentional way, Melania Trump is telling another story with her Zara jacket: She’s the walking embodiment of the exploitation of children in the name of big business. The Spanish-owned brand has been accused of using child labor in South America. The company was forced to apologize and pay fines after immigrant workers in Brazil claimed they were forced to work 12-hour shifts every day, for between $156 and $290 a month. It’s fitting that Trump would wear a jacket from a brand that has apologized for mistreating immigrant workers. Here at home, there was outrage over the separate but related issue of the United States losing track of unaccompanied children from Central America, some of whom have ended up in the hands of traffickers once reaching the United States.
Maybe we should be grateful that Melania Trump didn’t take a cue from the commander in chief and throw Starbursts or paper towels at the children. But next time Texas has a crisis on its hands, she should just stay home. Compassion for the suffering doesn’t seem to suit her or her husband.