A Theory About Melania Trump’s Carefully Calculated Fashion Stunts

The outfit: A $39 olive green Zara parka with the words, “I don’t really care, do u?” scrawled across the back in white.

The event: Melania was photographed boarding a plane at the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland en route to an immigrant children’s detention center in McAllen, Texas.

The critical reaction: Twitter erupted into a chorus of “Oh no she didn’t!”‘s within a matter of minutes. Given her destination, many believed the First Lady’s jacket was in reference to the children who had been separated as a result of her husband’s zero-tolerance immigration policy—especially because one of the biggest criticisms against the president and his comrades was that they didn’t care about the kids.

A small minority of tweeters came to her defense, assuming the “I don’t really care, do u?” was in reference to those who attacked her for a tweet about wanting to help “the children” while thousands of children were being separated from their parents.

The White House message: “It’s just a jacket,” Melania’s communications director said in a tweet. Trump echoed the sentiment, noting that the “I don’t really care” message was aimed at the “Fake News Media.” 

What her outfit distracted from: The fact that it was her husband’s zero-tolerance policy that landed them in the situation where Melania needed to go on a PR trip to the border in the first place.

So, did it work?: This time, not really. Although Melania’s approval rating had a brief spike (according to a CNN poll) earlier this spring, peaking at 57%, it’s been on the decline ever since, most recently clocking in at 51% according to numbers from mid-June. The “poor Melania” mentality appears to be fading into the background. The very-staged act of visiting the immigrant children’s detention center in Texas to begin with was seen by some as an insincere, face-saving move on behalf of the administration, and Melania looks complicit.

Because the trip itself was a PR stunt (the fact that she invited 13 reporters to come along with her on the trip proved that it was, indeed, a publicity stunt), Melania and co. were very well aware of the fact that she would be photographed in her coat. Unlike the stiletto incident, this move doesn’t read as simply an accidental oversight, where Melania might play the victim. As has been pointed out by many critics, she knew exactly what she was doing. 

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