Pret-a-Reporter

Was Melania Trump's Election Night Style a Middle Finger to Hillary Clinton?

Aaron P. Bernstein, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton (left) and Melania Trump, both in Ralph Lauren

Was she trying to steal the Democratic nominee's style? Or worse, trump it with a younger, trendier model?

If there’s one fashion winner in the election, it’s Ralph Lauren.

The American designer was a go-to for Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits throughout the presidential campaign, from the cobalt blue suit she wore for her opening-day rally at Roosevelt Island, to the white version she wore to accept the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention this summer, to the purple-trimmed charcoal gray style she chose for her concession speech.

Now, it appears Lauren could be a go-to for Melania Trump as well.

For husband Donald Trump's victory speech in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, the first-lady-to-be chose a white Ralph Lauren jumpsuit with an asymmetrically draped front, which looked remarkably similar to Clinton's now famous white DNC Ralph Lauren pantsuit, only sleeveless and sexier. Was she trying to steal the Democratic nominee's style? Or worse, trump it with a younger, trendier model?

While Clinton had her pantsuits custom made with the help of Lauren’s celebrity dressing team, Melania bought the made-in-Italy jumpsuit off-the-rack, for $3,999, either at one of the brand’s boutiques or at a department store.

"Going into a store, or having someone go into a store for you, to buy the sexiest white pantsuit she could find? Of course it was intentional,” said a guest who asked not to be named at the opening party for the renovated Ralph Lauren boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night, when election wounds were still raw. “It was totally calculated. Earlier in the day, Melania was wearing a Balmain coat and a Michael Kors dress. She did this intentionally.”

It will be interesting to see how the fashion industry, which largely supported Clinton, comes around to the new first lady, and whether she comes around to the industry. Will Melania Trump, like other first ladies before her, cover American Vogue, for example, after Anna Wintour so vocally campaigned for her husband's opponent?

From an economic standpoint, there's a lot at stake.

“It seems obvious that as a former fashion model, Mrs. Trump may have a large impact on the apparel industry,” said David Yermack, professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business, who studied Michelle Obama’s impact on the fashion industry and found that for 189 public appearances the first lady made between November 2008 and December 2009, she generated about $2.7 billion in value for the brands she wore, including U.S. labels J. Crew and Liz Claiborne, and European labels, too.

Melania’s style has evolved in recent years from lingerie-inspired looks, corset tops and mermaid gowns to more sleek and tailored separates. And to be fair, she did wear a Ralph Lauren jumpsuit to another high-profile campaign event before Election Night, the final presidential debate.

But Melania had mostly worn European labels on the campaign trail until then, including Gucci, Emilia Wickstead and Roksanda Ilinicic for her now infamous speech at the Republican National Convention. Her choice to wear Ilincic, a designer who, like her, originally hails from Eastern Europe, suggests she does have a keen understanding of the symbolism of clothes. 

As first lady, Melania will likely face pressure to dress in clothing by American designers. Will they offer their help, or will she have to continue buying off the rack? Time will tell.

But one thing's for sure: Standing 5 foot 11 inches, with a model figure at age 46, she wears clothes well. So do first daughters Ivanka and Tiffany Trump.

“The fashion industry is going to come around to them quickly,” said one insider. “It has to.”

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