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Clothes do send a message, despite protests of First Lady Melania Trump’s press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham and her fashion stylist Hervé Pierre, who once told WWD that her looks are “not that complicated” and that “if you start to intellectualize everything, it’s hard” as he referenced a quote by fashion designer Carolina Herrera: “Fashion is to please your eye.”
But the first lady’s decision to wear a $4,400 Gucci dress (that many reporters have pointed out is patriotic with its London-inspired pattern) while on the State visit to London with her husband, President Donald Trump, makes a much larger statement in light of the pro-abortion rights message at Gucci’s cruise 2020 fashion show in Rome last week — a clear contrast to the Trump administration’s anti-abortion messaging. (Last Thursday, while in talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vice President Mike Pence repeated Trump’s comments that abortion rights activists support “infanticide.”)
Just a handful of days ago, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele made an overt political statement with the brand’s latest collection, shown at the Musei Capitolini in Rome on May 29 in front of a crowd that included Saoirse Ronan, Elton John, A$AP Rocky, Salma Hayek, Zoe Saldana, Naomi Campbell and brand face Harry Styles. The offerings included a purple jacquard jacket emblazoned on the back with the phrase: “My Body, My Choice” and a cream dress embroidered at the midriff with the image of a sparkly uterus blooming with pink flowers. Other pieces bore the date “22.04.1978,” marking the day the Italian law protecting legal abortions went into effect, and some models wore scarves over their mouths as if to signify their voices being silenced. Additionally, the Chime for Change logo in support of gender equality was featured on T-shirts.
During a post-show press conference, Michele said, “Women have to be respected…they should be free to choose what they want; I wanted to point out the idea that to interrupt a pregnancy does not wipe out the garden, the flower, that is the uterus of every woman.” And he acknowledged that the collection was a response to “recent news” — pointedly the laws effectively banning abortion passed recently in Alabama, Ohio, Missouri and Georgia that aim to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
‘My Body My Choice’ is a feminist slogan from the 70s which appears on the reverse of this jacket seen before the #GucciCruise20 fashion show by @alessandro_michele. This piece echoes the Creative Director’s continuing vision of freedom, equality and self-expression. Since founding @chimeforchange in 2013—the global campaign that represents and advocates for gender equality—@gucci has a longstanding commitment to women and girls by funding projects around the world to support sexual and reproductive rights, maternal health, and the freedom of individual choice. Learn more about the global partners for sexual and family health rights the campaign is donating to in 2019, which can be found in @chimeforchange’s link in bio. @museiincomuneroma #AlessandroMichele #MuseiCapitolini
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Given the luxury brand’s buzzy position in the fashion world, the headlines were pretty much impossible to miss. As were recent stories charging Gucci with cultural appropriation and racism for selling a $790 “Indy full turban” that resembled a Sikh headdress and $890 “blackface sweaters” with a pull-up balaclava and red lips. In March, in response to the sweater controversy, Gucci created a new Gucci Changemakers program to support diversity in fashion after apologizing for the fashion faux pas. In another political move, the company contributed $500,000 to the gun violence prevention organization March for our Lives last year.
Some have chalked up the first lady’s past, politically rife sartorial selections to coincidence or naivete — from the irony of the $1,000 fuchsia “pussy bow” blouse, also by Gucci, she wore to a presidential debate in October 2016 following her husband’s viral hot mic-captured “pussy” comments on Access Hollywood to her army green jacket with the phrase “I Really Don’t Care Do U” on the back while on a trip to McAllen, Texas, last June in the midst of the family separation crisis at the border. (“It’s a jacket; there was no hidden message,” Grisham responded on the latter matter.)
But there was likely careful thought put into the messaging (as a political representative of the U.S. in the U.K.) of wearing a shirt dress by Gucci imprinted with images of iconic London landmarks, from Big Ben to the Houses of Parliament and the city’s signature red buses. And more thought went into her in-flight changeover to a pussy-bow blouse from the spring 2019 collection of British heritage brand Burberry with a pattern that featured a trio of military-like medals on the chest. Regardless of political affiliation, one has to question not making that next leap to the political significance of the First Lady’s wardrobe, particularly after her past wardrobe controversies.
The Gucci shirtdress, reportedly available exclusively through online luxury fashion platform Farfetch.com, seems to be another out-of-pocket purchase and not a loan from the Italian design house. While some designers (such as Christian Siriano and Tom Ford) have spoken out about their refusal to dress the first lady and others (such as Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren) have chosen to dress her, Michele has taken a neutral stand. In a 2017 interview with The Washington Post, Gucci’s creative director said on the subject: “We have all kinds of customers. Everybody is free to do what they want.”
Free indeed. That’s why sartorial choices matter. We might point Grisham, Pierre and Trump’s other style advisers to a quote from renowned fashion editor Diana Vreeland: “Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.”
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