The Internet's 4 Explanations for Melania Trump's "I Don't Care" Jacket (Opinion)

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Was the first lady trolling the media or gaslighting Donald? The internet explains Jacketgate.

Remember the light show in the middle of Close Encounters of the Third Kind? When the alien mothership teaches humans to communicate through an elementary vocabulary of colors and sounds? That’s what appears to be happening with the first lady of the United States. She’s clearly trying to tell us something, using the universal language of suburban mall fashion, though few could understand what she meant to say.

Melania Trump’s political fashion statements are usually pretty clear — that “pussy bow blouse” she wore at the second 2016 presidential debate, right after her husband’s Access Hollywood tape got leaked, spoke volumes — but the Zara jacket message is one not even Richard Dreyfuss could decode. Melania’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, told reporters, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.” Then the president contradicted that explanation hours later, tweeting that Melania’s “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” coat was her way of trolling the “Fake News Media.” Neither translation makes much sense but, thankfully, the media and internet are full of others.

She’s Marie Antoinette

Some pundits are taking Melania’s jacket at face value, arguing that she really doesn’t care about the migrant children she was traveling to Texas to meet at a detention center. CNN analyst Kirsten Powers told Anderson Cooper that the jacket “should just say, ‘Let them eat cake.’”

Trevor Noah had a similar, if earthier, take on The Daily Show: “It looks like when Melania was in the hospital, she had her last fuck removed,” he joked. The problem with this theory, though, is that nobody was forcing Melania to go to Texas. According to news reports, she was the one who pushed to make the trip happen in the first place. So why step on her own message with a $39 coat?

She Was Trolling Trump

Glee actor Kevin McHale was one of many on Twitter voicing this theory (“Melania is totally trolling her husband,” he posted along with a GIF of Sheree Whitfield from The Real Housewives of Atlanta). Perhaps Melania wore a heavy cargo jacket in 80-plus degree weather as a subtle reminder to the president that his "zero tolerance" border policy is ineffective and cruel. Or maybe she was making some broader statement about their marriage (“It’s nice that she had a jacket made to display her wedding vows,” cracked Seth Meyers on Late Night). Back in Washington later in the day, even as cable chyrons were filled with news about Jacketgate, she continued to wear it — practically cat-walking in the outfit on the White House colonnade on her way to meet her husband — suggesting a certain calculated self-awareness. In her own fashion-model way, perhaps Melania was taking a knee. Still, she couldn’t wait for a day when she wasn’t visiting migrants?

She Was (Unintentionally) Trolling Zara

Karen Attiah in The Washington Post writes that Melania in the coat was “the walking embodiment of the exploitation of children in the name of big business,” pointing out that Zara, the Spanish-owned company that made the jacket, has been fined for immigrant child labor abuses in Brazil. But even if Melania were aware of Zara’s checkered history, her wearing the coat is hardly the way to draw attention to the issue of migrant abuse here or in South America. On the contrary, the garment, which was part of Zara’s 2017 collection, is becoming an in-demand collector’s item; it almost entirely sold out on eBay (except in XXL sizes). 

She’s Actually a Brilliant Political Strategist Thinking Three Steps Ahead

Don’t forget, she speaks five languages (not including outerwear), has a degree in architecture (well, a semester at a Slovenian college) and got into the United States on the so-called Einstein visa program (the EB-1, for “individuals with extraordinary ability”). It’s possible she’s playing three-dimensional dress-up while the rest of us are still putting on our socks. What’s her plan? According to THR contributor Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Melania never wanted to be first lady — Wolff has her sobbing the night Trump won the election. Nobody has posited the theory yet, but perhaps the jacket racket is all part of her ingenious scheme to derail Trump’s chances for a second term.

Can’t wait to see what she wears next.