Wisdom of MY Words

Random Musings & Book Reviews

25 July
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White House Couture

Everyone seems to cut a wide berth between Jackie Onassis and Michelle Obama regarding the fashion of the White House. No one discusses the fashion choices of the women between the two Os. There is little talk in the American press of Melanie Trump and her fashion choices. The Trump’s have money, so her expensive fashion shouldn’t be a source for ranker, since he’s not raking up the federal deficit buying D&G. Fashion designers came out against this svelte waif who would knock the socks off a whole hella fashion, but there is a list of designers who won’t dress the First Lady. The “not in my clothes, she won’t” group includes  Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Christian Siriano and Sophie Theallet.

The view of Trump from here is a scary gelatinous mass of blonde hair in a cyclone formation atop an angry reddened skull with a widespread system of solar lentigines across the dome. Think for yourself, they say, don’t listen to Democrats or Republicans. A democracy takes work. But when you’re just looking at Trump, in the vacuum of his presidency, it looks like there is an awful lot of cash opening doors, paving paths and the like. Since no media has had the cajones to get Trump to release this taxes we have no idea of his fiscal astuteness. Melanie Trump’s wardrobe in all it’s ridiculous cost, is reminiscent of another Republican First Lady, Nancy Reagan. Everyone’s realm of knowledge seems to stop at their curb. In the two+ years we’ve been avidly watching Trump, as entertainment not as a President, I’ve seen nothing that establishes Trump as an Anglo-Saxon bred for higher office. Juan Carlo, the Aryan-looking Swede, grew up poor in St. Paul and he has better manners than Trump. If we can’t expect greatness from our elected leaders, especially ones running a global power like America, we can’t expect the woman in Big Sur to not be a racist, Asian-hating bitch. An Airbnb Hostess thought it was fine to agree to an Asian woman, her fiancé and another couple, to rent her Big Sur home. When the Asian was within miles of the house, the Californian wrote that she wasn’t renting her property to any Asian. The President of the free world, as Shonda Rhimes labels the American president, (although since she’s black, she’ll probably say Trump isn’t her president), calls the POTUS the leader of the free world in her show Scandal. Rhimes’ president is no doubt Obama. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were the classiest of people in the White House. Michelle Obama immediately gained the fashion community’s approval for her all-American style. At 5’11” she is tall and elegant, with the posture of a dancer. She could look regal in a sack, but she chooses her outfits with care. She made it clear that she was to be seen as  more than a well-dressed, beautiful  woman though.

Much fuss is made about Melania Trump’s wardrobe. One can see by her svelte frame ensconced in her $7500 Dolce & Gabbana dress with embellished red roses distended like an ill kept garden, that she starves herself. But Melania was a model. Now she’s a kept woman. Unlike Michelle she intrinsically understands  her value to be in her looks. Contrasting Michelle and Melania is easy because the similarities are numerous. But when you go back farther are we marginalizing an entire group of First Ladies because of their fashion choices? Not since Jackie Kennedy have we had a woman with grace, poise, and thoughtfulness in the White House. While I really don’t want the conversation to focus on Hillary’s fashion choices we have to, nonetheless, interpret them and what her style meant in terms of economics. Since I self-define as part of Generation X, because I’m not putting myself in my mother’s generation, I don’t have the same sympathies as Baby Boomers have towards American Greatness, or fear of Russia. My mother was born in 1945, and is a post-war, Cold War narcissist just like Trump.

I’m a Kennedy baby. Of course, if you consider the assassination I was really born on Johnson’s watch. But we were a Kennedy house. Nana Davis had taken care of Rose for a year or two. Rose Kennedy dominated the conversation and a discussion of her mother’s horrors. “The Kennedys,” she’d say, “They’ve been through a lot. This country hates Catholics. They don’t even think we’re Christians because we have the market on spirituality. Having to hold that baby in and it getting sick because the stupid, untrained nurse couldn’t do her job”.   While the sun rose and set with my Nana, I of course didn’t understand anything. Then at 29 my nurse told me to not push and wait for the doctor when I was delivering my daughter. I ignored the no pushing edicts because I remembered Rose. Poor poor Rose.

I grew up thinking Jimmy Carter and Mister Rogers were the same person. I was only allowed to watch PBS, the news at 5 and 11, and Johnny Carson. The reason I thought they were the same person? The cardigan.

Carter showed up on our black and white box sitting languidly. All he needed was a pipe. For posterity sake I will give him one now. His first Fireside Chat had him looking like the father of the country. His cardigan seemed to convey a sense of security. He was the paternalistic president that would tree-hug up the White House with his energy conservation. Unlike today’s era of uber-stylized image consultancy, and Hollywood Presidents, in which fashion is a cudgel of class, Carter, ever the pragmatist, wore for the taping what he had worn to dinner. The story goes that he asked his television adviser what he thought, and they told him to look like himself. He was comfortable with himself and his fashion choices. “He was folks, and folks is in,” a Republican insider told TIME. “I hate to say it, but from a purely analytical point of view, I loved it.”

Rosalynn Carter also tried to hide behind boring colors and unflattering cuts of polyester, wearing skirts defined as Gypsy.

At the time she seemed ancient. My pretty mother in 1977 was only was only 42 and she looked young, vibrant, and pretty, except when she went through her curly perm phase. That phase doesn’t work on any women. She was frumpy. Rosalynn’s wardrobe wouldn’t offend anyone, but you’d not offer a compliment either. Her clothes looked homemade. Rosalynn Carter was clearly raised poor. Her clothes were farmer’s Sunday best. They were functional, clean, comfortable, boring, and very conservative. The only redeeming quality of FLOTUS Carter’s wardrobe was that it was American made. She’d never tell anyone but I’m positive poverty affected her in a way that has lasted her entire life. You know Jackie went to a dancing school like I did. Two years of Mayhew’s and manners. High tail it over to Wikipedia and Roslynn was 13 when her father died and her seamstress mother enlisted her eldest daughter’s help with the business. A little larger Google search coughs up this information, from a Washington Post article published 30 January 1977. “There is little doubt, though, that President and Mrs. Carter will save their jean-wearing for Camp David and Plains, just as Kennedy had his Hyannisport attire and the Johnsons had theirs for the Pedernales.”

“Mrs. Carter’s reluctance to spend a lot of money on clothes does not mean that she doesn’t like to look right. In fact, she often comments on the attractive appearance of those around her, according to one of her aides. But Mrs. Carter comes from a poor family, has worked most of her life, and finds it difficult to part with, say, $170 for a dress when there are equally respectable dresses at $70.” Carter was a fluke presidency just like Trump. However, the Carter’s fiscally minded austerity as leaders of America during an overarching energy crisis needs to be commended. The fact that Carter installed solar panels before they were popular speaks volumes. It was unfortunate that Reagan threw out our tax payer money with the removal of the panels mere years later, not nearly the amount of time needed to recoup the costs in energy savings.

All I hear from the older people is how great Reagan was, but I don’t see anything great, and I didn’t experience anything great as a Young Republican in the 1980s. Nancy and Ron came into office with their strange spirituality. Nancy was an attention starved woman who liked to be center stage with her flashy gowns. She’d been an actress to match Ronnie’s success, and she, like the First Ladies before her was thin. Nancy wanted to bring back the Kennedy’s elegance to the White House, after she felt there were years of laxity. Nancy was the opposite of Roslynn. She was born in a Mother’s Home, eventually adopted by a wealthy neurosurgeon stepfather. Nancy dressed like she’d been poor, had achieved success, and was NEVER going back to wearing charity clothes. Her interest in high-end fashion garnered much attention as well as criticism. She championed recreational drug prevention causes by founding the Just Say No drug awareness campaign.

Betty Ford on the other hand, could have been a swinger with her hip and fashionable bell bottoms, her avid use of polyester, and the Aqua Net wings of her hair, a helmet reminiscent of the habit wings worn by The Flying Nun. The country was reeling after Nixon left office is a swirl of a scandal that most Americans couldn’t even puzzle through. Why would you tape yourself, the adults around me where asking. In the heartland we puzzled over taping yourself talking to another person. It just didn’t make sense. Wasn’t that kind of thing for blackmailers? In Nixon’s Checker’s Speech he mentioned his wife and her lack of the finer things in life, saying, “I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she would look good in anything.” Now the fashion media are comparing Melania to Jackie O. “Not since Jacqueline Kennedy has there been a first lady who needs less help,” Richard Johnson says on <B>Page Six</B>. He continues with, “She doesn’t need couture. She can buy off the rack, and it looks beautiful,” Bloch said. “She knows her size, and she knows what works on her. She luxuriates in minimal.” And that’s great, but some women actually want to see this information in the mainstream press.

Tricky Dick wasn’t in

 

Back in the 80s

 
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