What was First Lady Melania Trump thinking when she chose a costume-like gown for a November 9, 2017, state dinner hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan?
This dress, which seemed almost more of a costume than normal evening wear, has been described by a writer from Elite Daily as “Gucci’s version of a cheongsam, a close-fitting traditional Chinese dress.”
The long, black silk dress was embroidered with flowers and birds, and trimmed in pink fur. The New York Post described it as, “a gown with a Chinese motif and silhouette.” The Elite Daily article explained that, “The gown was made by the Italian fashion house Gucci, which is known in part for its almost cartoonish, ‘eccentric’ aesthetic, and has been accused of cultural appropriation and ‘diversity drag’ several times in the recent past.”
While the fashion choices of the First Lady of the United States may not seem newsworthy to many, the reality is that clothes can communicate tremendous amounts, and so should be chosen carefully.
Compare Melania’s dress with the one worn last year by Michelle Obama. Michelle’s dress was an elegant mermaid gown made by Vera Wang, a designer who is of Chinese descent. The choice of this dress, and designer, was hailed by many as an excellent choice, and was coupled with a Tweet by the designer, who said, “It is such a privilege, as an American of Chinese heritage, to have dressed first lady Michelle Obama for this state dinner honoring President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan, of the People’s Republic of China.”
— Vera Wang (@VeraWangGang) September 25, 2015
According to Allure’s digital beauty editor, Sable Yong, appropriating culturally Asian clothing, including the now fashionable mandarin collars, kimonos, and cheongsams (a body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress for women), “is alienating and disrespectful to the people whose culture you are taking from.”
As with so many things having to do with fashion, there are, no doubt, varying opinions about Melania Trump’s Chinese gown choice. What do you think of her selection? Did it offend her important hosts? Or did it likely bring a smile to their faces? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, below!