Known for her, er, interesting outfit choices during important meetings and press conferences, Melania Trump’s State of the Union 2019 outfit on Feb. 5 was another one for the books. Her coat dress featuring brass buttons and metal detailing was black, seemingly a pointed commentary to the House Democratic Women's Working Group's call for women from both political parties to wear white at the event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage as well as in solidarity with the many female officials in Congress.
Last year, Trump memorably wore a white Dior pantsuit paired with a white silk Dolce & Gabbana blouse and Christian Louboutin shoes. Her outfit caused quite a commotion among the media because it was a stark contrast to the female Democrats wearing all black in the room, done in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and the #TIMESUP movement, which was prominent that year. In 2019, many Democrats chose to wear all white as a nod to women's empowerment and the suffragettes at 2019 Trump’s State of the Union address.
This year, the first lady again caused a stir by wearing a black dress, not the suggested white that was meant to celebrate suffragettes and those who paved the way for greater female representation in American politics.
Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel previously explained the meaning behind the color choice in a Jan. 29 interview with CNN:
Wearing suffragette white is a respectful message of solidarity with women across the country, and a declaration that we will not go back on our hard-earned rights.
The first lady's fashion often sends a message, for good or bad. With Trump often an enigmatic fixture in the White House, many people look to her choice of style to get some insight into the first lady's thoughts. And there aren't always popular results. In June 2018, at the height of public outrage about migrant families being separated at the border under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy towards illegal immigration, Trump visited the New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, which housed migrant children.
On that day, Trump chose to wear a $39 jacket that read “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back. Many criticized her for wearing a jacket that could be seen as dismissive of the children and families being separated under the policy, but a White House spokesperson for the first lady said at the time that there was no message intended.
"It's a jacket. There was no hidden message," Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokesperson, said in a statement to CNN at the time.
Trump later changed her explanation, saying she wore the jacket to direct a message towards the "left-wing media."
"It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me," she said in an interview with ABC News in October 2018. "I want to show them I don't care. You could criticize whatever you want to say. But it will not stop me to do what I feel is right."
While certainly not as controversial as the jacket worn that day, it looks like FLOTUS let the color of her State of the Union dress do the talking at a time when there has been a historic surge of women in Congress after the 2018 midterm elections.