When Michelle Obama had her first official portrait showing her in a sleeveless dress, the critics clucked that it was inappropriate for her to show her bare arms in a business setting like the White House.
But Politico defended her: “The sleeveless look is very much in keeping with what we’ve seen from Michelle Obama,” said Politico White House reporter Malika Henderson in 2009, writing of the first lady’s attire. “It is very much her signature look, so I wasn’t that surprised.”
Michelle Obama went sleeveless a lot. It was her signature look. By the end of the Obama presidency, she was showing a lot more than arms. She wore the lowest cut gowns of any first lady in photographic history — and no one blinked.
First Lady Melania Trump wears stiletto heels when she leaves the White House. It is her signature look. For a woman of a certain age — and yes, she is 47 — that is devotion to style. By her age, most Alaskan conservative women have chosen function over fashion. But Mrs. Trump is an urbanite, and a pair of XtraTufs have never slouched in her doorway, much less on her feet.
Not good enough for the critics, however. On a day when one of the worst disasters in U.S. history has swamped the Gulf Coast, and when North Korea has launched a missile at Japan, the critics took a break from the serious to criticize the First Footwear.
Politico wrote: “But on Tuesday, she appeared to put the wrong foot forward when she boarded Marine One, en route to visit emergency responders in hurricane-ravaged Texas, wearing towering black snakeskin stilettos.
“The emblematic first image of the first lady heading off to visit a hurricane in heels — a moment that the president has seized on as an opportunity to project strength and show off decisive leadership — instead became another symbol of a White House that can often seem out of touch.”
“On board Air Force One to Corpus Christi, as the picture of the delicate heels ricocheted across the Internet, Melania Trump changed into a pair of bright, white sneakers, which looked fresh out of the box.
Even Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign stylist jumped in to tut-tut: “it was a mistake in the message it relays. A lot of eyes were on them. They’re going to a devastated area. She should be dressed accordingly.”
For those who lived through the Sarah Palin vice presidential wardrobe controversy, the moral outrage over a pair of high heels while walking to Air Force One is a reminder that there are few women in the public eye who can escape the scathing remarks of the critics.
And like most of the reflexively negative coverage of the Trump presidency, the story is subtly misleading. It makes much of the heels she wore when boarding the plane, and rather little of the fact that she did not wear them when disembarking in Texas nor while visiting the hurricane damaged areas.
But so far as we know, the notice on the Gov. Bill Walker fundraiser for Sept. 5, which said “No stiletto heels” was not a microaggression against the First Lady.
And just for fun, we are sure it was not an unintentional commentary on the governor’s footwear of late: