Why we should care what Melania Trump wears

The inaugural wardrobes of first ladies are more than pretty dresses. They reflect the values of the incoming administration, and maybe, by extension, ours.

These ensembles are so valuable to our country's collective story they are housed in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

So we shouldn't be surprised when fashion columnists across the globe care about what Melania Trump wears to inaugural ceremonies.

If we can learn something -- anything -- through what they're wearing (and, face it, Melania will have more to show us than the president, who wears the same oversize suit every day), maybe we can get a more authentic glimpse into what a Trump presidency will look like.

Last weekend, Melania Trump presented an image of good old-fashioned American power: a black, Norisol Ferrari military coat; a golden, form-fitting Reem Acra gown; an ice-blue bolero and matching sheath courtesy of quintessential American designer Ralph Lauren; and, for the finale, an alluring, vanilla sheath the first lady designed with Herve Pierre. It was form-fitting and featured a thigh-high split that most humans would classify as sexy.

But when a headline accompanying a column I wrote for Saturday defined her style that night as such, many outraged readers thought this meant former first lady Michelle Obama must be, by definition, unsexy. Come on, now. Seriously? Have you ready any of my columns?

What seemed to irritate you most, however, was you felt I'd objectified Melania Trump.

Here is where I beg to differ. I was describing her clothes, and just as dresses can be described as glamorous or tacky or sizzling or frumpy, they can also be sexy.

But I understand how the context made it hard to digest. On the weekend my column was published, a global sisterhood of women’s marches was on display, not to mention, President Trump’s respect for women is, how do you say?, lacking.

I believe, however, that pointing out the pretty and privileged vibe of Melania Trump can help us further understand what this White House is all about.

With this new administration, we have an undeniable air of American exceptionalism and aspiration essential to the perpetuation of the Trump dynasty, where looks are often everything.

(And before you say that my opinion solely derives from the fact that I'm a black woman, let me share that many black people have disagreed with me, pointing out that a look like Melania's offers the formal, polished vision of a first lady that they say Michelle Obama lacked.)

Former model Melania and entrepreneur Ivanka Trump spent the weekend in clothes fashioned from luxe silks, cashmeres, angoras, and crepes. The sumptuous detailing was superb. All apropos for a National Day of Patriotic Devotion, as President Trump declared for Jan. 20, 2017.

The designers the Trumps wore, however, tell the most important fashion story of the inauguration.

Ralph Lauren, inarguably the biggest name in American fashion design, made his fortune selling the American Dream. And Pierre worked for 14 years as the creative director for Carolina Herrera, a favorite of New York socialites.

The designer name most closely aligned with modern-day American first ladies -- Oscar de la Renta -- was worn by Ivanka Trump twice during the festivities. It’s worth noting that on both occasions, Ivanka eschewed the affordable-yet-classy everywoman label that bears her name. Even for the ball, Ivanka chose a glittering Carolina Herrera gown with a full skirt.

By the end of the inaugural weekend, a clear fashion message was sent: The fashion will be fabulous. In fact, I predict we will be saying wow every time the first lady appears in public.

But no more J.Crew cardigans and sheaths from Target. A White House that relates to the everyday working person is no longer.