Melania Trump stepped out at her first of three Inaugural balls this evening wearing a crisp white shoulder-bearing gown tied with a delicate red band around her waist, the design the result of a surprising collaboration between herself and French-born Hervé Pierre, the former creative director of the American house of Carolina Herrera who left his 14-year post last February.
Given that Mrs. Herrera designed the sparkling champagne princess gown worn tonight by President Trump's daughter Ivanka, and that Herrera has herself stated publicly that she would welcome the chance to dress the new First Lady, Mrs. Trump's choice of Inaugural evening wear was unexpected, to say the least.
Though a relatively unknown designer to outsiders of the fashion industry, Pierre has held top posts at a number of American houses, from Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta to Vera Wang. And since leaving Carolina Herrera 11 months ago, he has kept a low profile—until now.
Tonight's gown made for a startling visual reminder of the significant departure between the incoming and outgoing First Ladies in both style and substance. Over the course of her husband's tenure, Michelle Obama developed a reputation for taking a chance on young, hungry designers, rewarding their hard work by presenting their creations before a global audience.
"Mrs. Trump's initial fashion choices as First Lady might read as a return to the time-honored establishment and the spirit of classic luxury embraced by so many White Houses past."
Both Pierre and Ralph Lauren, whose light blue suit Melania wore during the Inaugural ceremony earlier today, are fashion industry veterans who represent uppermost echelons of the nation's fashion, and both create clothing for a woman who exudes an aura of American style that is timeless and elegant, if distinctly pedigreed.
Mrs. Trump's initial fashion choices as the First Lady of the United States might therefore be read as a harbinger of the values we can expect from her East Wing: a return to the time-honored establishment and the spirit of classic luxury embraced by so many White Houses past.
Back in 2009, Michelle Obama famously put the then-little-known, Taipei-born, Canadian-American designer Jason Wu on the sartorial map when she celebrated her husband's first Inauguration wearing a different white gown: Wu's breathtaking one-shoulder ensemble, custom-made from silk chiffon and embellished with organza flowers and Swarovski crystals.
Dressing her for various occasions throughout the Obama presidency, Wu ended up becoming something of an Inauguration Day tradition for Mrs. Obama, who chose a radiant red halter-neck by him for her husband's second swearing-in in 2013, and today welcomed the new First Couple in a belted, short-sleeve dress also bearing the Jason Wu label.
Now, after a changing of the guards, Mrs. Trump has ensured that the previously little-known Pierre, though a design veteran in his own right, is placed firmly on America's fashion map.