The New York Times is not happy that Ivanka Trump wore Indian-inspired garb during her diplomatic visit to India this week.
“While on the one hand it is nice to see someone in the Trump administration make an effort to leverage the possibilities of tactical dress, the interpretation was largely through the lens of the outsider looking in,” Vanessa Friedman writes. “The selections had echoes of orientalism and ornamentation. . . Instead of wearing work by a designer that spoke to the nuances of the country (a tactic adopted often by Michelle Obama, for example), Ms. Trump opted, at least initially, for the most obvious: clothes by outsiders who dipped into their fantasy of India as opposed to its reality.”
Friedman’s outrage is rooted in a column by Bandana Tewari, an editor at Vogue India, who wrote:
“We would rather see her wear a hand-woven sari made in our country or a handmade gown made in her own country. But to hybridize the two, in an era of unfiltered diversity, is a superfluous nod to half-acceptance.”
The article went on to compare Ivanka’s look to that of former first lady Michelle Obama, whom both Vogue India and The New York Times say was so much better at wearing clothes that did not appropriate other cultures (something they assume is inherently evil). It seems these ladies forget that Michelle Obama’s outfits caused controversy during overseas visits. Remember when she ruffled feathers by foregoing a headscarf in Saudi Arabia? As fashionable and classy as she was, Michelle O’s outfits were the subject of equally dumb controversies.
Not all, or even many, Indians seemed all that bothered by Ivanka’s wardrobe, either. Let’s take a look at a few other articles from Indian news sources, who praised Ivanka’s look.
“During her visit to Hyderabad, Ivanka Trump was seen sporting elegant ensembles,” an item at The Indian Express reads. “From a beautiful red floral dress to a white ethnic dress, the US first daughter is a true fashionista.”
In an India Today article, which Friedman cited in her piece for the Times, Ivanka was praised as an “Indian Barbie doll” — a pretty hard compliment to top.
Ivanka isn’t the first dignitary to wear an Indian-style patterned dress by a western designer in India, either. As Michelle Honig at Forward points out, Kate Middleton wore a red Kashmiri-patterned dress by Alexander McQueen to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel last April. Middleton’s similar look was not controversial. The Times chronicled the duchess of Cambridge’s look in a slideshow with not as much as a raised eyebrow. It seems the Ivanka’s outfit “debacle” has more to do with her last name than with what she actually wore.