The Blah Awards

Did Changi Airport and Jewel make for a better Star Award show?

By Mao Shan Wang

This year’s Star Awards. (红星大奖) was supposed to soar, but it seemed to have gone as high as a paper plane could. Broadcast live yesterday from Changi Airport T4 and Jewel, the show felt like a bird in a wrong tree. Only here on our island is where an airport is also a leisure site. Or, an entertainment broadcast point. But, hard as I tried, I could not fathom why an airport terminal is an ideal location for an award ceremony that the stars decribed as 盛大 (shengda or grand). Would the Chingay be there next? National Day Parade? Or was T4 designed to be so admirably adaptable that it could be passenger building, vaccination centre and award ceremony venue? Or was this Mediacorp’s interpretation of using SingapoRediscovers Vouchers, while Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines was in enthusiastic marketing mode, in case we have forgotten about them?

It must have been hard for the attendees and the nominees appearing on the unmissable red carpet. I, of course, speculate since I wasn’t there, neither, in all likelihood, were you. But you and I can imagine. First, there was the weather. I live in the east, so I experienced what the attendees and participants must have had. It was blazing hot in the morning, which kept everything dry, but toasted the tarmac. Then the sky turned grey after noon, not the expectant grey of storm clouds, but the hoary expanse that just makes everything below muggy and so unfavorable to an afternoon of red carpet arrivals at the airport. You did not have to be in the stars’ shoes. If you had covered the anterior Jurassic Mile in such a day, you would not know what I mean.

Red-carpet hosts Desmond Ng, Vivian Lai, Lee Teng at the driveway of T4

Then there was the red carpet—not one but two! First encounter was a stretch on the driveway of the entrance to the departure hall and another, ridiculous as it was, on the airport apron, with SIA aircraft as backdrop. Not everyone got to walk in the front and the rear. You needed be a top star to be granted both. Or not either (Fann Wong and Jeanette Aw! Why were they exceptional, I wondered). All of them (those who mattered, anyway) did arrive on the driveway (which I only now realised is red asphalt—already a red ‘carpet’), but some did not alight kerbside. Zoe Tay suddenly appeared, with the top end of the red carpet behind her, with no car in sight, and with no companion. Did she take a bus? I hope not. Wearing a strapless, massive bow-front Caroline Herrera gown with a train, she gamely walked a considerable distance to the first of two platforms to be interviewed. No one was on hand to be chivalrous and to help her up the three-step platform, not even those around to open car doors for other stars. Her steady climb prompted host Lee Teng to say that Ah Jie “真的很有风范,完全是国际巨星的范儿—really has an air of stylishness, and it’s totally in the style of international superstars.”

Other luckier ones were allowed to alight closer to the two stages. I guess I have to count myself lucky too; I have never in my travelling life seen anyone in gowns and tuxedos dropped off at the entrance of an airport—not in Heathrow, not Charles de Gaulle, not Malpensa, not Pudong, not Narita, not JFK, not even LAX! It is fascinating—and horrifying—to see these stars navigate the red carpet in evening wear and towering heels that they get to wear only once a year (or, once since 2019, the year of the last Star Awards broadcast). But not everyone received the same memo. Some, I saw, were dressed as if they were attending a gala, some a wedding, others to perform on a getai, and one, to some debauchery involving paying customers. There were those who treated the event as the Oscars (or perhaps the Golden Horse Awards) and those who imagined it was the Grammys. What was really there on the driveway? Frankly, I don’t know what to call it.

Stars being interviewed on stage that overlooks Airport Boulevard

Star Awards is always touted as Mediacorp’s most glamorous event, but it has always been just a razzle-dazzle. No substance—this year especially. Right from the start, the union of Star Awards and Changi T4 was awkward and, as it turned out, not gratifyingly rewarding. We have so few events here that allow us to look at strikingly attired individuals who are more physically blessed than you and I are that we always fall for Star Awards (other annual events, such as the Tatler and Prestige balls are closed-door events). But when you have to take in the familiar airport locations—two boarding gates and a spot in the long departure lounge—in which the stars try to appear star-like, while socially distanced and their movement thwarted, you’ll be wondering when you can travel again, not who’d win what. Frankly, I struggled to reconcile gowns and airport lounge chairs.

What I was more at pains with was making sense of the pre-recorded runway performance earlier, on the airport apron that no regular passenger would have the privilege to prance on. Some selected (kena-arrowed?) stars were doing what has been described to me as a fashion show, right before a parked plane—an SIA Airbus A350-900. (Who could have guessed Mediacorp was out to beat two Karl Lagerfeld-era Chanel shows?!) Many of them would normally struggle to walk on an actual runway, but there they were, performing on the red-carpeted tarmac as if it was the most natural thing for them to do or part of their job description. Even former model Zoe Tay looked uncomfortable and embarrassed. Desmond Tan, in Alexander McQueen, appeared as if he was there against his will. Only Ian Fang, in Beng mode of his own design (did he don the same suit as the one worn in the 2019 Star Awards?) and the likely-borrowed-from-the-missus Chanel brooch, strutted as if he was already an award winner.

Two major stars Zoe Tay (top) and Desmond Tan performed before an SIA plane

For quite a few actresses, homage was paid to the Hollywood tape. Since so many gowns curiously did not perfectly fit, it was left to the sticky wonders of the double-sided adhesive to secure the edges of plunging necklines. No wardrobe malfunction for a conservative audience that we are. Only high slits on skirts were allowed to gape. One leg exposed, but with the thigh obscured by unsightly shorts. Vivian Lai was devious enough to wear, under the bustier-dress by Australian designer Alex Perry, a skin-coloured pair that was so close to the skin tone of her limbs that army boys in the coffee shop near my home, I heard, were cheering her on whenever she appeared as they viewed the show on their smartphones. Luckily she wasn’t in the running for the Top Ten Most Popular Female Artistes award. She’d pale in comparison to poor Ann Kok, whose Dolce and Gabbana gown seemed uncompleted due to insufficient fabric for the top left. But I suspected Ms Kok was most agreeable to exposing one side of her corset for all to appreciate.

It is sad and disappointing to me that after 26 years of the Star Awards (not counting last year’s hiatus), we are still witnessing attendees unable to understand what is dressing suitably for a special occasion, without looking like they were wearing yet another costume or blindly accepting the recommendation of their over-eager-to-make-a-fashion-statement stylists. Or, to make it easier for all the hosts to stick to the only two descriptions they know, year in, year out: 公主 (gongzhu or princess) or 女神 (nushen or goddess). Once again, it takes foreign artistes, invited to present, to show us how devoid of style many of our stars are: Gigi Leung in a sleek column with metallic bodice, Sandra Ng in an asymmetric dress and a half-cape, and Ella Chen in a gold long-sleeved gown. They wore the clothes, not, as the still-true cliche goes, the other way round.

😓😓😓😓😓

Screen grabs: Mediacorp/YouTube

Who Is Duan Mei Yue?

The model who was unhappy with the delineation of her by a local artist had dreams to land on the cover of Vogue Italia

Our own illustrated likeness of Duan Mei Yue, done, we admit, without her permission. This serves as illustration to this post only, and will not not be used commercially

Warning: this post contains language that some readers might find offensive

Full-time model Duan Mei Yue (段美玥) is trending, but not for a breakthrough runway show or an outstanding magazine cover we usually associate with models who receive ardent media attention. Rather, she’s been making the news for being deeply unhappy with some graphite and acrylic drawings by local artist Allison M Low called Weight of Longing that were discernibly based on a photograph posted on Instagram in February 2018. This photo, shot by professional lensman Li Wanjie, was allegedly used to create a “likeness” without Ms Duan’s expressed approval. (Just because images on social media are posted for all, does it mean they are free for all?) When she discovered that the drawings appeared as a chipped cut-out on the floor of the Love, Bonito store in Funan and, later, on the cover of author Amanda Lee Koe’s award-winning Ministry of Moral Panic, she was livid and so affected that she felt “very violated knowing that someone has profited off my likeness without my knowing or consent,” according to a post on Instagram Stories nine weeks ago. The distress, as she told it (too aggrieved to punctuate properly), wrecked her life—“how can i sleep at night”, “how do i function as per usual”, “how do i not let this affect me”.

Ms Duan’s anguish is understandable. Although she is a model, she did not model for Ms Low. Nor, was she paid by the artist as a model in abstentia. To see photos of her lopped-off face crowned by a head tie and positioned on the floor of Love, Bonito, also a community centre of sort, even under the guise of art, must have been too hard to stomach. It is not difficult to see why she was upset to be placed on that level. But, at Love, Bonito, it seemed to her that the artist was remunerated for the work that was used not only as art-prop, but also as visual for pendants and on tote bags. This could have been a revenue stream for her too, rather than just the artist’s. It isn’t known how much Love, Bonito paid Ms Low for the work (or Empigram Books, publisher of Ministry of Moral Panic), but it was reported that the artist, a Temasek Polytechnic School of Design graduate, made €1,875 (about S$3,000) from a sale of another art piece with Ms Duan’s likeness through an identified gallery. For one who professed that she has “a spending problem”, and “don’t have millions of dollars behind (her) name”, this lost income was, unsurprisingly, maddening. On IG Stories, she proclaimed “i’d be ok with this if it was done after i leave this existence but when i’m still alive and broke? no thank u”. In addition, she declared: “i have no money for a fucking lawyer”.

Interestingly, Ms Duan, who deprecatingly calls herself “just an awkward noodle” and has no problem identifying as “this dumb hoe”, loves to draw, and had often posted her amusing output on social media (on IG alone, she has, to-date, 55.1k followers) when she was still doing her A levels and not modelling full-time yet. Most of them, similar to her likeness in question, were of faces. Whether they were a figment of her imagination or based on photographs, she did not say. But they were expressed, including the self-portraits, in a sometimes quirky manner, not unlike the Arien herself. She said on IG, “im really relatable and im very honest with my vulnerability n flaws”. It is the honesty, perhaps, that led her to confess in her earliest post, that she “fucking love cats”. Ms Duan has a weakness for the F-word: “best fucking strawberry marshmallows” or “dramafest and photography camp made me so fucking happy” (just two of the many examples), but unlike, say, influencer Wendy Cheng (aka Xia Xue), who uses the four letters as cuss word, Ms Duan tends to employ them as adverb and adjective, and possibly also as indicator that she has crossed into adulthood. One expresses irritation, the other, delight.

The works of art that “violated” Duan Mei Yue: (clockwise from left) cover of book by Amanda Lee Koe, the drawing by Allison M Low, and the chipped piece on the floor of Love, Bonito (also by Ms Low). Photos: Epigram Books, Retrospect Galleries, and Allison M Low/Instagram respectively

She is candid and tells it like it is, which for her followers, is her charm and her pull. Accompanying a photo she posted in November 2017 to be used as a profile picture, Ms Duan wrote, with, again, scant regard to punctuation—and, now, propriety, “i’ll let you guys in on a secret; i photoshopped my armpits bc it’s so wrinkly it looks like a vagina”. Her “vagpit” reference prompted 1,862 likes and 54 comments, of which 24 were variations of “the most beautiful”, with one, calling her “仙女本人” (xian nu ben ren or the fairy herself). Her fans rave about her looks, but she is not considered conventional beauty, a point Ms Duan acknowledges. In 2019, she told the Shanghai media, “我从外貌来看就很少归类为传统模特” (wo cong wai mao lai kan jiu hen shao gui lei wei chuan tong mo te or “from my appearance, I am rarely classified as a traditional model”). But this non-traditional look is possibly why the casting agents in the West have been interested in her—she fits the Western perception of eastern beauty and exotica.

On her face, she has what the Chinese would call “丹凤眼” (dan feng yan or red phoenix eyes, referring to almond-shaped peepers with outer corners inclined upwards). Her eyes are set rather apart, creating a wide glabella that make-up artists don’t necessarily know what to do with. “You can’t shade that area,” one seasoned pro told us. “She also has a lot of space between the upper eyelid and the brow, which may require a lot of colour”. In a commentary on China’s Sohu (搜狐), Ms Duan was described to have “塌鼻梁圆鼻头” (ta bi liang yuan bi tou or collapsed bridge, round nose), which the writer acknowledged to be “颠覆了国际超模的直挺范儿” (dian fu le guo ji chao mo de zhi ting fan er or subverting the straightforward styles of international supermodels). And those full lips, not seen since Ethel Fong. In sum, her facial features may post a challenge to her creative partners, but most fashion stylists generally say she is fun to work with, as “she has character”. There’s a campy side to her too. In one IG post, she lip-synced delightfully to Olivia Newton-John’s Hopelessly Devoted to You!

Duan Mei Yue, now 22, started modelling full-time in 2017 after completing her A-Levels (if modelling didn’t work out, she would have considered psychology in university), but had earlier already wanted to be a model after discounting the possibility of being a fashion designer. She told Female magazine in 2018 that “K-pop and anime were part of my motivation to become a model. I saw how the K-pop idols I obsessed over at that time walked Seoul Fashion Week and they were invited to various fashion shows during the fashion week circuit in Europe and New York so I thought maybe I should become a model to meet them lol”. And ultimately, to be on the cover of Vogue Italia. She also told Cleo in 2019, “I started when I realised that I needed to express my love for aesthetics and fashion”. She has, so far, walked the runways of Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, New York, and Paris, but was conspicuously absent at the biggest fashion show of the year on our island: last week’s Louis Vuitton presentation, when the “bigger” star at the moment, Yong Kai Gin, had her SG moment in the klieg lights—and the rain.

Ms Duan gives the impression that there were many artists, professionals or amateurs, who desired to draw her face. On IG Stories, she wrote, “every other artists (sic) has either properly compensated me or has agreed to stop the selling and apologised sincerely”. Perhaps, it is true: Her unusual features are more interesting to artists than standard symmetry or placid perfection. That Allison M Low, herself considered a “looker”, chose that fated picture, one that would have been a weak shot for casting agents, is telling of the appeal of Ms Duan’s off-kilter looks. In her response to the controversy, Ms Low told The Sunday Times that “the artworks… were about the strength and grace in women…” but while there seems to be tremendous strength on both sides (and among their respective supporters), there has not been a palpable sense of grace, as the war wages online. As one marketing manager said to us, “Duan Mei Yue has grown-up. The modelling around the world has opened her eyes.” When that photo was shared on the model’s IG page on 18 Feb 2018, this was her comment (and we’re quoting verbatim): “grey eyes from @ttd_eye queen grey go spend some of dat angpao moneys and get yoself some cool grey eyes with a cool discount by using my code “dmeiyue” ✨ portrait by @uuanjie as usual hehe makeup done by moi :*” That girl is no more.

Illustration and collage: Just So

Oscars Producers: Casual Clothes “Are Really Not” Allowed

A reminder to nominees and attendees, in case anyone turns up in sweats

Oscar at the Oscars. Too casual? Illustration: Xiu Xian

By Mao Shan Wang

You know times have changed when the producers of this year’s Oscars presentation need to send nominees and attendees a letter to remind them to dress to the nines. As reported in the press around the globe, the letter stated that the organisers aimed “for a fusion of inspirational and aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not.” Wah, Hollywood stars have to be reminded to dress up even when there is clearly an occasion to. Is that like being told to get vaccinated? Or has the pandemic made even the Academy Awards show so unappealing that there might be those tempted to attend the glitzy presentation in their home clothes or without the services of a stylist? Or, as the epitome of luxury bagginess?

It’s hilarious to think about Oscars dress code. The award ceremony is represented by a bald man so in love with extreme casual, he has chosen to remain and appear as if the whole of Hollywood should be a nudist colony, but for the people attending the event to be flanked by him and, for a lucky few, to hold his cold, hard, naked body, they have to be served a reminder to ensure that their attire for the evening can be described as—er, what’s the opposite of casual? There is yet more reason to keep France’s petite mains gainfully employed, in particular during lockdown.

If the world’s fashion media is to be believed, we have been living and working, for the past year, in sweats—the clothes, not the perspiration, although anyone who lives on the equator knows that one tends to lead to the other. It is unthinkable that even for one of the world’s most glamorous event in Los Angeles, attendees are not inclined to make an appointment with their designer friends or their regular tailor, both I do not have, but if invited, would. Do Oscars producers really think the stars would pull out any old rag from their wardrobe? Or do I think too well of those with an awardable movie career?

If the likes of Carey Mulligan and Frances McDormand, both this year’s nominees for Best Actress, need to be made aware to dress in their glittery finest, where does that leave Mediacorp actors attending the Star Awards next month? Or has Mediacorp, in their excitement, already issued their demand? Both thoughts make me quiver.

Millennials Made Gucci

At the Grammy Awards, Billie Eilish and Harry Styles surprised no one when they turned up in full Gucci, illustrating, again, boys and girls their age group love the flashy Italian brand

Billie Eilish and Harry Styles in unmistakable Gucci outfits. Photos: Getty Images

The head-to-toe look is the to way dress among many of today’s young pop stars. And dedication to a single brand is the ideal. The easiest way to be camera-ready, we suppose. Just look at two of the biggest entertainers at the recent Grammys: Billie Eilish and the dress wearer Harry Styles. They were both outfitted by Gucci, down to, in the case of Ms Eilish, the bucket hat, face mask, and fingerless gloves, and, in the case of Mr Styles, the Mae West-worthy feather boa. It was as if they had turned over the entire exercise of dressing to a fashion house. Their own wardrobes non-existent, or redundant. Of course, most stars don’t look at their existing armoire anymore. They go with what fashion houses present to them, and if the final look is missing something—anything, there’s always the atelier’s sewers to custom-make. If they can sew a dress, they can sew a face mask. It’s all—as you can see (or maybe not)—very orchestrated.

This sounds very much like how they managed movie stars during the heydays of Hollywood. Only now, the current stars aren’t told how they are to be styled, or how to behave, or who to be seen with that is deemed suitable. The more anti-whatever they look, the better. And even more preferable, be linked to a brand (or a few). Bring your own take to how the sponsor wants you to look, it says to us. Billie Eilish certainly has. Until she dons Gucci the way she has been, no one thought the brand once associated with extreme sexiness under Tom Ford’s watch could be so bo chap baggy. She is not, as far as we’re aware, Gucci’s brand ambassador, unlike Harry Styles. She has more aesthetic room to navigate. Mr Styles is a Gucci model, appearing in their ads and video presentations; he is expected to embrace the brand wholesale, with a tad of pop-star insouciance.

…the pair helps Gucci appear as a label that’s “celebrity-approved”

Expectedly, their followers too. It is debatable if Mr Styles and Ms Eilish are leading the pack or wearing what others of their generation are wearing. Interestingly, if you combine, as we had, the first and second parts of their family names respectively, you would get “Stylish”. That’s enough to automatically grant them the upper hand as leaders than followers. To the many young fans who are enamoured with Gucci and can only feel confident—or validated—when they wear the label on their backs (or on their chest), the pair helps Gucci appear as a label that’s “celebrity-approved”, a marketing advantage and a sure crowd-puller. Together with their fans and followers, the Stylish stars have made Gucci the bubbling brand of the millennials, a group the Financial Times identified in 2018 as “the world’s most powerful consumers.”

Although Gucci reported a drop in global sales during their earnings report in February, they have, in fact, enjoyed startling growth for years and had been the growth accelerator of parent company Kering. Annual revenues reported in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, was an impressive 10 billion euros. Their success has been linked to how appealing Gucci is to millennial consumers, under 35. Technology that resonates with this savvy group (as well as teaming up with digital games such as Zepeto) is part of their multi-prong strategy. The products, across categories, are calibrated to offer millennials born-again retro looks that are new to them, as well as the chances to experience what they could not ever have: past goofiness transmuted as present geekiness. The whole visual context of Gucci is companionably banal. To better suit the phenomenon and practice—sharing, and to fabulously costume colourful online life.

Tantrum On Full Display

Malaysian celebrity/influencer Cathryn Li made a sudden, heated departure during a Facebook Live session when she felt she was attacked by Netizens. Is storming out becoming a social trend?

First there was Piers Morgan, just a day ago. Mr Morgan, co-host of ITV’s Good Morning Britain show, was criticised by others on the broadcast he has been synonymous with, for his caustic comments on Meghan Markle’s allegations—during the recent Oprah Winfrey interview—that he thought to be spurious. He didn’t like what his colleague said (or was unable to fire back), so he upped and left. Now, closer to home, is Malaysian influencer/classical pianist/actress Cathryn Li’s (李元玲) departing in a huff (above), right in the middle of a Facebook Live session. She had been asked to play the piano and to jam along with the hosts. Those who tuned in didn’t think she played well and said so. She was not able to stomach the comments and got up and stomped off; her anger palpable and audible throughout her extended departure, leaving no doubt that she was truly offended.

Ms Li, who describes herself as “an ordinary girl” but is no stranger to controversy, had appeared as a special guest on the two-hour-forty-minute (Ms Markle’s interview was, a measly two hours!) live recording of the sixth episode of 正面交锋 (zhengmian jiaofeng) or FaceTalk, hosted by music producer and founder of Butterfly Entertainment, Andy Chan, and his music pals Fandi Foo and Zax Lee. FaceTalk is dubbed as “all about life’s bullshit and tell it out (sic)”. Broadcast in (Malaysian) Cantonese, it is essentially a web chat show with music thrown in, as the hosts sing and play their favourite songs. It seemed that Ms Li was not informed, prior to her appearance, that she would be asked to perform on the keyboard or to sing. She did say that she would need practice. Still, she was game enough to play when asked a second time. Things took a turn for the unpleasant when she opted out of playing to be audience and started paying attention to her phone (an insolent prelude to the impending fit?) and to the comments of her posted online. Some viewers clearly were not impressed by Ms Li’s performance of pop music and unsympathetically expressed their disappointment. She was seen deeply affected.

For her web appearance, Cathryn Li wore a seen-before-in-IG, dusty-pink, lace half-half number—dress in the front and romper in the back—that left her ample assets little to the imagination. The ruffled armhole appeared to be way too large for her: throughout much of her appearance on the show, she was seen adjusting the straps, even when in a state of mounting annoyance. Although it could be the ruffles irritating her skin, it did appear that she was pulling her straps up and backwards, so that the bust of the dress would not slip south. Ms Li is, of course, known for her preference of skimpy clothing. Her Instagram photos, which include one of her as Wonder Woman(!), could be seen as material for men’s onanistic delight. There’s a ditziness to her persona, affirmed by inane messages, such as “星星在天上,你在我心里” (“the stars are in the sky, you are in my heart”). What Ms Li, who believes that size “M = Fat” and “anything above M is as sinful as obesity”, wore on FaceTalk was consistent with her taste, if seen through just IG alone (presently, 1.9 million followers). At some point during the show, the microphone (on a stand) was repositioned so that Ms Li was not speaking too closely to it, but in the new spot, the mic cast a strangely phallic shadow on her cleavage, playing up the fantasy of her as the lubricious “Piano Goddess” (钢琴女神).

The show—admittedly an over-long interview that was, at best, trite) started well enough. Ms Li was cutely amicable. She even said, to the amusement of viewers, that she wants to be the “first female Asian weightlifter” who models rather than compete. Her “goal”, in doing so, is to “inspire women to take up weightlifting as a sport, and not to consider themselves as weaklings, who need protection, who leave the heavy-lifting to men.” That galvanising of strength soon whittled when she showed that she was not strong enough to take on her critics or haters. “Everyone is scolding me,” she yell-lamented in her choppy Cantonese. “I didn’t come here to be scolded,” her voice close to choking with tears. “I didn’t know I have to play the piano,” she insisted. “You guys didn’t tell me to prepare.” Throughout her outburst, she kept repeating, in English, that she’s “just a classical pianist”, and, emphatically, “not a keyboardist.” That distinction is important. Ms Li has a masters degree in piano from the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. It is said that she took further professional guidance from Li Yundi in summer residencies of sort. It was also reported that Ms Li was discovered by Fan Bingbing’s (范冰冰) assistant, which led her to roles in some (forgettable) Hong Kong movies.

After she marched off the performance area of FaceTalk, Ms Li returned to confront the three hosts in a hissy fit. The men had repeatedly placated her by saying that there were also many viewers who had praised her twinkling of the keys. They went as far as to say that, in fact, they played poorly, and could not catch up with her. But Ms Li would not have any of that. She had to blame someone for the criticisms levelled at her and the visible rage that followed. The three guys were now as culpable as anyone else. She asserted, “If you guys didn’t sing, there won’t be any problems.” By now, she was allowing her short hybrid outfit to be in full, front-centre view. Ms Li was dressed for an occasion, if not for a web performance. But rage has cut off her awareness of self and dress. As she clamoured confrontationally, with her arms flailing, a perceptible side boob became the veritable side show.

Storming off during an interview that is being recorded is, of course, nothing new or terribly shocking. Hollywood actors have done it, pop and rock stars have done it, even presidents have done it. Now, journalists do it to other journalists. It seems that, in our increasingly fracturable society, there are those who become so emotionally fragile that they, even as guest, would abruptly and angrily walking out of a video recording as the only way to express their anger at situations and reactions that can’t be controlled during a live, one-take session or streaming. However acceptable the behaviour, it’s hard to see it as becoming. Cathryn Li, despite her ‘classical’ training in music and ballet, and a weakness for the delicacy of lace, let herself go to cavort with the terrible twins, temper and tantrum. And very quickly forsaken grace for disgrace.

Screen grabs:  正面交鋒 FaceTalk/Facebook

Black She Wore

For her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle looked like she was mourning

Meghan Markle was well aware of what she was going to tell Oprah Winfrey in the most touted celebrity interview so far this year. Her tell-it-like-it-is would be so explosive that her words were all she needed to make an impact—no resplendent, In Style-worthy outfit required. So, she wore a matte-black, silk georgette, wrap-dress by Giorgio Armani that did not stand out against the set-like manicured garden of a third-party residence, where the televised chat took place. As she was seated on a patio chair—her back propped up by a large white cushion—throughout the time in front of Ms Winfrey—in Brunello Cucinelli, we could not really see the dress in its entirety. On the right shoulder, some abstract, white, leaf-like motif (reportedly a “botanical print” of lotus flowers) cascaded down to her right antenatal bosom. The not-too-plunging V-neck of the dress framed a small insignificant pendant. On her left wrist, what appeared to be a trio of skinny bracelets, one of them—a Cartier—reportedly belonged to Princess Diana. On her feet, pointed-toe stilettos, once popular among the secretarial profession. The styling was deliberately gloomy.

The Duchess of Sussex wore her hair centre-parted, pulled back to what appeared to be a low chignon. The do—face-framing fringe—looked self-styled, as if she used barbeque tongs instead of curling tongs. Her make-up was for lunch at a burger joint: actress-off-duty smokey eyes, cheeks—in her case, typically—over-rouged, and lips, deliberately not red, so that her words won’t come out flippant, and to better suit the glum she was radiating. It was, of course, going to be serious and she needed to look the part. She was not on Ellen’s set. Cheeriness was not required. The moment you tuned in, you might have thought she was at an appointment with her gynecologist, not a session with the most famous talk show host on our planet. For an IRL appearance on reality TV, Meghan Markle would have benefitted with a tip from one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But, when one is going to put up an affront to the most-known and watched royal families in the world, one would need to look like happiness has dissipated, even if conjugal well-being is intact.

The choice of attire was, therefore, crucial. The outfit needed to underscore her distress, her pain, and her conflicts, but not her anger

When it comes to Ms Markle, it’s hard not to stand on one of divided sides. Was her TV performance-as-discourse noble or vile? The litany of her woes since joining the British royal household—her struggles with the in-laws, the British media (tabloid press in particular) and their criticism of her, and her fashion choices—culminated in the opening up to Ms Winfrey. Was this one-sided account to set the record straight or to air grievances? Or both? The choice of attire was, therefore, crucial. The outfit needed to underscore her distress, her pain, and her conflicts, but not her anger. Black—dead foliage aside—symbolises eternal struggle that seems to characterise her role as a royal, and contrasts with the white of her wedding dress, which might have meant a new, strife-free beginning. Black also relates to racism, an issue that has, as revealed in the interview, affected the Duke and the Duchess deeply. It is connected to mental health and, in the attendant darkness that Ms Markle claimed consumed her, the contemplation of devastating self-harm. No other colour would be as suitable as black, never mind if the wearer could look dour in it, or pity-arousing.

Her colour choice for a global TV appearance may be spot on, but it is hard to say if her incendiary revelations were just as good a decision. Ms Markle is American and an actress schooled in the candidly communicative ways of Hollywood in the post-#metoo era. She told Oprah that during her time in the UK, “there was no class on how to speak and how to cross your legs,” yet she was eager to open up, legs well-placed, about her grievous distress. It is unsurprising and is exemplar of the reason why American talk shows have no shortage of guests wanting to feel how “liberating” it is to “talk”, as Ms Markle put it to Oprah. But, a royal family is not the Kardashians. Members of the monarchy need no such scandalous, press-ready “bombshell” exposure. Or, frankly, any family. Meghan Markle may be wearing a clean dress for her appearance with Oprah Winfrey, but the laundry she aired was what so many could see as dirty. Yes, that’s a conservative stance, but, in this generation of easy exposé, aberrant nosiness, and talk show as psychiatric clinic, the less we lay open our discontent or disappointment publicly and sensationally, the less we divide those around us, familial and societal. Black or not, in black or other.

Screen grab: Harpo Productions/CBS

F For Fenty Fashion?

LVMH is not continuing with Rihanna’s clothing line. Are you surprised? Is Fenty a flop?

The higher-ups at LVMH were hoping she’d be the Virgil Abloh of womenswear. But Rihanna’s Fenty, two years since its debut in 2019, is now in a mutually-agreed arrangement to halt the design, manufacture, and retail of the born-in-hype fashion line. The news that have emerged these past two days have mostly stated that LVMH and Rihanna have “paused” the Fenty line. The New York Times reported that both are “taking a break”. A hiatus may not lead to resumption. All have been careful not to use the four-letter F-word: Fail. As many wise sages have said, “there’s nothing wrong in failure”, but Rihanna, one of the biggest stars of her generation, has not known failure. According to an LVMH statement quoted in the press, the conglomerate and singer will “put on hold the RTW activity, based in Europe, pending better conditions.”

Does “better conditions” mean when COVID-19 is over or better controlled? Or, is it referring to improved economic conditions, post-pandemic? Or, do they mean when Rihanna becomes a better designer? For now, we can only hazard a guess. Talk and speculation suggest that Fenty has not been doing as well as the brand owners thought they would. Fenty launched to much much fanfare, but was there consensus that it was a ground-shifting (breaking is asking too much!) collection that would rewrite the aesthetical direction of womenswear or move the mountains of luxury retail? Was it just another singer/celebrity line, riding on hype than design? Did Rihanna’s “megawatt style” translate to a megawatt luxury line?

Fenty is conceived with one pop star’s idea of fashion, independent of retail reality and creative innovation

The fashion critic Suzy Menkes, on Instagram, quoted Rihanna to have said, “I’m a curvy girl” and “If I can’t wear it myself, it’s not going to work”. It appears that Badgirlriri has fashioned Fenty too much after herself for the line to be able to realise its potential, even if fancied. These are clothes imagined, rather than designed, for a woman leading a very particular life and adopting a very particular style. Rihanna gets away with wearing practically anything. No one has called her out for even questionable looks. Fenty is conceived with one pop star’s idea of fashion, independent of retail reality and creative innovation. It may look “stunning” on Rihanna, but on those who want to emulate her style, it’d look, at best, wannabe. She told Ms Menkes, “I am very much a red carpet girl and I am going to design something for that.” She did not say how that will fit into LVMH’s family of highly commercial brands, or how that will make the world’s largest luxury-brand conglomerate even bigger or the chairman Bernard Arnault, already the richest man in France, even wealthier.

The business minds at Fenty priced the collection to qualify it as a luxury line (minus the other family members’ inherently marketable French quality), but one that did not sit shoulder to shoulder with LVMH’s star brand Dior. ‘Traditionally’, pop/movie stars’ fashion brands are priced to appeal to whatever is opposite of high-end. Think Ivy Park. Or, Jessica Simpson. But Fenty is, for many, expensive (e.g., USD940 for a denim jacket). To be sure, Rihanna is aware of her line’s high prices and had expressed concern that they might not appeal to her budget-conscious fans, used to the far more accessible Fenty Beauty. If, however, the designs were worth paying for, there could be encouraging take up, though no market share. As it turned out, LVMH could not bank on two firsts of Fenty—the first woman to conceive an LVMH brand and the first woman of colour to lead her own house with the company. In the end, taste, voice, and originality matter. And, whether LVMH or Rihanna is aware, flair too.

Illustration by Just So

One Colour Each

Tone-on-tone is the chromatic choice among the women attending yesterday’s US presidential inauguration

Topcoat day: (from left) Jil Biden, Kamala Harris, Michelle Obamam, and Jennifer Lopez. Photos: Getty Images

It looks like the women attending the inauguration of the 46th US president Joe Biden received the memo: go in a single colour. And wear a topcoat. That’s certainly the case with the office-holders and high-profile women who attended the Washington DC event. Could they have also been inspired by one of the key trends at the recently concluded Milan Men’s Fashion Week—monotone? Or, is a single colour a lot easier to deal with than coordinating with different colours and prints? National-level political events are probably not the time to take a gamble with fashion. Staying safe in a single colour not considered challenging (or worse, controversial) is the best strategy. Few women have the sartorial guts of Lady gaga, who sang the national anthem in a custom-designed Schiaparelli (by Texan Daniel Roseberry, for those nationalistic fashion watchers!) of fitted, navy, wool, lapel-less jacket and froth of red silk-faille skirt. Oh, there was also that distracting gold dove.

Peace may have been on Lady Gaga’s mind, but unity seemed to be on the other women’s. A single colour is perhaps an unambiguous message about how good it looks to be united. As the president himself said, “without unity, there’s no peace.” And to show unanimous support for America (or to express national pride?), they wore American designers, all largely unknown, at least outside the US. Jill Biden wore Makarian, the four-year-old New York label by Alexandra O’Neill; Kamala Harris wore Christopher John Rogers, the New York-based black designer-du-jour, who founded his eponymous label in 2016; Michele Obama wore Sergio Hudson, another black designer, whose seven-year-old label had a kick start at Bravo channel’s Styled to Rock, the reality fashion TV, executive-produced by Rihanna. Well, except for Jennifer Lopez, who sang in, surprisingly, total Chanel.

Outgoing FLOTUS Melania Trump, too, was in a single colour. But it surprised no one that the one-term Slovenia-born first lady emerged from the White House for the final time in not a shred of designed- or made-in-America. She was in telling, mourning black—the separates comprised a Chanel jacket and a Dolce & Gabbana dress. It was a silhouette that was similar to the Ralph Lauren suit that she wore to her husband’s inauguration four years ago. But now that she no longer needed to show that she supported American labels (not that she really did; the relationship was mutual), it was back to her usual enthusiastic nod for her favourite European brands. Towards the end, as with everything Trump, disconnected she happily stood.

The VP-To-Be And Vogue

US Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris appears on the February cover of the most important fashion magazine on earth, and Netizens are not exactly thrilled. Nor we

There has never been a female VP in the history of American politics, let alone on the cover of American Vogue. Kamala Harris on its February issue is not, however, the first woman of the United State’s high-office political arena to appear on the cover, but hers seems to come with considerable speed. Michelle Obama appeared on the March cover of Vogue (she would appear twice more) four months after her husband won the US presidential election in 2008, and two month after his inauguration. The first FLOTUS to appear on Vogue was Hillary Clinton. Hers was five years in the making, finally set for the December 1998 issue, after the late Oscar De la Renta reportedly managed to persuade Anna Wintour to consider Ms Clinton cover-worthy. Kamala Harris made it to the Vogue cover, even before Joe Biden is inaugurated. In their haste to make Ms Harris a cover girl, did Vogue turn out a rushed job?

It appears so. Yesterday, Vogue shared two cover photos on Instagram: one (top left) supposedly for the print issue and the other (top right) for the digital edition. To us, we were looking straight at exemplars of mediocrity. The version for print appeared so haphazardly composed and so unbecoming of the magazine that many Netizens thought it to be fake. In the second, someone even thought they saw a coffin behind Ms Harris (it looks to us like a massage bed with fancy sheets). A playwright/lawyer/New York Times contributor, Wajahat Ali, wrote on Twitter, “What a mess. Anna Wintour must really not have Black friends and colleagues.” Does Ms Harris look white in the photos? Apparently so. One Twitter user posted, “Kamala Harris is about as light skinned as women of color come and Vogue still f****d up her lighting. WTF is this washed out mess of a cover?”

That there is the charge online of “whitewashing” of the photos of Ms Harris is perhaps a little curious since the photographer Tyler Mitchell is black, so is the sittings editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. Can women of colour ever be photographed to the satisfaction of the many who not only want racial representation on magazine covers, they want exact skin colour duplication too, regardless of the real vagaries present in a fashion shoot, whether indoors or out? We are living in difficult and confusing times. Fashion magazines no longer need to offer a fashion statement of any distinction—or importance—as long as they capture the social calls of the moment. No wonder Ms Wintour is getting all the blame. She’s hardly the beacon or champion of societal change.

Ms Harris’s supporters feel there is nothing terrible about the drapes as they are in the colours of the VP-Elect’s sorority. The chromatic pairing isn’t the issue. It’s how the drapes are just hung up—sans effort

Kamala Harris is an attractive woman. She won’t be a difficult subject to photograph. Yet, there is something amiss in these two covers. The lustreless and uninspired set by Julia Wagner (was she hired because she did a swell job for the backdrop that was used at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Vanity Fair cover shoot of last December?), to start with. Ms Harris’s supporters feel there is nothing terrible about the drapes as they are in the colours of the VP-Elect’s sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (Howard University, Washington, D.C.). The chromatic pairing isn’t the issue. It’s how the drapes are just hung up—sans effort, with the pink fabric allowed to pool at the subject’s feet. Sure, we weren’t expecting Tony Duquette, but neither were we hoping that the guys hired to give the studio a fresh coat of paint were the ones to do the draping, as if covering furniture and the floor with protective sheets before the paint rollers go to work.

According to reports, Ms Harris styled herself for both photos, meaning she chose her own clothes, likely from her personal wardrobe. As a pantsuit-lover, like Hillary Clinton, she surprised no one with what she picked. They may look fine—even excellent—for the temporary VP office, but for the cover of a fashion magazine, they lack the quality that affirms what one-time Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said, “Fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world.” And heaven knowns, in the (ending) era of Trump, we have been acquainted with too much of the frighteningly banal. Curious, too, is how the black jacket (by Donald Deal, known for his gowns and “impeccable tailoring”, raved the CFDA) looked like it was ironed without a press cloth: there seem to be shiny iron marks. Is it not the job of the Vogue staffers—sitting editor Ms Karefa-Johnson, for example—to be sure that the clothes appear sleeker or more impeccable than they actually are?

Kamala Harris is, after all, no longer on the campaign trail. She could appear to embrace something special for this momentous occasion, even for a moment. No one is asking Vogue to imagine what the magazine hoped she’d look like in the inauguration ball. Nor is anyone likely to expect the equivalent of the fuchsia Jason Wu shift Michelle Obama wore for her debut Vogue cover, or the black velvet Oscar de la Renta gown Hillary Clinton wore on hers. Ultimately, this a cover of a fashion magazine, not a dry run for a TikTok video.

Cover photos: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue/Instagram

Gemma Chan Wears An Orb Dress

The British actress looks somewhat reluctantly trapped in a Christmas bauble for Elle UK. We’d like to see her wear that on a red carpet

Gemma Chan looks good in the clothes she wears. After her performance in Crazy Rich Asians (playing opposite the buckram Pierre Png), her red carpet appearances have been visions of sumptuousness and loveliness, one after another. Whether in Valentino at the Oscars or in Tom Ford at the Met Gala, she always looks immaculate and appropriately glamourous. That she’s tall, with a model’s body, help. She clearly knows what works for her under Kleig or flash. But it is in this seeming perfection that Ms Chan’s dressed-up looks tend to skew towards the predictable. Until now.

In one of the photos of the fashion spreads that accompany the cover story of the current issue of Elle UK, Ms Chan is outfitted in a custard apple (or a giant pea?) of a dress by the US-born British designer Michael Halpern. While it’s not an easy dress to pull off (or, probably, get into)—even by a natural clotheshorse—Ms Chan has made a fashion statement: she’s willing to go beyond Swan Lake-pretty. It’s, of course, also to stylist Jenny Kennedy’s credit that Ms Chan does not look like Jigglypuff’s green cousin. Only a fetching furoshiki.

In addition, the label Halpen has not been Ms Chan’s go-to brand for her high-profile appearances and engagements. This element of surprise with Elle UK is indication that she is willing to go further, even, when the dress appears to wear her than the other way round. Mr Halpern is known for his disco-inspired designs that arouse the interest of those less-inclined to don the traditional red-carpet gowns. His dresses, in fact, are more likely seen at the Grammy than Academy Awards. So striking are his designs that one glance at his Central Saint Martins MA graduation collection of 2016 was enough to convince Donatella Versace to hire him as consultant for Versace Atelier. Could this Halpern orb dress, then, change course for Gemma Chan as she continues to navigate more red carpets of the world? Hope is not a bad thing to have.

Photo: Marcin Kempski/Elle UK

Oh, Harry

So a man can’t appear on the cover of Vogue without wearing a dress?

By Ray Zhang

American Vogue is taking diversity seriously. Two covers back to back with black stars—Lizzo in October and Naomi Campbell in November—and then, on the December issue’s, the first-ever solo male in their 127-year history: Harry Styles. A guy as part of Vogue’s cover has been done before. There was, as I recall, LeBron James and Gisele Bündchen in 2008, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in 2014, Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid in 2017, and Justin Beiber and Hailey Baldwin in 2019. But Mr Styles up there all by himself—that’s clearly not done before. Looks like tumultuous 2020 has really got Vogue thinking and doing.

Harry Styles has style (or, as his second name suggests, styles), we’re constantly reminded by the media, and non-binary at that. It seems to me that Vogue is also telling us that Mr Styles has what it takes to appear unaccompanied on its cover: the willingness to don a dress. The others before him sure did not. Mr James was in a basketball tank top, Mr West in a blazer, Mr Malik was all suited up, Mr Beiber wore only his tattoos. Fashion was the responsibility of the women. Even Mr Malik, still the most dressed-up among them, was somewhat obscured by his then girlfriend (now mother of his child), although the cover blurb was certain to tell us that they “shop each other’s closets”. And if you were still in doubt, the editorial feature informed you that the couple was “part of a new generation who don’t see fashion as gendered.”

In the old days of fashion magazines, covers gave women a reason to buy an outfit that was deemed fashionable, or a look that might inspire, for example, those who sew their own clothes. I am not sure if any woman might rush out to buy the Gucci dress that the former member of One Direction wears on this Vogue cover, as they were once inclined to in, say, 1988, or 10 years later (more recently?), when this now forgotten name, Carrie Bradshaw, said, “…sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.” The traditional (okay, that’s not the new normal) cover hopes that women might actually cop a cover outfit after seeing it. I’d be fed, somewhat, to know if it’d be the same with this one.

I feel Vogue didn’t quite go all the way with Harry Styles. Both Lizzo and Naomi Campbell were shot full-length: We saw the whole dress. The photograph of Mr Styles, who reportedly identify as cisgender, was, conversely, cropped, and we witness only the upper body in vague half-drag. At a glance, we might not have guessed that the singer/actor wears a dress. I mean, it could have been a tunic, such as a thawb, but with a smocked upper body and lace-trimmed neckline. Would Alain de Botton-quoting Mr Styles—Beng as he appears to me—look just as fetching as the other two cover girls if he were captured with the dress in full length, which, as one photograph in the editorial feature did show, was a frilly, tiered tulle gown Mae West might have worn in her day?

The sight of a man in a dress, long or short, is not quite that unusual in the age of repeated Billy Porter flaunts. Never mind the muscularity of MAGA maleness. As one fashion observant friend said to me just this morning, “(the cover) is quite unremarkable. Men in women’s clothing for fashion shoots, gender-bending etc, etc—quite done to death. W’s editorials have been doing it for a few years. UK magazines, too.” In fact, frock wearing among pop stars—not just for magazine features—go as far back as David Bowie who, in the ’70s, wore what he called the “man-dress” (Michael Fish was a favourite designer). Yet, Vogue chose to go easy on the eyes of their readers, which is immensely ironic if you consider how religious in their zeal Americans have been in pushing for obvious inclusiveness.

If appearing on the cover of Vogue is a career high for many models, actresses, and reality TV stars, it could be one, too, for Mr Styles. Could he still be a cover boy sans dress? This has not been a great year for many of us. The singer, too, had it hard: the postponed world tour, the halted filming of the Olivia Wilde-directed film, Don’t Worry Darling, and the more mundane lockdown. While he admitted in the Vogue article to wearing mostly sweatpants when confined at home, he has not, as with so many less well-placed individuals also WFH, cast fashion aside. He has, in fact, embraced it in all its myriad forms. I’m all for guys to blur the lines of fashion—heck, even erase them—but Mr Styles, a Gucci model and their willing rep, doing so is really instinctive than disruptive. On the cover of Vogue, Harry Styles in a dress is not ground-breaking. If it were Jason Statham, that would be.

Photos: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue

It’s Over Now, Ivanka

Time for her to leave Washington and retire her power suits and modest dresses, and that fake smile?

By Emma Ng

The stitches have come apart for the second term of the Trump presidency and daughter-to-the-rescue Ivana Marie “Ivanka” Trump is unable to re-stitch it because, despite all the attempts at repairing her father’s irreparable wrong doings, I doubt she has ever held a needle her entire life. The sharpest thing she plays with, it appears, are her stilettos. Mending does not seem to be part of her skill set, or she could have tried to repair the social snags caused by the president’s poor (or non-existent) policies. The many white suits she has worn during her father’s tenure at the White House only showed more stains than a butcher’s apron when she proved to be complicit in her dad’s divisive and dangerous decisions. The senior advisor, it seems to me, has not been advising. Much.

Ms Trump, also the standby FLOTUS, was never qualified to take up the post in the White House, even if she was, reportedly, not remunerated. Of course, being unqualified has never been an issue. In 2011, she launched her namesake fashion label even when she had never been in the business of designing or selling clothes. (Her modelling—if you can call it that—‘experience’ was expendable.) I doubt many remember what it was she peddled; I certainly don’t. She told InStyle that year, “I wanted to build a strong and sustainable collection that is not overly trend-conscious”, adding, “I wanted the price points to be accessible, but ultimately we’re in the business of luxury, and these looks are consistent with that larger messaging.” If that was not attributed to Ms Trump, I would have thought it came from a JC Penney’s buyer.

In July 2018, due to pressures from ethical concerns of the first daughter setting up shop next to her father, Ivanka Trump the fashion label didn’t survive. That could have foretold her political ambition in 2020, or her chances of unrestricted access to the White House, but all the pussy bows she had fastened to her neck might have limited oxygen going to her brain. And all the floral prints she has been wearing were no tea leaves to be read. The pretty penny she has spent on her wardrobe to get her not only to the corridors of the White House and the power nucleus of Washington, but also the world stage, where she had been snubbed, has not been good investment—she won’t be able to continue as the administration’s sweet-faced supremo to defend and blandish the president. A deflated ball, as we know, loses its bounce.

For all the talk and rows of magazine columns that noted fashion has changed, Ms Trump remains trapped in her buttoned-up suits and Sunday dresses, and convinced of her corporate chic and her own fabulousness as counterpoint to her father’s misogynistic propensities

What was Ivanka Trump’s own “larger messaging”? Frankly, I couldn’t read any. Empowering women? Maybe empowering herself. Being her father’s “hot” girl and one he would date (recall: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her”), she was more fembot mascot for brand Trump than the saviour of women in the workforce that her dad couldn’t be. I assume she thinks her fashion reflects the sartorial choices of working women, only they don’t. She is not a working woman like you and I. For all the talk and the rows of columns that noted fashion has changed, especially in the wake of WFH, Ms Trump remains trapped in her stodgy buttoned-up suits and prosaic Sunday dresses, and convinced of her corporate chic and her own fabulousness as counterpoint to her father’s misogynistic propensities.

Throughout her career as a political operative, Ivanka Trump looks the part of tasteful right-wing Trump surrogates (yes, among them, the belligerent Kellyanne Conway) with their less than tasteful assertions that the president was never wrong or never lied. The clothes they wear perpetually look like outfits picked to meet the boyfriend’s mother… for the first time, or to attend a high school classmate’s wedding at the golf course clubhouse. Blandness may serve your base, but they would not move the needle for fashion. Do Ivanka Trump, Hope Hicks, Kayleigh McEnany, Laura Ingraham, and Paula White, I wonder, go shopping together, all heavenly scented, hair flat-ironed so as to reflect the results of a study, as reported by The Atlantic, that suggested, “Republican congresswomen look twice as ‘feminine’ as Democrat”?

Ivanka Trump is, for many of her followers, the epitome of picture-perfect femininity. Or, red-state refinement. I suspect it’s all styled to go along with the popular imagination of what is worn to work in the White House and to meet world leaders. And it doesn’t come cheap. One Rodarte dress she donned to a bash to welcome French president Emmanuel Macron in 2018, the year her fashion label folded, was reported to have cost an eye-watering USD12,888. It was a frilly, micro-dotted, floor-length dress with six tiers for the skirt—sweet but spiritless, fashionable but familiar, beauteous as Barbie. Ms Trump once said, “I’m not a clone, and I’m not a minion”. From a fashion perspective, those are, to quote one former White House press secretary, “alternative facts.”

Illustration: Just So