After all, while former first ladies have traditionally made money from memoirs of their experience or speeches (also, in the Obamas’ case, documentary films and podcasts), it is pretty unheard-of for them to make money from selling off a relic of that experience.
“I think it’s unprecedented in modern times,” said Kate Andersen Brower, the author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” of the Head of State sale. “Generally, it’s not seen as a thing to do.”
Traditionally, when an item of clothing is worn by a first lady during an occasion of state, it is donated to the National Archives or a museum such as the Smithsonian since it is considered a part of the historical record, with a soft power value that is impossible to quantify.
Indeed, according to Mrs. Trump’s website, the reason for starting her new venture with the hat lies in the importance of the French state visit. “Mrs. Trump recognized this important moment for the country, and accordingly, a great deal of consideration went into the planning,” it explains. That planning included the ordering up of a one-off made-in-New York hat to match a Michael Kors suit Mrs. Trump had planned to wear.
Of course, the hat prompted head-scratching from observers pretty much from the get-go. In shadowing her face almost completely, while being impossible to miss, it represented the first lady’s famous ambivalence toward her role; in appropriating the cultural tropes of the good guy (the white hat), it also teased the public obsession with searching her clothes for clues to her relationship with her husband. For many, it contained multitudes.