ALTHOUGH some journalists described US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK as a resounding success, others disputed this claim. “Trump born into a family with an embarrassment of riches made America rich in embarrassments,” one writer said.
Almost all agreed the 45th incumbent of the White House committed a flagrant fashion faux pas – Trump’s white-tie attire for the Buckingham Palace state banquet.
The ultra-formal wear comprises five items: black jacket or tailcoat, a white shirt, a white tie, a white vest and black pants.
Not only was Trump’s white-tie outfit badly fitted, it was over-long in three instances. First, his white waistcoat extended five inches beyond the front of his black dinner jacket, revealing a huge expanse of white that focused attention on his large midsection.
Second, the sleeves of Trump’s black jacket covered the base of his palm. Upsetting the finely-balanced visual of black and white, Trump showed too much white in the middle and, without a peep of the cuffs of his white shirt, his arms were totally encased in black fabric.
Third, slight horizontal folds at the base of Trump’s black trousers suggested it was inappropriate for his height.
In contrast, an impeccably-dressed Prince Charles wore a white waistcoat that didn’t extend beyond the front of his black jacket; the sleeves of his black dinner jacket were an inch shorter than the sleeves of his white shirt while his trousers were two straight vertical lines.
While Trump’s ill-fitting suit is a minor mishap amid the diplomatic choreography of the US-UK relationship, it spotlights a singular aspect of the US president’s persona.
Although Trump regarded the state visit to the UK as a major personal triumph – its red-carpet pomp and centuries-old formalities appealed to his massive ego and proclivity for grandeur – his egregious disregard for the dictates of white-tie attire is puzzling.
Predictably, no bespoke outfitter in the US or UK claimed ownership of Trump’s white-tie disaster. Many commentators suggested Trump had bought his outfit off-the-peg. This suggests either a slipshod approach to the dictates of ultra-formal dinner attire or a preference for dressing economically.
Nine occupants of the White House – starting from President Eisenhower in 1959 and including Trump – have visited the UK to lunch or dine with Queen Elizabeth.
Only three US presidents, however, were accorded the signal honour of a state visit – George W. Bush and wife and Laura in November 2003, Barack Obama and Michelle in May 2011 and now, Donald Trump and Melania.
Among the Trump entourage, one person whose white-tie outfit was impeccably correct was US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – an achievement that eluded Trump’s sons, Donald Jr and Eric, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The most immaculately attired US president invited to a Buckingham Palace state dinner was Barack Obama. In every detail, his outfit – including a white pocket handkerchief – was an exact counterpart to that of Prince Charles.
Despite the rigours of wearing a white-tie outfit, official photos of the separate Buckingham Palace state dinners show Bush and Obama sporting cheerful countenances – a marked contrast to Trump’s sullen mien.
Trump’s ill-assorted garments spawned a multitude of jokes.
Some suggested Trump had borrowed his youngest son Barron’s jacket while others speculated Melania had accidentally put the garment in the tumble dryer causing it to shrink.
American TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said he didn’t know Huggies (a brand of disposable diapers) was now making tuxedos while South African political commentator Trevor Noah claimed Robert Pattinson was the new Batman and Trump the new Penguin.
In a trenchant article in the Washington Post, Robin Givhan wrote: “For any man to bungle white-tie dress – something so regimented, so steeped in tradition, so well-documented – he must be a man who doesn’t bother with the details, who doesn’t avail himself of ready expertise, who refuses to be a student of history or even of Google.
“One does not make white-tie decisions based on one’s gut, lest one ends up with the gut overly exposed.”
One incident showcases the Trump offspring’s disdain for official rules. Donald Jr, Eric, Jared Kushner and the two Trump daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany, posed for a photo in Buckingham Palace. In the background was a sign that said “No photography in this area”.
An egregious gaffe occurred before the state dinner when Queen Elizabeth showed the Trumps the Royal Collection of artefacts at Buckingham Palace’s picture gallery. Pointing to a pewter horse, Queen Elizabeth asked Trump whether he recognised it.
“No,” Trump replied.
“Yes, we gave this to the queen last year,” Melania answered hastily.
Besides possessing a phenomenal memory, Queen Elizabeth is the master of the gentle putdown. On the base of the pewter horse was the US presidential seal with the giver’s name engraved. Admittedly, the lettering may have been too small to be read.
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