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    Decoding Melania Trump starts with her clothing

    Unlike her Twitter-happy husband, Melania Trump maintains a relatively quiet life in the public eye. Her personal opinions are opaque, as were her whereabouts for most of May, when she spent weeks laying low after being treated for a “benign kidney condition,” prompting a number of conspiracy theories about her absence.
    The first lady is something of a mystery to the American people. Despite — or more likely, because of — that disconnect, the public has on numerous occasions attempted to figure her out by the only means available: her clothing.
    The most recent example of this happened this week, when she wore a Zara jacket printed with the words “I don’t really care, do u?” while en route to visit migrant children at the US-Mexico border. In the middle of a crisis over the Trump administration’s family separation policy, it seemed impossible that not a single person on her team — no stylist, PR person, or aide — had questioned the harsh implications of that message.
    But as with many things Melania-related, it was hard to say for sure what she meant by wearing it. Though government officials and their family members often use clothing to send messages, reading those signals is a real challenge when it comes to Melania, simply because she’s provided so little context to work with.
    In reality, people’s interest in figuring out what “I don’t really care, do u?” means likely isn’t just about understanding the first lady. It’s also about making sense of a relentlessly chaotic administration that’s left many Americans with a sense of ongoing instability. It was only days before President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of immigrant families that he said “you can’t do it through an executive order.”
    The outfit-decoding machine has gone into high gear multiple times before, including even before Trump got into office. Every time, we wonder if Melania is trying to send us a message with her clothes. And every time, we’re left with the same answer: We just don’t know for certain.

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