I think it’s pretty objective to say that Melania Trump’s choice of outfit for the Republican National Convention this year was militaristic at least and World War II at best.
Countless outlets picked up on the obvious topic, drawing comparisons between the First Lady’s sartorial choice and the fashion of Fascist leaders. But one account – social media’s biggest fashion watchdog – seems to have gone too far for the liking of their followers.
Diet Prada‘s Melania saga first began with this post. An innocent, clear enough comparison – I think most of us can agree – paired with a particularly good caption.
Next, the account turned up the heat with a second post, directly accusing Melania of being a fascist and including her in an Instagram Reels carousel of historically horrible figures.
Not a proud moment for Melania, however much she may have welcomed the side-by-sides, but still, a majority of Diet Prada’s 2.2 million followers were on board for the content. Fashionable folk like Derek Blasberg and Samantha Angelilli respectively commented, “Hard to argue with history,” and “Fashion speaks louder than words.”
But this third and last Melania RNC post is where things really fell apart.
A photoshopped image of Melania smeared with a Hitler mustache, sporting the Fuhrer’s visor cap. Though the caption admits the controversial nature and potentially damning effects of the photo, the post’s acknowledgement fell all the more flat in contrast to its highly loaded iconography, stirring people to jump off the Diet Prada bandwagon in a big way.
A heavy handed scroll through the comments section paints a just about unanimous audience opinion that the image was an insensitive, disappointing and offensive move.
To begin to assess the scope of the reaction, this third post has gathered over four thousand and five hundred comments so far, compared to the one thousand and four hundred comments left on the account’s first, seemingly harmless Melania WeWoreWorldWar photo.
As influencers and laypeople threaded together to condemn Diet Prada’s post, some remained confused as to why the photo was so upsetting. For those in that camp, I would point them towards the words of Michal Kurtis. A former Fashion Director at Barney’s, who happens to split her time between New York and Berlin, took to her stories to succinctly sum up the issue.
Do I think that Diet Prada intended this photo to be extremely provocative? Yes.
Do I think that Diet Prada was actively trying to be anti-semitic? Most likely no.
Does a lack of anti-semitic intent make it okay? Up to you.
What for some may seem but a childishly mean and silly photo to be swiped past and forgotten about, is for others a horrible misuse of history. An appropriation of Jewish pain for the small effect of further rubbing in the point of Melania’s anything but subtle ensemble. A point which all things considered was more than clearly expressed in their first two posts.
Perhaps if there’s any one universal thing to be learned from this exercise in social media escalation, it’s that controversial side by sides are one thing – asking viewers to make a guided comparison between two subjects – while problematically altering a person’s image is entirely another. The latter involves no asking, makes no insinuations, but instead does all the telling. And I don’t know about you, but I hate being told exactly what to think about something.