The day of reckoning has finally arrived for Melania Trump. Unable to put it off any longer now that son Barron has wrapped up his school year in Manhattan, the former model, aspiring businesswoman and seemingly reluctant first lady has at last made the big move to the White House.
Officially, Trump’s unorthodox refusal to relocate to Washington D.C. straight after her husband’s inauguration was down to the fact that she didn’t want to disrupt her son’s schooling – and to be fair to both her and Barron, it’s hard to argue with that. Starting a new school in the middle of the academic year is tough, whoever you are; just imagine how much more difficult it would be if your dad was Donald Trump, one of the most unpopular US presidents in living memory.
But just how unusual was Melania Trump’s moving day, really? Here, we compare her move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to that of her predecessor, former first lady Michelle Obama.
Melania and 11-year-old Barron’s move comes five and a half months after Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama, in contrast, moved into the White House on President Barack Obama’s inauguration day, on 20 January 2009.
The interim accommodation
Since January, Trump and Barron have been ensconced in Trump Tower, running up an estimated £13.8million ($17.6m) in security costs (all funded by the American taxpayer, of course). She will now have the privilege of living within grabbing distance of her husband, a man we have no reason to suspect she doesn’t cherish and adore.
Like Trump, Michelle Obama was firm on the fact that her children’s wellbeing was her top priority as first lady. But unlike the Trumps, the Obamas didn’t stall for time when it came to relocating their daughters to D.C.
In fact, they arrived in the East Coast city earlier than most presidential families, moving into the swish Hay-Adams Hotel a full two weeks before Barack Obama’s inauguration day on 20 January 2009. This was to allow Malia and Sasha (then aged 10 and seven) to start school on the first day of term, alongside their new classmates at private academy Sidwell Friends.
The Obamas then stayed in the President’s Guest House (aka Blair House), before finally moving into the White House.
The moving day outfit
For better or worse, first ladies’ fashion choices are always analysed through a political lens. Michelle Obama’s moving day outfit was her inauguration parade outfit: a lemongrass wool lace shift dress and matching coat by the relatively unknown Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo, who proudly notes in her memoir that she came to the US as a political refugee.
Melania Trump’s affinity for luxe European designers, meanwhile, has been highlighted as being at odds to her husband’s fiery America-first rhetoric – notably by The New York Times’ fashion critic Vanessa Friedman. The first lady opted for an entirely European outfit to move into the White House: a pair of wide-legged camel-coloured trousers by Swiss label Bally, a white tank top by Italian designers Dolce and Gabbana, and python Manolo Blahnik heels from Spain. The headline piece was a Hermès Birkin handbag (made in Paris), costing an estimated £10,570.
Both Melania Trump and Michelle Obama brought their parents with them when they moved into the White House. Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs – who normally live with Melania and Barron at Trump Tower – were seen disembarking from Marine Force One shortly after the First Family, although word is that they will not be living at the White House.
Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, also came along for the ride on moving day – and stayed for the entirety of her son-in-law’s eight-year term. Now 79, Robinson helped take care of Malia and Sasha while their parents were otherwise engaged, earning her the unofficial title of ‘First Granny’.
Michelle Obama gave her mother a shout-out during her final talk show appearance as First Lady, saying on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: “I couldn’t have done this without you, Mom. You are my role model.”
A Harvard-educated lawyer in her own right, Michelle Obama was a remarkably dynamic first lady from day one. Within weeks of President Obama’s inauguration, she was hosting women’s advocates at the White House to celebrate the enacting of an equal pay law, and delivering speeches promoting her husband’s economic stimulus package. She also regularly visited local soup kitchens and homeless shelters during her first months in Washington D.C., and urged US voters to get involved in public service.
It’s not yet clear whether Melania Trump will take up a similar role now she has moved into the White House, although that seems doubtful. Republican first ladies have traditionally played a softer role than their Democratic counterparts, and Trump so far has shown little indication that she wants to play an active part in her husband’s administration.
However, Jean Harris, professor of political science and women’s studies at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, tells the Telegraph that pressure is likely to build now for Trump to do more.
“I do think once she’s in D.C. there’ll be more pressure for her to be working on something that’s her own, that's helping some segment of the population because that's what first ladies are supposed to do,” said Harris.
But who knows? If the current US president has taught us anything, it’s that expecting the Trumps to stick to convention isn’t likely to get you very far. What the future has in store for Melania Trump is anyone’s guess – but we’re sure we can expect lots more awkward moments along the way.
Images: Rex Features, Getty