Powering ahead of her husband to board Air Force One in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, Melania Trump once again showed herself a genius at using dressing as an implicit form of messaging.
Channelling a classy trainee ninja, the 47-year-old legged it up the stairs in head-to-toe black: oversized sunglasses, practical top, pants and buckled combat boots.
Even with Donald Trump lumbering behind as a visible touchstone of her role, Melania appeared to be trying to go incognito.
For FLOTUS observers, the subtext of the $2025 flat Dior boots was pointed. Melania, whose signature is an uber feminine spike-heeled Manolo Blahnik pump, was using a pop culture symbol of urban resistance to talk tough.
She knows as well as anyone that these boots are made for walking. But she was also turning off the lights, literally and figuratively trying to hide in the shadows.
When she got off the plane at Andrews Air Force, the queen of passive aggressive literal fashion – a Gucci cheongsam in China, Dolce & Gabbana in Italy – looked even more invisible after adding a pulled-down beanie to her cat burglar outfit.
“I have learned not to believe in Melania Trump coincidences,” tweeted CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett.
“Generally speaking, her movements and decisions are thoughtful and done with intent.”
Melania now has an approval rating much higher than her husband’s, and she must know that when she uses fashion as a subversive tool to suggest what she presumably cannot say, it provokes a groundswell of support.
Among those noticing the latest fashion semaphore signals was the Los Angeles Times, which ran a story headlined “How much more humiliation can Melania Trump take?”
Said the newspaper: “We get no good vibes from the Trump marriage.
“Trump, who demands adoration, would no doubt love for Melania to gaze upon him the way Nancy Reagan gazed upon her Ronnie. But Ronnie didn’t cheat on Nancy with porn stars and Playmates.”
In the last month Mrs Trump has endured porn star Stormy Daniels alleging she was paid $US130,000 in hush money over an affair she alleges she had with Mr Trump in 2006.
She declined at the last minute to accompany the President to the World Economic Forum in Davos, then arrived solo – in a Hillary Clintonesque pantsuit – for January’s State of the Union address.
Last week, The New Yorker reported that former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal allegedly had a nine-month affair with the President around the same time Daniels said he was seeing her.
For the Trumps’ February 18 trip to a Florida hospital to meet survivors of last week’s high school shooting, Mrs Trump drove separately to Andrews Air Force Base instead of taking a helicopter from the White House with her husband.
She shrugged off her husband’s hand getting off Air Force One, then strode the hospital corridors in structured white and a draped cardigan like a glamorously avenging Nurse Ratched.
The Trumps then hit up his Mar-a-Lago estate where, according to The Washington Post, Melania failed to show at a dinner her husband hosted.
Somewhere else she’s a no-show? Magazine covers.
While Michelle Obama was a three-time Vogue cover girl while first lady, Melania is yet to make her debut on anything.
“We have a tradition of always covering whoever is the first lady at Vogue,” US editor-in-chief Anna Wintour told the Wall Street Journal in February.
But the print magazine has not interviewed her since she became First Lady. Reportedly, Melania avoids interview requests in case she’s asked about her marriage.
Said Stellene Volandes, editor-in-chief at Town and Country: “Her silence only makes her more intriguing.”