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Politics

Donald Trump’s presidential style: dangling neckties and the power of positive thinking

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump dance during the Freedom Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
(Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images)

By all accounts, when incoming first lady Melania Trump stepped into public view on Inauguration Day, she was also stepping into a new role as trendsetter-in-chief. It was a shift reflected in her choice of outfit: a sky blue Ralph Lauren ensemble with matching suede gloves and sky-high stilettos that instantly drew comparisons to Jackie Kennedy’s White House look.

Number 45? Not so much. The new president’s ill-fitting navy blue suit had not been swapped out under cover of darkness for one that better fits his frame. And his familiar red tie was once again cartoonishly long.

Just as a leopard can’t be expected to change its spots, no one really expected Donald Trump, at 70, to emerge from the chrysalis of his candidacy acting, or looking, very different. But the simple act of retying a necktie to the proper length — just grazing the top of the belt — is as straightforward as tying a shoelace. More than that, the tie is so front and center in a suited man’s look (arguably more so in Trump’s case) that a little detail like that goes a long way.

For an example of this, look at any photo of the tuxedo-clad Trump attending Friday’s inaugural balls. His hand forced by the dictates of formal dress, he makes a vastly different impression in a bow tie, the fit of the tux notwithstanding.

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With his wife and daughters using Inauguration Day to signal a fashionable new rung on their evolutionary ladder, it feels as if Trump is trapped in the (poorly tailored) amber of his wardrobe neglect, patently unable to muster a more traditionally presidential mien. That might go a long way toward explaining the look and feel of at least one of last night’s high-profile inaugural balls.

The most visually striking element of the Freedom Ball at the Washington Convention Center was the outsized presidential seal — make that seals plural. Two immense seals flanked the main stage, a third slightly smaller one took up residence at center stage with a fourth hovering above that. 

It was as if Trump, unable to become any more presidential from the inside out, decided to take the opposite approach and turn the trappings of the office all the way up to 11 right out of the gate. This has particular resonance when it comes to the presidential seal which, until noon eastern time Friday, he was legally prohibited from using.

A reality TV professional from way back, the importance of a good backdrop has never been lost on Trump. A flurry of flags was routinely unfurled behind candidate Trump on the campaign trail, and he often used the ostentatious set pieces of his company properties to create an aura of business acumen. That’s precisely why he announced his run for the presidency from the marble-and-gilt lobby of Trump Tower, and why he so often opted for photo opps at the sprawling Mar-a-Lago, a Florida property that once belonged to heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post.

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The stagecraft of the inaugural balls called to mind a connection that’s been drawn between pastor Norman Vincent Peale, author of the 1952 book “The Power of Positive Thinking,”  and Trump’s ascent to the highest office in the land.

President Donald Trump prepares to sign his first executive order in the newly refurbished Oval Office, where the curtains have been switched from red to gold.
President Donald Trump prepares to sign his first executive order in the newly refurbished Oval Office, where the curtains have been switched from red to gold.
(Evan Vucci / AP )

“Think big, and you’ll achieve big results,” says Peale (officiant at Trump’s first wedding) in an oft-cited example of his approach to overcoming obstacles. “Think success, and you’ll have success.”  

That certainly seems to fit in with Trump’s approach, especially in the final days of the presidential campaign. And now, in the earliest hours of his presidency, he seems to have added: “Think presidential, surround yourself with that which looks presidential, and you’ll ultimately be a successful president.”

In this quest, no last detail appears to have been overlooked. Before heading off to the inaugural balls, President Trump decamped to the freshly renovated Oval Office where the seeds of “think and grow rich” Trumpdom had blown in the open window of democracy and taken root: The familiar red drapes from the Obama administration had been replaced with ones in yellow gold. A color more suited to the Trump Tower aesthetic, and the mind-set of a new president moving forward.

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.  

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