Gliding across the White House south lawn Tuesday, adviser to the president and first daughter Ivanka Trump was sporting a look designed to turn heads: Wearing a bright red pant suit — complete with matching red heels — Ivanka was all smiles as she boarded Marine One for a trip down to Tampa, FL.
The striking red ensemble was the same one she wore earlier in the day for her father's signing of the Perkins Act, a vocational and technical education bill she had been lobbying for for weeks, in the Oval Office. In photos of the signing, Ivanka clearly stands out in the sea of men in blue and black suits.
This morning, POTUS signed the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in to law! This important legislation will benefit millions of students + workers nationwide and equip them with the skills they need to thrive in our modern economy. Thank you to all bipartisan lawmakers, Governors, educators and private sector leaders for your advocacy! #WorkforceDevelopment
In recent weeks, the presidential adviser has been contending with not so flattering press; she announced the shuttering of her eponymous fashion label amid controversy. But, according to a recent New York Times piece, despite criticism and tumult in Washington, Ivanka is ready to reassert her power and image.
Dawnn Karen, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology's Center for Continuing and Professional Studies and a pioneer in the field of "fashion psychology," believes that Ivanka wears bold, red outfits strategically and for an image conscious woman like Ivanka, her red suit Tuesday was no accident. "It's purposeful," Karen told Refinery29 in a phone interview Thursday. "It does mean something."
Ivanka doesn't often wear the colour red; a quick perusal through her Instagram account will show an array of soft pastel pinks, light blues, and floral pattern dresses.
When she does, it's usually in big moments; Ivanka sported the same red pantsuit and a red ball gown while meeting with international business leaders in Lima, Peru and wore a bright red snowsuit during the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
According to Karen, Ivanka is power vying, which means she's not just standing in a room with powerful people, she is powerful in her own right. "The perception of red or the meaning behind it, it’s definitely a powerful colour, it’s associated with a really powerful, high energy type of person," Karen said. "It [red] gives her a sense of I’m good enough to be in this room with these people at these type of powerful events."
Dinner at the historic Huaca Pucllana with President Vizcarra, IDB President Moreno, US Cabinet Secretaries and CEOs, culminating a great first day at the CEO Summit of the Americas in Lima. #SummitAmericas ———— Cenando en Huaca Pucllana con el Presidente Vizcarra, el Presidente Moreno (BID), Ministros de Gabinete de EEUU y CEOs para culminar un increíble primer día en Lima.
Karen said power vying women like Ivanka are "standing alone in their own entity, their own right, owning their own power as opposed to beside a man like Meghan Markle with Prince Harry or Melania Trump with President Donald Trump." Those women, Karen said, are power adjacent.
In comparison, Ivanka wears softer colours and patterns at less high stakes events, like when meeting students at a STEM summer camp or when appearing diplomatic and approachable is important. "There’s not an emphasis of power, there’s an emphasis of being warm and friendly. That’s why she would go towards the softer hues," according to Karen. By design, Ivanka wants to appear "soft, feminine, approachable, warm, and friendly" in these situations, Karen said.
I believe #IvankaTrump also wore a Sandro pantsuit in Lima,Peru last month! The jacket is available here ($455): https://t.co/7fjV93EWbq— White House Fashion (@WhiteHouse_Fash) May 2, 2018
The trousers are available here ($250): https://t.co/Ls6p8fTQuV
Ivanka is often accused of not really doing anything and not doing enough to stop her father's most controversial policies, but in reality, that has not stopped her from being a powerful tool in the Trump administration and being seen as a "moderating force" to her father.
Studies have shown that the colour red invokes strong emotions in humans, and Ivanka's use of it can be seen as a way of her standing up to her detractors. "She’s usually in these rooms with men so to give her that reassurance, to give her that self confidence, to give her that boost, wearing red ... it supercharges her to walk in and own it and step into that power," Karen said of the moments Ivanka chooses to wear red. "We all know that red is a power colour."
Since joining her father's administration, Ivanka has been in a balancing act of wanting to be seen as a real government official and being the president's daughter. Is she really an advocate for women and children or is she simply playing government Barbie and operating as a distraction for the administration? According to Karen, clothing is powerful, and Ivanka is saying she is too — and not just because of who she is standing next to.
To some, that may be superficial. But for Ivanka Trump, it may just be enough.