The New York attorney general’s office has finished presenting its case in the civil fraud trial of former President Donald J. Trump. The first act of the first episode in the extended series known as the Trump lawsuits has come to an end. (The defense begins next week, and four more criminal cases are pending.) The show, however, is only beginning.
Mr. Trump is, after all, a man who has always seen the presidency as perhaps the ultimate expression of reality TV. This stage may not be of his own choosing, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity involved — especially since his three adult children from his first marriage were also there, playing their usual parts. Down to the costumes.
Welcome to the new season of Trump family trial style. It involves a somewhat different look for the brand — one that is notably … well, blue.
The guest star of the week was Ivanka Trump, making a reluctant return to center stage after announcing on Instagram last year that she was stepping out of the political limelight. She was the focus of this week’s final scene, flying up from her home in Florida, emerging from the bowels of a black town car to make her entrance in a navy wool coat and navy pantsuit, a black leather tote clutched in one hand, tiny pearl studs in her ears and with her blond hair falling in soft waves around her face, the picture of gentle, pulled-together professionalism and good will.
That was always her role in the family White House drama: the rational actor, there to talk some restraint into her more bombastic, action-man dad.
That Trump had taken the stand earlier in the week, in a navy suit, bright blue tie hanging extra long, and little flag pin. Not exactly his usual MAGA uniform of red (tie), white (shirt) and blue (suit) but a variation on the theme, perhaps in acknowledgment that the site was not the campaign trail, no matter how much he may use his legal problems to rally his troops. Besides, his pugilistic expression, made famous in his Georgia mug shot and then plastered over campaign merch, was fully present during his testimony, even if no one else was seeing red.
And his suit set the tone for his children, all of whom coordinated in matching navy for their own time on the stand, an implicit show of family unity before any words were uttered. How do we know they’re on the same page?
Just look at Mr. Trump’s sons and co-defendants Donald Jr. and Eric, both of whom testified the week before their father and sister, and both of whom were clothed as the perfect supporting cast, in matching pastel ties and shirts. Specifically, a pink tie and light blue shirt for Donald Jr. on Day 1 of his testimony and a light blue tie and powder pink shirt on Day 2, a light blue tie and white shirt for Eric, colors that would complement, rather than compete with, their father’s primary shades. Both wore matching brown lace-up shoes and carefully landscaped matching facial foliage.
Both, like their father (and sister), avoided the bright red that has become the Trump signature color and, for that matter, any overt displays of wealth through accessorizing — a pointed choice for a family that delights in the trappings of “Dynasty.” And most likely a calculated one for a trial in which the judge has already found that Mr. Trump inflated his net worth, and the question is simply about how much of that flimflam was conscious fraud.
The Daily Mail, the British newspaper that delights in pricing out Ivanka Trump’s outfits, declared that her coat was by Carolina Herrera (when asked, the brand could not confirm), her “executive tote” by Chanel, her pumps by Jimmy Choo and her suit by Trina Turk, but there was little visible branding in her clothes, little to suggest that they were anything other than an outfit meant for cooperation rather than combat.
Even her choice of hairstyle — a departure from her last public appearance, at Kim Kardashian’s birthday party, when she opted for ironed straight locks and a sequined cropped top and skirt — created an impression of earnestness and mainstream relatability.
Why does this matter? The trials are already history-making. No former president has been brought up on charges while simultaneously running for office. No video recordings are allowed as the case is underway, meaning that much of the visual drama is captured by the still images of the main characters as they enter the courthouse or take their place in court.
Those are the images that will become part of the permanent record. They are images that will seep into our minds, whether we are aware of it or not, and help form our impressions. And those images are shaped in part by the elements within them to which everyone can relate: the clothes. Donald Trump Jr. did ask a courtroom sketch artist to “make me look sexy.” He was joking. Maybe. Stay tuned.