Scarf Face

Today’s PR case combines politics and fashion.

For those of you who are thinking, those two topics have little in common, think again. We have a long standing tradition of critiquing the First Family’s wardrobe, especially the First Lady’s.  For the First Lady and Family, fashion is about portraying a public image or “face”, and can sometimes help or hinder the president’s policies.

In fact, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has an entire collection on First Lady Fashions. If you can’t get to the museum, the collection can be viewed online.

And when it comes to First Fashions we love playing fashion critic.  Fashion can also cause PR problem for politicians.

  • Nancy Reagan had recurring troubles with borrowing designer clothes, not reporting it, and not returning them. This led to a complete IRS investigation into President Reagan’s and his wife’s taxes. Could this be connected with Reagan’s tax policies and desire to shrink the IRS?
  • President Lincoln’s wife had such a terrible clothes habit that it ultimately ruined her reputation and their finances. Mary Todd’s spending was seen as horrendous in light of the state of the U.S. and financial devastation from the Civil War.


Today’s Political Fashion Story

Ivanka Trump, daughter of presidential candidate Donald Trump, is making headlines for 20,000 scarves. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled the scarves because the scarves do not meet the U.S. standards for flammability, and pose a risk.


According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,

This recall involves two styles of Ivanka Trump-branded scarves, Beach Wave, in blue, coral and yellow; and Brushstroke Oblong, in blue, red, neutral and green. Both scarves are 76 inches long by 24 inches wide. Scarves are 100 percent rayon with a machine-rolled hem. A black label with “IVANKA TRUMP” embroidered in silver is sewn on the edge of the scarves.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled scarves and return them to the place where purchased for a full refund. Consumers who purchased the scarves online will be contacted directly by online retailers with return instructions.


It’s important to note that this recall is precautionary, and no injuries have yet to be reported.


In any other year, we probably wouldn’t even be aware of this recall, or it would be buried on page 5 of the lifestyles section of the newspaper. It probably wouldn’t even be a 2-second filler spot on cable news.

But, this is an election year and this ends up being more about politics than fashion. Like so many fashion faux pas of politicians and their families, his daughter’s scarves might be another PR blow to Trump’s campaign.

Just hours before the Consumer Products Safety Commission issued the scarf recall, Ivanka Trump was stumping for her father in Bethpage, NY.  Ivanka Trump stood behind a podium that had a Trump “Make America Great Again!” sign on the front of it, and  where she spoke about Donald Trumps’ desire to keep jobs in America, his American work ethic, restore America’s “economic vitality”, and his American entrepreneurial contributions.

Critics of Trump quickly connected the dots between Ivanka’s scarves and her father’s political platform.

Critics claim the scarves are in opposition of Trump’s claims.

The scarves:

  • were manufactured in China.
  • go against Trump’s policy on trade deals.
  • are in opposition of Trump’s claims to ethical business practices.

The 20,000 scarves are not the only Trump-manufactured items to be made in China or other foreign nations.  According to Harvard Professor Robert Lawrence, a majority of the items from both Donald Trump’s and Ivanka Trump’s clothing lines are manufactured in other countries.


Up for Discussion

  1. How might the timing of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall of Ivanka Trumps’ scarves be related to her speech in Bethpage, NY?  Could this be seen as a politically motivated PR story?
  2. How can Trump’s PR manager save “face” after the recall of his daughter’s scarves?
  3. If you were the PR manager for one of the opposing candidates, would you use this story to bolster your candidate’s positions on foreign trade?  Would you use it as a direct criticism of Donald Trump’s policies?


As usual, all respectful and constructive dialogue is welcome and needed.

Note:  Another valuable source of First Lady fashions is the National First Ladies’ Library‘s website, where you can find ten webpages of articles on the subject.)





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