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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN wonders what went on behind Melania Trump cat’s eyes as she read prepared words


When Melania Trump walked away from the podium after her address at the Republican Convention, she made me think of Jackie Kennedy, which was not at all what I had expected. 

For, just like her illustrious predecessor, Melania is a complete enigma. What on earth was going on behind those cat’s eyes and scimitar cheekbones as she read her prepared words? 

How deceptive was Jackie Kennedy’s breathy, captivating, little girl voice, her wide gaze blanking out her husband’s voracious womanising as she sat alongside him at state banquets. 

The role of First Lady is highly visible yet curiously opaque. The women are catapulted into the spotlight for one reason only – their relationship to their partner. Requirements for the position are to be diplomatic, discreet, charming and well dressed. And to talk the talk. 

As Melania Trump walked away from the podium after her address at the Republican Convention (above), I thought of Jackie Kennedy, which was not what I expected

Often pilloried for being a cipher, last week Melania grabbed the headlines, speaking up for values that The Donald and his regime have little time for. Words such as compassion and healing were sprinkled through the autocue after months of rioting on the nation’s streets. 

She adopted face masks when her husband was still railing against them. And how many times has she pointedly refused to hold his hand?

Now, clearly Melania is no Pollyanna. She’s a tough Slovenian who, when asked if she married Donald Trump for fame and fortune, replied: Did he marry her for her looks? 

But cast your mind back to those long ago days of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton and the Bush wives at the White House. 

None spoke a public syllable that didn’t parrot their husband’s message. And Jackie. Well, Jackie didn’t speak in public much and kept her own counsel. 

She was a reluctant campaigner and had agreed to accompany the President on the doomed visit to Texas only to make up for having taken an unpopular trip on Aristotle Onassis’s yacht in Greece that summer.

Indeed, she was often viewed as being distant and cold and out of touch with the people. Like Melania, she was known for spending a fortune on clothes. And, like Melania, she sometimes got it wrong.

Melania’s choice of tightly belted khaki combat suit – ‘junta chic’ as it has been wittily termed – to deliver her address was a little odd, and she has form on controversial wardrobe choices.

But in the early days, Jackie’s style was regarded as similarly ham-fisted, her love of French fashion thought of as appallingly unpatriotic. In the end, to keep the American public happy, she hired dressmaker Oleg Cassini to copy the Parisian couturiers.

Jackie Kennedy was a reluctant campaigner and agreed to accompany the President on the doomed visit to Texas only to make up for taking an unpopular yacht trip in Greece

As the heat gets turned up on the forthcoming American election, I’ll be fascinated to see what Melania does next.

Who knew a cuppa could be so naughty?

Thankfully I will never be pregnant again. It would be unbearable with the amount of prohibitions and bossy instructions around now. Tea and coffee are the latest items that are off the list. I asked my mother if she could remember what restrictions were advised during her pregnancy with me in 1957. 

‘You weren’t supposed to smoke or drink,’ she recalled. ‘And did you?’ ‘Well, of course. Throughout the whole thing. And I remember the hospital giving me a glass of Guinness after the birth.’

You won’t catch me in a rented batwing

Generation Rent now applies to clothes. Every day a new rental business is launched. The best of them deliver bandbox fresh clothes to your home and a chance to experiment with a lime green batwing dress, for a fraction of the price you would fork out to buy it. 

Then you just send it back. But even so I can’t get my head around renting clothes. There are certainly occasions when you just need to tick the box for an event and I can see that here renting could be a solution.

Even so it seems a rather soulless approach to what you wear. I like to own my clothes. They are part of me and my life history and I enjoy wearing them again and again. What a journey they take as our companions. 

How many of us treasure a piece from our mother or grandmother that we know they wore at a special event? How many women like the idea of handing something they love down to their daughters?

Renting is certainly a practical solution to always having something different to wear. It’s a glorified dressing-up box. But personally, I’d rather be seen in the same old thing that I know and love.

Pret pays the price for overindulging

Pret-a-Manger shedding 2,800 jobs is terrible news but there are far too many Prets around. 

When I worked in an office, I often used to buy my lunch there – a crayfish and avocado salad, or an egg sandwich if I was feeling self-indulgent. 

Pret-a-Manger shedding 2,800 jobs is terrible news but there are too many around. Perhaps a better side effect of the pandemic will be an acceptance that there is such a thing as too many

I had a choice of four branches all within about five minutes’ walk. The reason for this was nothing to do with how many people needed a chicken wrap and everything to do with a continual demand for growth by the Luxembourg-based investment fund that owns Pret.

It’s the same story with many of the high street stores that expanded into more and more sites to demonstrate their success and are now left with ghost buildings.

Perhaps one of the better side effects of this terrible pandemic will be an acceptance that there is such a thing as too many.

Fashionable masks? I’ve got that covered

Now that masks are mandatory everywhere in Paris I feel more justified in having splashed out on a five-pack in Liberty print cotton.

I have no plans to be in Paris but at least now I feel prepared should the need arise. 

Dame Helena Morrissey says she’s sticking to the plain utility versions so masks don’t turn into a fashion item, but given that whatever you wear is such a nasty experience, I’d rather they looked and felt as appealing as possible.

Now I need to Eat In To Stay Trim, Rishi

Most people gained weight during lockdown. For some reason I was lucky enough to lose it. No longer. 

Thanks to Rishi’s Eat Out To Help Out, which encouraged me into eating both lunch and dinner in a restaurant the other day, and a social life resuming, the pounds have piled back on. 

I need an Eat In To Stay Trim initiative.

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