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To many people’s surprise — or, during a former reality TV star’s presidency, nobody’s surprise — Kim Kardashian paid a visit to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to meet with President Trump and Jared Kushner about prison reform. Specifically, she was there to encourage Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson, a woman who is currently serving life in prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense and who gained wide public attention in 2017 because of a Mic video that went viral.
When the news broke that Kardashian was meeting with Trump, we were curious about not just what she would accomplish, but what she would wear. Fashion has played a big role in how Kardashian has crafted her public persona and thus built her career, but she’s relatively new to the political sphere, which comes with its own opportunities for messaging via clothing.
Here, Racked reporters Eliza Brooke and Rebecca Jennings break down the significance of her White House look: a simple black pantsuit.
Eliza Brooke: I was surprised by what Kim Kardashian wore to the White House yesterday. I was expecting a classic Kim K bodycon turtleneck dress with some sort of low, sleek ponytail. That was not what she gave us.
Rebecca Jennings: Indeed! Instead, she gave us business goth, which is really not a bad look on her.
EB: Not at all. Her suit was loose-fitting, and though it was made by the subversive, extremely of-the-moment brand Vetements, it didn’t come off as a big fashion statement. Paired with loose, professionally blown-out waves, it made Kim look like a cool TV detective. Her shoes, however, did not fit with the Mentalist vibe: highlighter-yellow stilettos.
RJ: What a choice! Are they clear on top?
EB: I’m not sure because most photos of Kim walking into the meeting are terrible and grainy, and in the only clear photo, she’s standing behind Trump’s desk in the Oval Office. Footwear News believes they are Yeezy heels, which would make sense.
[Ed. note: Kardashian is married to Yeezy designer Kanye West.]
WATCH: Kim Kardashian West arrives at the White House, where she'll reportedly participate in prison reform meetings. pic.twitter.com/679YGbalkj— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 30, 2018
EB: I think it’s interesting that she went for such a traditional “business” look while visiting the White House and, in wearing a pantsuit, really conformed to DC’s conservative standards of dress. Obviously, Kim is a businesswoman, but she’s built her empire wearing whatever she wants. When her sister Kourtney visited Capitol Hill in April to push for safer cosmetics regulation, she also went the black pantsuit route — though she wore a white crop top under her jacket, possibly because that was a less formal situation than visiting the White House.
RJ: I get the sense that Kim was going purely out of duty — she’s wearing all black, looking as inconspicuously “Kim K” as possible; she isn’t smiling in the photo with Trump (meanwhile he’s wearing an enormous grin). And after the meeting, she simply tweeted, “I would like to thank President Trump for his time.” It’s not like she was emphatically praising him for anything, as her husband has done recently. She wasn’t there for show — I think she was trying to make it clear that this meeting was about granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson and not much more.
EB: That’s a really good point. Kim Kardashian meeting with Donald Trump in the White House seems like the ultimate reality TV circus, but it felt like she was trying to pull back from that. Everyone was waiting to see what she’d wear, and going for a somber black suit sort of stifles that conversation.
RJ: Also a weird thing that is probably unrelated: Kanye wore all black when he met with Trump in December 2016. I mean, it’s hard to say that two outfits, a year and a half apart, are in any way in conversation with one another.
EB: ... but nothing is a coincidence, and Kanye has been known to act as Kim’s stylist. It’s not unreasonable to think that he might have weighed in on her White House outfit.
RJ: Oh, definitely. And speaking of Kanye, I do think that the fact that this meeting comes right after some really far-right ideas Kanye has talked about and tweeted about is probably not a coincidence?
EB: Probably not.
RJ: :upside down smiley emoji:
EB: Anyway, back to Kim’s White House look. I’m fascinated by it because it’s so different from what she’s worn in the past and, like you were saying earlier, presents a side of her that’s not about self-promotion, even though going to the White House for a very public meeting is inherently self-promotional. It’s worth noting, too, that she borrowed Elizabeth Warren’s move of rolling up her jacket sleeves for her photo op with Trump, which basically says, “I’m here to do the work.”
RJ: Politics is inherently self-promotional too! *hits bong* But actually, I love the fact that she’s using the optics of politicians here. After all, celebrities and politicians are basically the same now. *hits second bong*