How do Melania Trump and Jill Biden’s FLOTUS styles compare? Jill champions US designers and cancer research while Melania gave us the Zara jacket controversy and Be Best campaign

Two presidents, two very different first ladies: Melania Trump and Jill Biden are going their own way when it comes to being FLOTUS. Photos: Reuters, AP

The backdrop of flowers, teapot and US flag said it all: Jill Biden will be no Melania Trump as America’s new first lady.

Where Donald Trump’s ex-model wife cut a flashy but often distant figure, Jill’s appearance on a Zoom “virtual tea” party last week with military spouses affirmed her image as a down-to-earth, traditional FLOTUS.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s only been two weeks since the inauguration and already I’ve had so much to do,” she said.

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As different to Melania as her husband President Joe Biden is to Donald Trump, Jill drew on her own military roots and middle class American upbringing to connect with others on the video call.

“I learned my love of this country from my dad,” Jill, 69, said, recalling the ritual of accompanying her veteran father to a war memorial.

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First lady Jill Biden is championing cancer research during her time in the White House after losing son Beau to the disease. Photo: AFP
At a later event to support the National Cancer Institute, she again underlined her experience with the realities of ordinary life, as she recounted cancer taking the lives of her parents and then her son Beau at just 46 years old.
Melania, who came from Slovenia to the United States as a young immigrant model and met Donald Trump, perhaps had a dramatic American story of her own. But a private nature held her back from sharing it. She rarely spoke at length in public and even less so in unscripted situations, unlike Jill, an accomplished public speaker.
Melania Trump waves as she disembarks from her final flight on Air Force One wearing a colourful Gucci dress – ever the style maven, she was nevertheless not known for championing US designers. Photo: AP 

Instead, Melania’s extravagant clothing often got the real attention.

This included the all black Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Louboutin ensemble worn on departing the White House for the last time in January. By the time she landed in Florida, she’d switched into a colourful Gucci dress worth thousands of dollars – still, as was widely noted, sticking to foreign designers.

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Jill, who is keeping her day job as English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, appeared last week on Zoom in a sensible-looking dark suit jacket.

Jill Biden wearing her Markarian outfit after husband Joe was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021 in Washington. Photo: AP

She did wear designer duds at her husband’s January 20 inauguration, but rather than fancy European brands, she picked the New York-based label Markarian.

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Melania made many fashion statements, including wearing a colonial-style pith helmet to Kenya. None, though, was more remarkable, if not downright bizarre, than her 2018 appearance in a jacket reading: “I really don’t care do u?”
US first lady Melania Trump walks to her motorcade wearing a Zara jacket with the phrase “I really don’t care. Do u?” on the back as she returns to Washington from a visit to the US-Mexico border area in 2018. Photo: Reuters

Jill appears to be signalling: yes, she does.

First ladies have the odd position of being married to the most powerful man in the country, but without a formal public role. So usually they pick a topic to focus on, using the power of publicity rather than law to bring change.

For Melania, it was a somewhat ill-defined “Be Best” campaign for children’s well-being, which she promoted only sporadically.

In Jill’s case, there are three topics that all have the extra heft of being deeply personal.

First lady Jill Biden surprises National Guard members outside the Capitol with chocolate chip cookies in January 2021 in Washington. Photo: AP

The first is building support for military families, a community that she knew well as mother of the late Beau, who went to Iraq with the US National Guard.

The second strand is promoting support for cancer patients and research – a topic that Beau’s death from brain cancer in 2015 seared into the Biden family identity.


The third draws on her lifelong career in education. She was marking student papers right through her husband’s tense presidential campaign and she makes history as a first lady with a paying job beyond the White House walls.

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“That’s my passion,” she told People magazine in a joint interview with Joe Biden. “That’s my life.”

One more difference?

The state of the relationship between Donald Trump and Melania, his third wife, was a constant source of gossip.

46th president of the United States Joe Biden hugs his wife Jill after being sworn in. After 43 years of marriage, the first lady claims they’ve not much left to fight about. Photo: Reuters

The Bidens, though, are threatening to leave the tabloids empty-handed.

“After 43 years of marriage there’s really not that much more to fight about,” Jill told People.

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  • On the day Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden entered it, Melania sported a black Chanel jacket while Jill wore a vibrant blue Markarian outfit
  • Jill has also chosen to support deeply personal causes, including aiding military families; her late son Beau was a veteran