A popular blog devoted to political style news has suddenly and inexplicably vanished, leaving fans confused and hungry for fashion updates from the White House.
White House Wardrobe (WHW), a platform consisting of social media accounts that identified articles of clothing seen on Melania and Ivanka Trump as well as an associated website with shopping links to the first lady’s and first daughter’s looks, shut down last week, announcing the closure in a curt farewell post on Instagram. WHW was consistently a part of online chatter and often cited by major publications such as the New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, and Yahoo Style too.
Despite @whitehousewardrobe’s prominence, there’s not much known about the person behind it. However, she described herself as a “nonpartisan fashion lover” on the account that detailed breaking style news on the first family — be it Melania Trump’s champagne-color Monique Lhuillier knot dress and Manolo Blahnik pumps she wore to a gala event in June or the Escada burgundy pantsuit Ivanka Trump wore when landing in Poland earlier this month.
Another Instagram account called @WhiteHouse_Fash has seemingly cropped up in its place, with the founder (who did not return Yahoo Style’s request for comment), calling the @WhiteHouseWardrobe’s shutdown “sudden” on Twitter.
Hey everyone. Thanks for the love. We're sad to see @whitehousedress go. We will be sharing our White House fashion finds starting tomorrow!
— White House Fashion (@WhiteHouse_Fash) July 7, 2017
When @WhiteHouse_Fash was asked on Twitter why she didn’t just take over WHW to maintain the followers, she explained that “there wasn’t time for planning or transitioning the acct or anything like that.”
Why didn't you just take over White House Wardrobe to maintain the followers, etc?
— HRH Kate Middleton (@HRHKateBlog) July 9, 2017
her departure was so sudden that there wasn't time for planning or transitioning the acct or anything like that.
— White House Fashion (@WhiteHouse_Fash) July 9, 2017
“The timing and the complete disappearance are a little unusual,” Jane Barr, a fellow fashion blogger and founder of the Twitter account @HRHKateMiddleton tells Yahoo Style. “Typically people leave the website and social pages up as an archive, so I do wonder if there is more to the story.”
Barr, who communicated with @whitehousewardrobe through private message on social media, notes that “she was not American, and oddly she wasn’t a Trump fan.”
“She said something to me about running an account that focused on the Trumps, and she made some comment about Donald Trump that wasn’t overtly anti-Trump, but it expressed (to put it conservatively) reservations,” Barr explains. From personal experience being a big Duchess of Cambridge fan and dealing with Kate haters, Barr imagines it would be tough for someone to run such a dedicated account without having a passion for the subject. She also thinks @whitehousewardrobe “probably got her fair share of blowback.”
There are plenty of theories as to why @whitehousewardrobe was abruptly deactivated. For one, it’s not clear where WHW obtained her images, but according to John Thomas, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer and managing partner of Beck & Thomas, running a style blog can get expensive.
“Public figures such as Melania Trump have limited rights to privacy,” says Thomas. “A person could use her image for social commentary, for example in a style blog. However, if that person is making money off that photo in any way, a license is likely required. Without a license, potential damages that the copyright statute provides for could run between $750 to $150,000.” Getty also offers a free embedding service for publishers to use, which links back to its site.
In Barr’s case, she licenses her images of Kate Middleton, embeds images from social media accounts and photo agencies, and has contracts with a photo agency and an individual photographer.
Yet in @whitehousewardrobe’s case, she was seemingly making money from the venture. On whitehousewardrobe.com, she would post shopping links to pieces worn by Melania and Ivanka. Using rewardStyle, an affiliate tool that that helps publishers monetize content, WHW would make a commission on sales inspired by her site.
“Public figures such as Melania Trump have limited rights to privacy,” says Thomas. “A person could use her image for social commentary, for example in a style blog. However, if that person is making money off that photo in any way, a license is likely required. Without a license, potential damages that the copyright statute provides for could run between $750 to $150,000.”
Why WHW shut down is unclear. But sheer exhaustion is another possibility. “I never miss a [Kate Middleton] outfit,” Barr says. “I don’t blog about every single one anymore, because I am in law school and life is pretty busy.”
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