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The Ivanka Dress: A Liberal Mom's Dilemma

Margaret Hetherman is a writer, essayist, and Mother-at-Large with eyes open to climate math. She has written for publications that include Scientific American and PBS-affiliates, with other work on CNN, BBC, and MTV. She is a member o...

A liberal mom's dress-shopping nightmare

Recently, our schedule free from travel basketball, my daughter and I trekked to Macy's in downtown Brooklyn in search of a dress for her eighth-grade dance. But the coming-of-age shopping ritual took a turn toward political crisis when after wading through piles of what my daughter described as "dresses with sparkles and stuff hanging off of them and weird shapes that make you look like an old lady," we landed at a rack of classic, appealing frocks — made by none other than Ivanka Trump.

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A liberal mom's dress-shopping nightmare
Image: Margaret Hetherman

Confronted with a deadline and one classy, cream-colored number that stood apart from the rest, we had to consider some tough, uncomfortable questions.

We are left-leaning gals who are learning that a functioning democracy in America is no longer a right, but rather something that we must actively fight for. My daughter saw this firsthand at the Women's March in D.C., surrounded by hundreds of thousands of others who had congregated to stand up for women. Since Trump took office, we've watched in horror as he has sought to eviscerate the EPA, roll back the Affordable Care Act and trample over immigrants' rights. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Knowing that, could we even consider buying this dress?

I thought of the Ivanka Trump "complicit" spoof on SNL, which had aired the night before our shopping extravaganza. Can we know how much influence Ivanka actually has over policy? By virtue of remaining by her father's side, is Ivanka "complicit" in the potential downfall of the country, and if so, would we be complicit by purchasing a dress with her name on it?

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"It's not like the money is going straight to President Trump," my 13-year-old pointed out. "There are so many people who have done bad things and have relatives they still have to see because they're family... it doesn't mean that they necessarily agree with the same opinions as that person, and it's not like you should just leave your family if they don't have the same political view."

We flirted with trying on the dress, and by the time we found the fitting room, we had about 10 garments in hand — among them, the Ivanka number. A few made the cut to the next round, including the cream classic, which, admittedly, looked fabulous on my girl. The pressure was ramping up.

Futzing at racks and making zigzags across the aisles, I felt torn. Given the dysfunction in the White House, and the resultant desperation that so many of us feel, Ivanka Trump had come to represent some small glimmer of hope. Hope that reason might occasionally prevail. Hope that women and children might have found a true advocate at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And even though all signs seem to point to the contrary, it's hard to let go of that hope.

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We hold out hope because Ivanka is a mother. And because she carries herself with professionalism and grace. We can't imagine that she could truly be blind to the math on climate change when her own children and their children will have to breathe the same polluted air as everyone else. We continue to fantasize that one day, she might yank her father by the collar and shake some sense into him.

In the end, the Trump dress was a little loose on the shoulders, and I can't say that I didn't feel some relief. But we're not done — my daughter and me. It's the beginning of bigger conversations, and she is developing her own opinions and asking the right questions. As for Ivanka, whether or not she can prevent us from getting vaporized remains to be seen. I'll give her this: She had the best-looking dress on the third floor at Macy’s.

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