WASHINGTON (AP) — Once an absentee first lady, Melania Trump embraced her moment in the spotlight Tuesday for the French president’s state visit, ditching her trademark dark sunglasses and shining in a look-at-me white skirt suit and matching hat.
All eyes were again on Mrs. Trump on Tuesday evening when she stepped out in a Chanel gown to greet Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, as they arrived for the first state dinner of Trump’s administration. Mrs. Trump’s black Chantilly lace haute couture gown was hand-painted with silver and embroidered with crystal and sequins, according to her spokeswoman.
It was another big fashion statement for the former model.
Earlier Tuesday, Mrs. Trump wore the stylish belted suit with her broad-brimmed chapeau for her public appearances, including on a brief outing to the National Gallery of Art with Mrs. Macron to view an exhibit of works by French painter Paul Cezanne.
The hat stayed atop her head as she returned to the White House and took her front-row seat in the East Room for the president’s joint news conference with Macron. It bobbed up and down across the bottom of television screens as she entered the room and again as she rose to leave, spawning many a Twitter meme.
The hat was designed by Herve Pierre, the first lady’s French-born stylist, according to Mrs. Trump’s office.
“Designing is too big a word for a hat that classical,” Pierre texted The Associated Press.
The skirt suit was a creation of Michael Kors, a designer the first lady has worn in the past.
Mrs. Trump was largely absent from Washington during the first six months of the administration, opting to continue living full time at the family’s Trump Tower penthouse in New York City so their now-12-year-old son, Barron, wouldn’t have to change schools in the middle of the year.
She was rarely seen — and even more rarely heard — during those months, even after she finally moved to Washington last June.
But she seems to be trying to change that, even pushing back publicly against her critics. She recently convened a White House discussion on cyberbullying, an issue she identified as her platform despite her husband’s penchant for belittling and berating his foes on Twitter. She acknowledged that people were skeptical of her commitment to curb cyberbullying but said it would not stop her from doing what she believes is right: helping children and the next generation.
Mrs. Trump’s white outfit Tuesday recalled another high-profile occasion, the president’s first State of the Union address, when the first lady wore a white pantsuit. Trump gave the speech shortly after news broke earlier this year that his personal attorney had paid adult-film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 just before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter Trump says didn’t happen.
Inquiring minds wondered what kind of statement the first lady sought to make with her attire.
Her first state dinner seems to be another area where she is aiming to make a statement. The White House stressed that Mrs. Trump, who planned her 2005 wedding, had a hand in every detail of what is the social denouement of Macron’s visit. She released a brief video showing her working on the details with her staff, including the menu and the cream-and-gold table settings.
Clearly in her comfort zone, Mrs. Trump was seen exchanging pleasantries in French with members of Macron’s delegation during the outdoor arrival ceremony. Her Louboutin stilettos also paid homage to the colors of the French flag with their trademark red sole, towering white heel and blue body.
About 130 guests, seated at round candle-lit tables decorated with bouquets of white flowers, will dine on rack of lamb and nectarine tart served on a mix of china settings from the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. After-dinner entertainment will be courtesy of the Washington National Opera.
State dinner tickets are highly sought after by Washington’s political and business elite and the rather small guest list, compared to the hundreds of guests who came to some of President Barack Obama’s dinners, gives Tuesday night’s soiree a more exclusive feel. Among those in attendance are Vice President Mike Pence, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Apple CEO Tim Cook and two Winter Olympians, who flashed their gold medals on their way into the pre-dinner reception.
In a break with tradition, Trump excluded congressional Democrats and journalists, said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the arrangements publicly. But some Democrats did make the cut, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.