First Lady Melania Trump showcased sartorial diplomacy with her color choice

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While we continue to keep an eye on who Melania Trump is wearing, this time it’s more about why she selected a specific color.

President Donald Trump and the first lady welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan on Thursday for a formal dinner — part of a two-day summit — at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida resort Trump owns.

For her first official hosting event, Melania chose a sleeveless red daisy-appliqué crepe midi dress by Valentino, estimated at $4,000. While it remains to be seen whether her clothing choices will carry a deeper message as her term goes on, many took notice of her sartorial diplomacy as the color of red is a symbolic color of good luck and celebration in China.

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As exemplified by Trump’s predecessor, Michelle Obama, fashion can be utilized as a powerful platform for a first lady, specifically to make points without having to say a single word. The role of dress in ceremonial situations can give meaningful resonance to not only the honored invited heads of state, but also the global interest of the world and fashion industry.

And Obama certainly set the tone with her style selections, especially at State Dinners, choosing outfits made by designers who reflected both her country and that of her guests.

In 2011, the then-first lady drew criticism when she wore a dress from British label Alexander McQueen for the visit by previous Chinese president Hu Jintao. It appeared a diplomatic fashion crisis was averted in September 2015, when she wore a custom black mermaid gown by Vera Wang, the U.S.-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, at the Chinese State Dinner. And the Internet couldn’t get enough.

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Obama continued to fuse the cultural meanings and political significances of her clothing as she gave several ambassadorial nods to a guest country’s talent including Italy (Italy-born designer Donatella Versace), India (Indian-American designer Naeem Khan), South Korea (Korean-American designer Doo-Ri Chung), and Japan (Japan-born designer Tadashi Shoji).

Obama’s stylist, Meredith Koop, told Harper’s Bazaar in October that when engaging in cross-border events, the former first lady always took into account a “country’s cultural norms” and attempts to “pay tribute.”

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Across the pond, Princess Kate Middleton is doing the same.

For the 2015 state banquet for Chinese President Xi, her first-ever state dinner, the Dutchess of Cambridge chose a red bespoke Jenny Packham gown and the Lotus Flower tiara, a pearl and diamond topper that has also graced the heads of Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth.

Meanwhile at Thursday’s Mar-a-Lago dinner, President Trump spoke about the friendship between the U.S. and China.

“It is a great honor to have the president of china and his incredibly talented wife, a great, great celebrity in China, a great singer. It’s an honor to have you in the United States,” the commander-in-chief said. “We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing. But we have developed a friendship. I can see that. I think, long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”

President Xi and Trump as well as the entourage strode through the patio dining area at Mar-a-Lago and retreated to the formal dining room around 7:10 p.m. The president ignored shouted questions about North Korea and Syria.