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Thursday 18 October 2018

A state affair: Melania takes her moment to sparkle in the spotlight

The first lady appeared in a Chanel gown to host the first state dinner of Donald Trump’s administration.

The couples meet at the White House
The couples meet at the White House

By Darlene Superville and Catherine Lucey

Melania Trump has seized her moment to sparkle in the spotlight as she stepped out of the background to host her first state dinner.

The first lady appeared in a Chanel gown to greet President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife Brigitte, as they arrived for the first state dinner of Donald Trump’s administration.

It was a big moment in fashion — and public life — for the former model, who has kept a relatively low profile since Mr Trump took office.

With the opulent affair, Mrs Trump seemed to be aiming to make a statement, stressing her personal involvement in picking the menu and gold-trimmed table settings.

In a nod to France, she wore a black Chantilly lace Chanel haute couture gown, hand-painted with silver and embroidered with crystal and sequins, according to her spokeswoman.

Mrs Macron wore Louis Vuitton.

The president lavished praise on his wife in his toast, calling her “America’s absolutely incredible first lady”.

He went on to hail the bonds between the US and France, saying: “May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger and may our sacred liberty never die.”

With 123 attendees, the event was more intimate than Barack Obama’s dinners.

Among those attending were vice president Mike Pence, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and two Winter Olympians, who flashed their gold medals on their way into the pre-dinner reception.

Guests at the Trumps’ table included Apple chief Tim Cook and CIA director Mike Pompeo, the president’s nominee for secretary of state, as well as Mr Macron and his wife.

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The couples pose for photographs as they arrive at the White House

In his toast, the French president talked about the countries’ “unbreakable friendship” and referenced his and Mr Trump’s rapid political ascents, saying: “On both sides of the ocean some two years ago, very few would have bet on us being here together today.”

While Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser and the president’s elder daughter, and Louise Linton, the wife of treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, wowed in designer gowns, there were no surprise celebrity guests, in contrast with previous years.

The White House stressed that Mrs Trump, who planned her 2005 wedding, had a hand in every aspect of the social conclusion of Mr Macron’s visit. She released a brief video showing her working on the details with her staff, including the menu and the table settings.

The guests, seated at round candle-lit tables decorated with bouquets of white flowers, dined 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 was courtesy of the Washington National Opera.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mrs Trump wore a stylish belted suit with a 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.

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Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron tour the National Gallery of Art

The hat stayed put 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 Mr 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 and the skirt suit was by Michael Kors.

Press Association

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