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Sunday, November 13, 2016

When Melania Trump Met Michelle Obama, Their Clothes Did Some of the Talking

Melania Trump and Michelle Obama met for tea on Thursday in the White House

Whatever their feelings about Donald J. Trump winning the presidential election, President Obama and the first lady have been careful to demonstrate that it is time “to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face,” as Mr. Obama said when he met the president-elect at the White House on Thursday. Hillary Clinton began the messaging when she wore a purple-lapel Ralph Lauren pantsuit for her concession speech on Wednesday morning, uniting red and blue in a single shade as she urged the country to unite. And Michelle Obama continued the subliminal signals when she chose a purple Narciso Rodriguez dress with an orange aftershock sunburst curve for her meeting with Melania Trump.It was a nice bit of color diplomacy.But it also wasn’t without implicit references to Mr. Obama’s administration and legacy. After all, it was the second time she wore Mr. Rodriguez this week, the first time being for her final speech for Mrs. Clinton in Philadelphia, delivered in a navy coat by the designer.Mr. Rodriguez is, as it happens, Cuban-American, the son of immigrants and a classic American success story. He is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Frost Art Museum in Miami, chosen in part, the curator told The New York Times, because “It is very important to incorporate the accomplishments of Latin American artists, architects and designers into the canon of history.”Mr. Rodriguez was also the designer of the black and red dress that Mrs. Obama wore when her husband gave his victory speech in Chicago in 2008.Something of a contrast was, not surprisingly, provided by Mrs. Trump. For the visit to Washington on Thursday, she wore a streamlined sleeveless black sheath dress, a matching coat and Christian Louboutin heels. Thus far, as was the case throughout the campaign, no brand has issued the traditional news release about Mrs. Trump wearing its designs, most likely because she buys her clothes herself, rather than working through a stylist or brand. (The shoes were recognizable because of the brand’s signature red soles).Whether that will change when she is in the White House remains to be seen. In the meantime, the fact she wore black instead of her usual white or pastel shades has got some people riled up. (“Melania Trump wore a funereal black dress to the White House,” Yahoo News cried.)Personally, I think it’s too early to judge whether Mrs. Trump thinks about her clothes in communications terms, so I’m going to hold off on reading too much into the shade. Rather, I’d say she looked polished and professional, and as if she wasn’t trying to call attention to herself, though that is kind of unavoidable.Indeed, as Mrs. Obama showed over the past eight years — and reiterated on Thursday — a wardrobe can be a powerful platform for a first lady, making points without her having to say a word. Given Mrs. Trump’s reported antipathy for public performance, it might serve her very well as she assumes her new role 

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