In France, Melania Trump Flies the Fashion Flag of Friendship


It began Thursday morning when she left Air Force One in a bright red Dior Bar skirt suit, a modern interpretation of the signature shape, and an outfit chosen, according to her stylist and sometime couturier, Hervé Pierre, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the storied fashion house.

“For me, Dior is like the Eiffel Tower; it’s associated with Paris forever,” Mr. Pierre said.

(Mr. Pierre, as you may remember, is the designer who made Mrs. Trump’s gown for the inaugural ball, and he has been advising her and designing for her ever since. He is also French-American.)

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Ms. Macron in Louis Vuitton at Le Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

Credit
Pool photo by Yves Herman

As it happens, Dior is the subject of a major exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. And the first outfit on display in that show — the one meant to symbolize the house — is a red Bar skirt suit from 1947 that helped introduce the designer’s “New Look.”

Next to Mr. Trump’s navy suit, white shirt and bright blue tie, Mrs. Trump’s version, from the current spring collection, created an unmistakably patriotic picture as the couple stood on the tarmac.

It was followed later that day by a dress designed by Mr. Pierre for the dinner that Mrs. Trump and the president had with President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife, Brigitte, at Le Jules Verne, a restaurant in the (yes) Eiffel Tower.

The dress had a white bodice, red insert at the waist and blue pencil skirt, the top covered in wheat-like appliqués. Wheat being, Mr. Pierre said, the “favorite flower” of another famed French designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Not to mention the fact that Marianne, the symbolic female face of France, is often depicted carrying a sheaf of wheat. (Coco Chanel also regularly used the iconography in her work.)

That outfit was followed Friday morning at the Bastille Day military parade by a white sleeveless full-skirted Valentino dress covered in bouquets of red tulips and blue cornflowers. Cornflowers, or bleuets, are the French equivalent of the British poppy: the flower of remembrance. (Events in Paris were also commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.)

Admittedly, Valentino is an Italian brand. But the house has its fashion shows in Paris. Besides, Mr. Pierre bought the dress on Mrs. Trump’s behalf a few weeks before, and given that they only had two weeks to get ready for the trip, they seem to have been strategically shopping her closet.

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Mrs. Trump, in Dior, and Ms. Macron, in a white Louis Vuitton dress, at a welcoming ceremony for the Trumps on Thursday in Paris.

Credit
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

As a visual demonstration that this trip was about outreach and about what the United States and France might share — plus a nod to a little cultural sensitivity and knowledge — the selections may not have been subtle, but they were effective.

Especially when engaged in silent bilateral meetings with the Louis Vuitton looks of Ms. Macron, who has been consistently wearing that core French brand since her husband took office.

Ms. Macron’s appearances in a white Vuitton dress with navy Vuitton shoes and bag to greet the Trumps, a Vuitton lace dress with silver collar for the Eiffel Tower dinner, and a navy Vuitton silk dress and jacket for the Bastille Day parade were further proof that she has unofficially decided to work with the house on crafting her image. One that uses a name embedded in French patrimony but wrested into the 21st century by the designer Nicolas Ghesquière to communicate a mix of history and modernity.

If you’re wondering what shape that takes, think minidresses with motorcycle-wear detailing.

Mrs. Trump has not been this consistent, and seemingly deliberate, in her approach to her public wardrobe since her husband’s inauguration.

Whatever the reason for the change — a desire to distract from the controversies swirling at home, to show clear support for her husband’s attempt at friend-making, or perhaps because she is getting more familiar with the exigencies of her role — it’s a new episode in the reality show that is the Trump administration.

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