Melania Trump masters the moment

When President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived on the White House South Lawn Tuesday morning to for...

Posted: Apr 25, 2018 12:53 PM
Updated: Apr 25, 2018 12:53 PM

When President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived on the White House South Lawn Tuesday morning to formally welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, one thing was clear: The first lady commanded attention.

Without speaking a word, dressed in a white Michael Kors Collection asymmetrical blazer and skirt -- and an eye-catching, custom-made Herv- Pierre hat -- Melania Trump spoke volumes. This was her house, her dinner and her terms.

It has truly been a spotlight week for the first lady, kicking off with her attendance at Barbara Bush's funeral, the sole White House representation joining other first ladies and former presidents and culminating with her first state dinner. In many ways, the events showcased Melania Trump's contrasts with her husband -- where he is impulsive, she is meticulous; where he is combative, she is compassionate.

The first lady paid homage to France with a Chanel Haute Couture gown, hand-painted with silver and embroidered with crystals and sequins. Dresses for state level events are allowed to be gifted by the designer to be worn at the occasion and then are the property of the National Archives.

READ: The complete guest list for Trump's first state dinner

The President gave his wife a warm thank you for all her efforts on the dinner during his toast Tuesday night.

"To America's absolutely incredible first lady, thank you for making this an evening we will always cherish and remember. Thank you, Melania," he said to applause.

Leading up to the state dinner, Trump spent weeks educating herself about the protocol and history of special White House occasions. The tradition of the state dinner dates back to the Grant administration in 1874, and this will be the 14th time the White House has hosted France for a state dinner, per the White House Historical Association.

Every last detail for Tuesday evening's state dinner has been thoughtfully and carefully overseen by the first lady, who, unlike some of her predecessors, did not hire an event planner or other outside consultants for the event.

"Mrs. Trump selected every item and every detail for the dinner," White House social secretary Rickie Niceta told CNN.

Relying solely on her own research and aesthetic instincts, Trump crafted a cream and gold color scheme, with details spanning the patterns on the chair cushions to the honey with dessert made by bees in the White House hive.

Each of her selections for the Macrons' visit was chosen with meaning behind it, down to the china (from the Clinton presidential era), flowers (white sweet peas and 1,200 branches of cherry blossoms), and menu (rack of lamb with accompanying Cajun-spiced jambalaya, with herbs from the White House Kitchen Garden).

Quelle surprise?

It shouldn't be a surprise that Trump wanted to take ownership of planning the dinner; her design background and experience in New York's social circles and entertaining at her multiple homes make her well-suited to set the stage for a diplomatic dinner party on a grand scale. Here, she clearly felt empowered by her personal expertise, something that has been relatively absent in most of her role to date as first lady.

Prior to her husband taking office, Trump was an unfamiliar political spouse, a very private woman who had spent several years being a full-time mother. But with the state dinner, she had the chance to set the tone for one new thing in her husband's somewhat tumultuous administration.

Trump also chose to hold the intimate dinner in the State Dining Room, which can accommodate 100 to 150 seated guests, rather than tent a larger space outside on the lawn to allow for more people, something Michelle and Barack Obama opted to do for their last couple of state dinners.

"She has been very focused on the experience of the guests, and wants to ensure they are able to truly enjoy and remember the occasion. When you are invited to a dinner at the White House, it is very special to be able to sit in the State Dining Room. After all, this is the People's House, which is rich with history and tradition," East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham said.

Every detail, per the office of the first lady, was meant to "complement and pay homage to the long-standing friendship between the United States and France."

Even the wine selection was chosen with the French-American relationship in mind. The Domaine Serene Chardonnay "Evenstad Reserve" 2015 was grown from French plants from Dijon "that thrive in the volcanic Oregon soil." The Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir "Laur-ne" 2014 "uses the motto 'French soul--Oregon soil.'"

Following a less formal dinner with the Macrons at Mount Vernon on Monday evening, the first lady hopped off the Marine One helicopter and did one final late-night run-through, personally inspecting each detail, including the white lilac centerpieces, the dripless candles and the entry to the evening, a grand hallway decked out in soft light and pink florals.

While reports have indicated that no Democrats from Congress were invited to the affair, the first lady is making a subtle nod to bipartisanship: Guests will dine on Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidential china settings.

Entertainment for the evening will be provided by the Washington National Opera.

Le mus-e

Following the morning arrival ceremony and "review of the troops," Melania Trump hosted Brigitte Macron on a outing at the nearby National Gallery of Art.

While the President jokingly brushed "dandruff" off his French counterpart's shoulder, the first ladies had a decidedly more dignified public visit. They toured the museum, including an exhibit showcasing French post-impressionist painter Paul C-zanne.

"Paul C-zanne's work is a celebration," Trump said in a statement. "It was perfect timing to have these exquisite paintings in Washington while Mrs. Macron was in town."

The two also viewed the impressionist galleries, including the works of American artist Mary Cassatt, who worked in Paris in the 19th century.

The women kept a casual pace, listening attentively to museum officials.

Les cadeaux

One of the most challenging aspects in planning a state visit is the selection of the perfect gift for a visiting world leader. Following protocol and preserving tradition was a priority for Trump, who sought to highlight history with her gift choice.

The Trumps presented the Macrons with a framed section of upholstery from one of the chairs in the White House Blue Room. Featuring a golden eagle surrounded by laurels, the chair was part of the furniture suite inspired by Pierre-Antoine Bellang-, who designed royal palaces in France and created the 53 carved and gilded pieces for the Blue Room, which he was commissioned to create by President James Monroe. Monroe had previously served as a diplomat in France and had taken a shine to French d-cor.

Though President James Buchanan got rid of the set in a redecoration decades later, it was first lady Jackie Kennedy who found the spare pieces and brought them back during her quest to restore the White House. Kennedy worked with a French designer to reproduce missing items, including re-creating the fabric through the French textile firm Tassinari and Ch-tel.

The Trumps will also give the Macrons a photo album upon their departure with pictures of their visit, as well as a Tiffany & Co. silver bowl engraved with the presidential seal and the signatures of both Trumps.

That thoughtfulness is being reciprocated by the Macrons, who on Monday presented the Trumps with a 4--foot-tall European sessile oak sapling from Belleau Wood, in Aisne, France, the site of a landmark World War I battle in June 1918, where nearly 10,000 US Marines and soldiers were killed or wounded. The Macrons and the Trumps planted the oak on the White House South Lawn together on Monday afternoon.

Le diplomate

Over the last week -- and the first year of the administration -- Melania Trump has practiced a quiet diplomacy at contrast with her husband, not hesitating to assert her independence and saying more with her fashion choices, her selective public appearances and her attention to details than with her words.

On Saturday, she entered a lion's den of his political rivals, traveling to Houston to pay her respects to the late Barbara Bush. She fit in with the group, many of whom the President has directly criticized, in a way her husband never could have.

Seated next to Barack Obama, the former president made the first lady crack a brief smile. She even stood, smiling, for a photo with the whole group of former presidents and first ladies.

The services for Bush capped a week that included hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife for two days at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Robinson
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 89°
Rockville
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 87°
Casey
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Brazil
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Marshall
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Hot Holiday Weekend
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 144013

Reported Deaths: 6951
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook909114581
Lake9752418
DuPage9083472
Kane7733271
Will6744320
Winnebago304695
McHenry206197
St. Clair1906136
Kankakee128565
Kendall96320
Madison94769
Rock Island94729
Champaign88012
Boone59521
DeKalb55818
Peoria49928
Sangamon43132
Jackson33219
Randolph2877
Stephenson2745
McLean26113
Ogle2614
Clinton23717
Macon23122
LaSalle21917
Union19119
Whiteside19115
Coles17017
Grundy1674
Iroquois1575
Warren1380
Tazewell1378
Knox1320
Cass1302
Morgan1283
Monroe12713
Williamson1204
Jefferson10717
McDonough10115
Lee972
Adams931
Henry881
Pulaski760
Marion660
Vermilion662
Perry541
Douglas520
Macoupin523
Unassigned500
Jasper467
Livingston452
Jo Daviess441
Montgomery441
Christian434
Jersey351
Ford331
Woodford332
Bureau292
Menard250
Fayette233
Alexander220
Franklin220
Mason220
Wabash220
Carroll212
Johnson200
Mercer200
Piatt200
Washington200
Hancock191
Crawford180
Moultrie180
Shelby181
Fulton150
Logan150
Clark140
Wayne141
Bond131
Massac130
Schuyler130
Cumberland120
Effingham121
Brown100
Edgar100
Greene90
Saline90
Henderson80
Marshall80
Lawrence70
De Witt60
Hamilton50
White50
Richland40
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Pike20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 46387

Reported Deaths: 2662
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11434680
Lake4985241
Elkhart313343
Allen2695117
St. Joseph185766
Cass16369
Hamilton1502100
Hendricks1371100
Johnson1244118
Porter69037
Tippecanoe6598
Madison64363
Clark62744
Bartholomew58044
Howard55057
LaPorte54125
Kosciusko5003
LaGrange4646
Jackson4583
Vanderburgh4576
Noble45128
Delaware42949
Boone42743
Hancock42535
Marshall4183
Shelby41825
Floyd37044
Morgan32331
Montgomery29020
Grant28726
Clinton2812
Monroe26328
Dubois2616
White25910
Decatur24732
Henry23615
Lawrence23624
Vigo2278
Harrison20822
Warrick20729
Dearborn20622
Greene18432
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1557
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1296
Franklin1248
Steuben1242
Perry1239
Ripley1148
Jasper1132
Carroll1092
Wabash1092
Fayette967
Newton9610
Whitley814
Randolph774
Starke773
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson661
Washington651
Knox630
Pulaski621
Clay594
Rush563
Benton480
Adams471
Gibson462
Owen451
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey360
Spencer331
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0193