Melania Trump takes floral fashion diplomacy to new lengths in China
The wife of the US president references Chinese tradition during her three-day trip to Beijing
Melania Trump, the wife of the US president, made several floral sartorial nods to her host country on the couple’s trip to China, culminating in an opulent Chinese-style embroidered qipao by Gucci for a state dinner on Thursday night.
Looking every stiletto inch the ex-model, Trump sported a black floor-length dress stitched with brightly coloured flowers and a phoenix, a symbol of an emperor’s wife in imperial China. The dress’s sleeves were trimmed in pale pink fur, a look that combined Chinese tradition with Trump’s preference for Italian luxury labels.
But Hong Kong fashion designer William Tang said Trump’s qipao was overembroidered.
“Westerners tend to think Chinese style should be loud,” Tang said.
Peng Liyuan, folk singer and wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, also went for a striking qipao for the state dinner, making her most daring selection for some time. Peng wore a sheer, looser-cut black qipao over a dark wine-coloured sleeveless dress.
The fashion parade started earlier in the day when the two women visited a primary school.
For that event, Trump wore a long, floral appliqued US$4,000 Dolce & Gabbana gown, looking a little overdressed. Peng wore a dark, double-breasted coat over a dark bronze qipao.
The outfits were a contrast in style, type and lengths, but there was an attempt at harmony in the concepts. Trump’s feminine, black dress was much more conservative than her usual outfits, and referenced Chinese aesthetics with its graphic pale pink floral detailing. Peng also put the accent on Chinese style with her shiny, over-the-knee qipao inside her Western style coat.
But Trump’s look did not score highly with Shanghai-based fashion designer Fang Yang.
“To be honest, I didn’t like the big floral dress Melania wore to the school,” Fang said.
“It actually makes her look older and two sizes bigger than she is. Peng Liyuan looks quite conservative in that double-breasted coat, but the slits on the side revealing the dress inside are quite interesting and makes the outfit much lighter.”
Fang also preferred Peng’s modern grey coat with a dramatic draped neck to Trump’s beautifully tailored but sombre all-black coat and dress during the Forbidden City tour on the chilly first day of the trip.
“Peng looks warm, sophisticated and happy and the piece is very well designed,” Fang said. “Melania looks very conservative and serious in all black. It looks so heavy. I would have given her a colourful scarf or accessory to lighten things up.”
Visiting the Beijing Zoo on Friday, Trump opted for a more formal style with a black overcoat and a long grey skirt.
Tina Liu, a Hong Kong-based image consultant, said Trump opted for more conservative clothes for the China trip compared with her usual bright outfits, while Peng also displayed a safe and elegant style.
Overall, both presidential couples did well with their wardrobe strategies, she said.
“These two couples are more than professional in wearing whatever needs to be worn for their daily activities,” Liu said. “They have people behind them to support this part of the operation.”
Additional reporting by Viola Zhou