SAY IT WITH FLOWERS: First Lady Michelle Obama kept things fairly casual for Tuesday’s state dinner with Cuban President Raúl Castro in Havana, wearing a floral knee-length dress from Naeem Khan.
The mom in chief wore a V-neck long-sleeved style that looks nearly identical to a $4,490 one from the New York-based designer’s collection. A spokeswoman for the designer confirmed the dress was one of his creations.
Her vibrant look adhered to the “casual cocktail” dress code, which called for the President and Castro (and no doubt other male attendees) to opt for navy business suits, white shirts and, coincidentally, blue ties. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; the First Lady’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen; Secretary of State John Kerry; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) were among the Americans in the crowd at the Palace of the Revolution, where a Cuban band was expected to help keep guests entertained.
Restoring ties with the Communist nation has been decades in the making, so appearances need not be tantamount. But the First Lady has shown some allegiance for Cuban-American relations, since her husband’s inauguration in January 2009. At that time, FLOTUS surprised many style-watchers by choosing an ecru-colored dress and coat for her husband’s swearing-in ceremony from the Cuban-born, New York-based designer Isabel Toledo. The First Lady has also worn designs by Cuban-American designer Narciso Rodriguez many times, including at this year’s State of the Union address.
It was less than two weeks ago that FLOTUS earned high marks from fashion critics for the strapless asymmetric Jason Wu midnight floral gown for the White House state dinner in honor of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. Khan was the designer whom Obama turned to for dresses for the First Daughters’ attendance at that East Room event. Seventeen-year-old Malia went with a strapless nude embellished dress and 14-year-old Sasha opted for a racer-front sheer floral dress with lace and velvet insets. The occasion marked the first time either teenager had attended a state dinner.
FLOTUS also wore a Naeem Khan gown for her first state dinner in honor of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2009. On that occasion, the strapless gold gown with silver appliqué that the designer made solely for the First Lady lit up social media — much like Friday’s reaction to her daughters’ choices. The Indian-born, New York-based Khan also provided the ivory wool-appliqué coat with a jeweled neckline and trim and coordinating dress that FLOTUS wore to the 2013 National Prayer Service during her husband’s second inaugural weekend in January 2013. At that time, Khan described his tie to the First Lady as “an ongoing thing.”
With their daughters, who are on spring break, in tow, the first couple appear to be having an enjoyable three-day stay. After Air Force One arrived Sunday at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, the Obamas emerged smiling despite the afternoon rain. The First Lady’s springlike attire — a white, navy and red floral A-line Carolina Herrera dress — inevitably brightened the spirits of somewhat soggy well-wishers. Following a walking tour of Old Havana, the Obamas caught a Rolling Stones concert that had been pushed back two days so that the President could attend.
Having supported a wide range of American designers throughout her husband’s two administrations, FLOTUS took some time Monday afternoon to visit Fabrica de Arte, a facility in Havana that showcases Cuban art, design, architecture and fashion. For that occasion, she wore a flattering khaki and black printed dress.