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Gioia Diliberto

Gioia Diliberto

Posted: March 30, 2009 01:30 PM

What Will Michelle Obama Wear For Tea With the Queen? (VIDEO)

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Update: Gioia Diliberto appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday to what Michelle Obama would wear

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Will Michelle Obama wear sleeves to meet Queen Elizabeth II later this week? Flats? Perhaps a hat? Will she recycle a previously worn ensemble, as a nod to the global economy's perilous state -- which everyone blames on America -- or debut a dazzling new outfit? Does it matter?

You betcha, as Sarah Palin might say. The self styled hockey mom and Alaskan governor learned it the hard way, when she wore a $2,500 Valentino jacket for her big speech at the GOP convention. Had she chosen something more in tune with her down home rhetoric, she could have avoided an avalanche of bad press.

Clothes have great symbolic power, as every mom who's saved her kids' baby shoes knows. For someone of Mrs. Obama's stature, that power can be a social force. Because of the intense interest in the First Lady's fashion choices, the world will closely be watching what she wears on her upcoming trip with the President to London, France, Germany and Turkey. How the First Lady presents herself and how she's perceived could go far towards quelling resentment of Mr. Obama's economic policies.

First stop for the First couple is London, where Michelle is wildly popular, her every fashion decision breathlessly reported in the press, and where the headline of one newspaper recently cried, "Why doesn't the UK have a Michelle Obama?"

Sorry, Carla Bruni, Michelle is the new Diana.

According to the White House schedule, Mrs. Obama will join the President for many of his European events, including tea with Queen Elizabeth II. While Mr. Obama is busy at the G-20 economic summit, his wife will join Sarah Brown, Britain's First Lady, and the other leaders' wives on a visit to a London health facility. In Strasbourg, France, Mrs. Obama will tour a cathedral and a hospital.

At all these events, the First Lady will be standing with Carla Bruni, the 40-year-old ex-supermodel who is the third wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Bruni is the kind of dazzling, professional beauty who tends to blur everyone around her. Still, it is Jackie Kennedy who is perhaps Michelle's biggest competition on this trip.

No doubt, the press will be comparing Michelle's performance and appearance to Jackie's on her triumphant European trip with President Kennedy in the spring of 1961. That visit, at the height of the Cold War, reinforced Kennedy's popularity in the free world, but the French-speaking Jackie stole the show. Kennedy was staggered by the adoring crowds who greeted his wife wherever she went and introduced himself at a news conference in France by saying, "I am the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris."

In her simple sheaths and streamlined ball gowns, Jackie was the very image of modern elegance, "subliminally reinforcing the Kennedy administration's message of forward-thinking dynamism," according to the catalogue for the 2001 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years."

Like Jackie, Michelle is married to a young, handsome, charismatic president who in his personality and accomplishments embodies the bold, optimistic spirit of America. The same can be said of Michelle's clothes, those fresh and original outfits by such U.S designers as Maria Pinto and Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo.

Beautiful clothes can deceive you that the world is a better place than it is - that's why they're so intoxicating. Still, as Coco Chanel once said, "If there's no woman, there's no dress."

Michelle Obama breathes life into everything she puts on. I can't wait to see what she wears for tea with the Queen.