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Michelle Obama, her daughters Sasha and Malia, and her mother Marian Robinson are on a goodwill tour of China and, like any public appearance by the first lady, the visit is an opportunity to telegraph subtle diplomatic messages. MObama apparently must do so via lunches (one is planned for a Tibetan restaurant, which "may draw attention to U.S. criticism of Chinese rule in Tibet") and by way of her clothing, which has been carefully chosen. "Soft diplomacy," as it's described.
For her first look, Obama deplaned in China in a black, cream and tan Derek Lam long-sleeve dress. Lam was born in California of Chinese-American parents. Next up, for an engagement with China's first lady, Peng Liyuan, the FLOTUS selected another American designer of Chinese lineage, Phillip Lim. She wore his black vest, wide-legged black pants and a white blouse to visit a Beijing high school. Later, Obama shed the vest for a table tennis session. "My husband plays. He thinks he's better than he really is," she said according to the Times. For a photo opp and visit with China's president Xi Jinping, the first lady chose a detailed dress in bright red, a color that symbolizes happiness and good fortune in China.
Lest you think the US is alone in analyzing its first lady's fashion choices, MObama's counterpart is also heavily scrutinized every time she wears something new. Her preferred designer, Ma Ke, is reluctant to even talk to the press, playing down her role in Liyuan's image. As she said to a Chinese state-controlled news outlet last year, "If you eat a tasty egg, why would you want to see the hen?" Logic.