WASHINGTON — Americans are usually eager to see what the first lady will be wearing to the president’s State of the Union address, how she will greet attendees and which guests she has invited to sit near her to watch the speech.
Rarely is there a question about whether she will show up at all.
In the end — spoiler alert — Melania Trump attended President Donald Trump’s first such address on Tuesday night. She entered to a loud round of applause. Fresh from Palm Beach, she sported a tan. She flashed a wide smile.
And, for the record, she wore Dior.
It was a high-profile resurfacing for a notoriously private first lady who in recent weeks has stayed largely out of sight. Her recent absence from public life was said to have been caused, in part, by anger over reports that porn star Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair she had a decade earlier with the president.
But Melania Trump, unlike other first ladies, did not travel with her husband along the protester-studded route to the speech.
Her cream pantsuit stood out in a sea of black suits and blue ties. Those trying to read the tea leaves on her choice of dress would have two telling options: Her suit was close to the white color and style chosen last year by women in the Democratic Party, who wore it in a salute to suffragists during Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress. (It was also a color favored by his campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton, in public appearances.) More recently, musicians wore white to this year’s Grammys in a nod to the “Time’s Up” movement.
Or maybe cream just looks good against a tan.
The first lady’s decision to travel to the Capitol without the president was a move that the White House chalked up to her desire to spend more one-on-one time with her guests at the speech. They included a fire prevention technician who saved 62 children and summer camp staff members from a wildfire last summer, and an aviation electronics technician in the Coast Guard who rescued dozens of people from hurricane ruins.
“In addition to holding a White House reception and photo opportunity for them, along with their friends and family, she accompanied them to the Capitol,” Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement that also mentioned Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife. “The first lady and Mrs. Pence are now hosting a more intimate meet-and-greet to engage with them on a personal level before the speech.”
According to former White House officials, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama all traveled with their husbands to their State of the Union addresses.
“Like everything else,” said Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to Laura Bush, “the Trumps are forging their own path.”
McBride added: “That was smart to have all the guests up at the Hill already and greet them there — fewer movements on a complicated night of a lot of moving parts. Probably something we should have thought of.”
As his wife traveled to the Capitol without him, Donald Trump, clutching a sheaf of paper, climbed into the presidential limousine, nicknamed The Beast, at the White House. Reporters saw him appear to be reciting parts of the speech to himself. Ever the showman, he waved to the cameras.