BY COLLEEN BARRY
TAORMINA, Sicily (AP) — Melania Trump’s first outing in the Sicilian sunshine was in a colorful floral applique jacket by Dolce & Gabbana that sells for $51,000, or several thousand dollars below the median U.S. income in 2015.
She also carried a matching clutch to lunch with spouses of the G-7 leaders, held at the historic Elephants Palace and hosted by Catania’s mayor.
The burst of color in the U.S. first lady’s wardrobe came after a steady dose of mostly black and white during President Donald Trump’s inaugural overseas tour, including a prim black lace dress with a matching mantilla headcover that she wore to meet Pope Francis, and a dark jacket with golden detailing on the cuff and collar that she wore for her arrival in Italy. Both outfits were also by Milan designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
The fashion choices of America’s first ladies are a longstanding source of public fascination, and Mrs. Trump is getting a taste of that on the trip, her first extended period in the public eye since her husband’s inauguration. She has been living in the couple’s penthouse at Trump Tower in New York instead of the White House, but plans to move to Washington once the couple’s 11-year-old son finishes the school year.
Michelle Obama, for example, received rave reviews for most of the gowns she wore to White House state dinners that she and her husband hosted. But she was also mocked for some fashion choices, including wearing shorts on Air Force One and sporting designer sneakers that cost more than $500 during a visit to a food bank.
The first lady’s attire can also be a big boost for designers.
Gabbana has celebrated each of Mrs. Trump’s appearance with Instagram posts. He shared three photos of the floral jacket, worn over a simple white shift dress, with Mrs. Trump looking model-perfect as she stepped out of an SUV. Gabbana tagged the photo with hearts and a “Thank You” to @flotus #melaniatrump.
Dolce & Gabbana have made Sicily their fashion muse, so it wasn’t surprising that Trump’s wife would wear their designs in Sicily, the final stop on Trump’s trip.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on how much Mrs. Trump, a former model and the wife of an independently wealthy president, paid for the jacket. The U.S. government does not provide first ladies with a wardrobe allowance — though attire for official events of public or historic significance may be given as a gift by a designer and accepted on behalf of the U.S. government.
Several fashion designers have said publicly that they will not dress the first lady because they oppose her husband’s policies — a fact that Gabbana appeared to chide in earlier Instagram posts he tagged #boycottdolce&gabbanaplease with laughing emojis.
Mrs. Trump, a former model, is known for her stylish appearance. Her fashion choices so far have been a contrast to her predecessor, who liked to mix designer items with more accessible brands like J. Crew.
The retail price for the Dolce & Gabbana jacket Mrs. Trump wore comes in at about $5,500 below the median U.S. household income of $56,516 in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Trump ran a populist campaign, promising to raise workers’ wages and revive American manufacturing, but never shied away from showing off and talking about his personal wealth.
As the Trumps traveled through Saudia Arabia, Israel, Italy, Brussels and then back to Italy, the president left it to top aides in Washington to explain the details of his federal budget proposal for 2018. Trump has proposed a $4.1 trillion spending plan that slashes safety net programs for the poor, including food stamps and Medicaid, while spending billions more on the military and protecting retirement programs for the elderly.
Associated Pres writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this story.
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