At the inauguration of French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, his wife, Brigitte Macron, wore a powder blue, wool Louis Vuitton military-style jacket and above-the-knee dress. It was a fashionable look that boldly showed off the 64-year-old first lady’s bare legs. It also immediately drew comparisons to the powder-blue cashmere Ralph Lauren dress and coat American first lady Melania Trump wore to her husband’s inauguration in January.
Was this on purpose? Is it some kind of sartorial diplomacy in action, after her husband defeated right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen, whose populist message often matched Trump’s?
“If I’d have been in any advising role, I’d probably not have recommended her to wear this color,” executive image consultant Sylvie di Giusto tells Yahoo Style. “As the first lady, you want to be known for your skills, your experience, for the added value you’ll bring to the table and to the country you serve. You want to avoid distraction for any price.”
On the other hand, fashion and beauty editor Mary Alice Stephenson, founder of Glam4Good, thinks this choice was a strategic move.
“Anyone that’s savvy enough to help her husband become the leader of France is savvy enough to know what her choice is on inauguration day,” Stephenson tells Yahoo of the inevitable comparisons to Trump’s outfit. “[Macron] and her team — of course they know, and that was smart too. Because what happens is it has people talking about the first lady of France.”
That both women chose this shade of blue shouldn’t be surprising. “It’s associated with intelligence, trust and security, and the lighter the blue shade becomes, the more sympathetic, personal, warm and communicative it is perceived,” di Giusto said of the color, which is popular in both business and politics.
Michelle Obama wore a cowl-neck Carolina Herrera dress of a similar shade in 2015, to meet Pope Francis on his first trip to the United States. And just last October, Kate Middleton wore a very Jackie O suit by Catherine Walker on her first solo royal visit, to meet the Netherlands’ King William-Alexander in the Hague.
Stephenson said there aren’t quite as many options available for a first lady on Inauguration Day as you might think. “You wear red and it’s too bright and ‘look at me’; it steals all the attention away from the man beside you,” she says. “You wear white, it’s a little too holier-than-thou and wedding day. Black — too dark, too down, too sad. Navy blue, same kind of thing. Yellow, not so good on blondes.”
Pastel blues are fashionable this year. Pantone called a similar shade, Niagara, “the most prevalent color for spring 2017” in terms of fashion, and said the denim-like color “speaks to our desire for ease and relaxation.” Gwyneth Paltrow wore a ruffled light blue Gucci suit in January that made the color look very now.
Color comparisons aside, Macron made a broader statement with her choice on Sunday. Stephenson points out that though the military jacket has many buttons, she wore it open, so “it was modern and easy and less buttoned up” than Trump’s retro look.
“I applaud her for showing off her body,” Stephenson adds. “Some women, as they age, they cover everything up, and there was a real openness [in her style]. This is empowering for women in their 60s to see a first lady looking fashion forward, sexy, and powerful by the side of a younger man.”
If France’s first lady continues to style herself this way, Stephenson thinks she will be popular with other women. “The reason why women connect so much with Michelle Obama, and why I think they’ll connect with Brigitte, is because you can identify with them,” she says. “Brigitte is not perfect. You see that she’s aged. She has wrinkles too. When someone is too buttoned up and too manicured and perfect, she’s not real. Women do not identify with that.”
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