Malia Obama wearing a strapless gown at the state dinner. (Photo: Getty Images)
For the first time since being elected, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the United States. The “quite good-looking Canadian delegation” was welcomed to Washington, D.C., by President Obama and his family with a state dinner at the White House. But the event wasn’t just a first for Trudeau — Sasha and Malia Obama made their state-dinner debut as well.
“When I was first elected to this office, Malia was just 10 and Sasha was 7. And they grow up too fast,” the president said during his opening remarks at the event on Thursday night. “Now Malia is going off to college. … And I’m starting to choke up.”
The Naeem Khan gown Malia Obama wore.
What might have also made Obama choke up was looking at the price of his daughters’ dresses. While their mother opted for a custom strapless number from one of her favorite designers, Jason Wu, her daughters went with Naeem Khan. Malia, 17, who was seated next to Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels and actress Sandra Oh, wore a strapless faille gown with crystal beading from the pre-fall 2015 collection. The 100 percent silk piece is no longer available for purchase, but it originally retailed for $17,990. The embellished piece didn’t need any more bling, so she went without jewelry. Malia blew out her hair in loose waves and had a subtle cat eye and nude lips.
Sasha Obama sitting next to Blake Lively. (Photo: Getty Images)
While Malia went for a more classic, elegant look, her younger sister added a young, fresh flair. Also in Naeem Khan, Sasha chose a look from the Indian-American designer’s resort 2016 collection, a gown embroidered with allover threadwork, beading, and appliqué, accentuated by a fitted bodice and ball skirt. The 14-year-old complemented the red, black, and sheer piece, which retails for $19,990, by styling her hair in Dutch braids and tying a thin ribbon around her neck as a choker.
The Naeem Khan dress worn by Sasha Obama.
The teenagers, who looked graceful and beautiful, were even praised for their maturity by the guest of honor. “Quite frankly, the memories for me of being a kid and not being old enough to attend these kinds of events with my father almost makes me wish I had gone through my teenage years as a child of a world leader — but not quite,” Trudeau joked. “I admire you very much, both of you, for your extraordinary strength and your grace, through what is a remarkable childhood and young adulthood that will give you extraordinary strength and wisdom beyond your years for the rest of your life. The one thing that you have received from your extraordinary parents is the tools to be able to handle the challenges and the opportunities in front of you.”
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in Lucian Matis, first lady Michelle Obama in custom Jason Wu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and President Obama. (Photo: AP)
Unfortunately, though, the girls may not receive plaudits from many when it comes to their fashion. The price tags will most likely raise some eyebrows and reintroduce the discussion regarding who pays for the first family’s fashion. According to Joanna Rosholm, Michelle’s press secretary, “Mrs. Obama pays for her clothing. For official events of public or historic significance, such as a state visit, the first lady’s clothes may be given as a gift by a designer and accepted on behalf of the U.S. government. They are then stored by the National Archives.”
Historically, many first ladies have come under fire for their spending. These women — from Mary Todd Lincoln to Laura Bush — have been expected by the public to have a high-end wardrobe, but a clothing allowance doesn’t come with the job. Nancy Reagan was even investigated by the Internal Revenue Service because of her spending on clothes. The reason for the contention around fashion stems from very specific tax and ethics statutes as well as laws surrounding gifting to those in public office and the fashion.