PARIS (AP) — In a flame-red skirt suit, U.S. first lady Melania Trump cut a striking contrast with her French counterpart Brigitte Macron in white during a Thursday visit to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
But the women had one thing in common: French fashion.
The American first lady, a Roman Catholic, requested a tour of the famed cathedral as part of her two-day trip to the French capital in which she took her own path from her husband, President Donald Trump, and garnered praise for her spot-on wardrobe diplomacy.
Trump’s demure wool attire with a cinched waist came from the age-old Parisian fashion house Christian Dior and riffed on its signature Bar Jacket. The first lady and her French-born stylist Herve Pierre picked it to celebrate Dior 70th anniversary this year.
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It wowed French media who compared the 47-year-old to former U.S. first lady Jackie Kennedy.
Some visitors inside the 850-year-old building were impressed.
“It’s good she wore a French designer like Dior. It is like diplomacy and a statement that she loves France,” said Annalise Breton, a 23-year-old student.
Others were indifferent.
“We knew she was coming. She’s all right. If we see her, we see her. We’re mostly here to see the church,” said Kaitlyn Mundackal, 17, visiting from New York.
The first lady, though not as high-profile as some of her predecessors, has taken on a fairly prominent role on her husband’s three international trips.
Macron — wife of French President Emmanuel Macron — also showed off one of France’s greatest exports by wearing a white mini dress designed by Louis Vuitton.
“We came to look at the church, and didn’t expect to see this! They both look beautiful in red and white. A contrast is good,” said Daria Bliznets, 28 ,from Moscow.
The two first ladies were met by Notre Dame Rector Patrick Chauvet inside the stone walls in front of the famed North Rose window Thursday afternoon, following a visit to the Invalides (ahn-vah-leed) monument and the final resting place of Napoleon.
Trump lit a candle and said a prayer after being shown the lofty chapels, organ and golden Crown of Thorns.
Chauvet instructed the two women on the site’s storied past.
“I showed them how the cathedral was at the heart of French history and Paris. I told them that all the greatest moments — happy or sad — were celebrated here,” Chauvet told The Associated Press.
“There is a novel by Victor Hugo that takes place here called ‘Notre Dame de Paris’,” Macron then said to Trump at one point with the help of a translator.
The two are thought to have a friendly relationship, and Macron frequently touched her back during the tour.
They first met in May when their husbands attended an international summit in Brussels and crossed paths again at a follow-up gathering in Hamburg, Germany. On several occasions they have been photographed chatting together.
Trump’s day has been peppered with literary moments.
Trump started the day on her own at a children’s hospital.
At Necker Hospital, she visited a ward decorated with images from “The Little Prince,” an iconic French novel written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. She spoke in French to six children patients switching to a translator to ask how long they expected to stay.
One of the children, a 14-year-old girl named Ysatis, was in a wheelchair and said she expected to leave the hospital Monday for a month of rehabilitation.
“You look very good, very strong … Soon you’ll be walking and running,” Mrs. Trump told her.
Ysatis later told The Associated Press she appreciated the visit.
“It was very pleasant and really good. She’s beautiful and gorgeous,” Ysatis said.
Martin Hirsch, director of Paris’ public hospital system, presented the first lady with a copy of “The Little Prince.”
“I will keep it, practice my French. It’s beautiful,” she said.
She has also visited children’s hospitals in Italy and Israel.
Melania and Donald Trump have an 11-year-old son, the first boy in the White House since John F. Kennedy Jr. more than 50 years ago.
After Notre Dame, Mrs. Trump accompanied Mrs. Macron on tour the Seine River. President Trump is in Paris for meetings with Macron before he joins in the Bastille Day celebration on Friday.