Melania Trump covered up as she stepped off Air Force One at King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia on Saturday — but not in the traditional Islamic way.
The first lady, following in predecessor Michelle Obama’s footsteps, opted to forgo a headscarf in the conservative country that is governed by Sharia law and expects women in public to be fully covered, including their heads.
Trump’s black long-sleeve jumpsuit with wide legs actually did somewhat resemble an abaya, the loose, black robe that’s part of the kingdom’s strict dress code for women. While the piece was respectful, she injected Western fashion details with pants, a subtle slit at the neckline, a wide gold belt, and matching chain necklace.
The black look was decidedly more modest than the ensemble she wore departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Friday. The form-fitting white long sleeve Max Mara shirt and red Hervé Pierre skirt were more typical for the first lady who favors tight silhouettes, bright colors, and high stilettos.
Melania, who’s joining her husband, President Donald Trump, on his administration’s first international trip admitted she’s “excited” for the eight-day, five-stop trek to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, Brussels, and Sicily. “This will not just be an opportunity to support my husband as he works on important matters of national security and foreign relations, it will also be my honor to visit and speak with women and children from different countries, with different perspectives,” she said.
First daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as her husband Jared Kushner, is abroad too and also abstained from wearing a headscarf.
Just like her stepmother, Ivanka changed on the overseas flight. While the mother of three boarded in a short sleeve sheath with a knee-length hemline in a pastel floral print, she deplaned in a long sleeve black dress with white flowers that hit just above her ankles and showed off her nude Gianvito Rossi heels.
Melania and Ivanka aren’t the first women from foreign governments visiting Saudi Arabia to go uncovered. British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both visited Saudi Arabia on separate occasions in the past few months, didn’t wear headscarves either. Neither did Laura Bush as first lady or Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice when they were serving as Secretary of State.
When former first lady Mrs. Obama visited in January 2015, she too eschewed the local practice. While doing so was considered a statement on women’s rights by many, some were critical, including Donald Trump. “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refusing to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies,” he tweeted.
Saudi minister of foreign affairs Adel bin Ahmen Al-Jubier seemingly gave the women traveling with President Trump a pass to refrain from covering up. “We welcome any style of clothing,” he reportedly told local media last week. The practice is not required but encourage and the government makes “suggestions to those visiting the kingdom.
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