First lady appears to borrow from Michelle Obama’s playbook

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Bare arms and a belted waist, a White House vegetable garden and parents in the residence: Melania Trump is borrowing pages from Michelle Obama’s playbook.

From public policy to high fashion to family ties, Mrs. Trump is keeping alive parts of the former first lady’s legacy even as President Donald Trump’s administration alters other aspects.

Mrs. Obama made it acceptable for first ladies to shun the confining, jewel-toned suits that her predecessors wore like uniforms, and her successor is embracing that same free-wheeling fashion sense.

During President Trump’s first overseas trip in late May, the current first lady stepped off of Air Force One in Saudi Arabia wearing a long-sleeved, black jumpsuit accented with a wide, gold belt. A former model, Mrs. Trump has worn a number of sleeveless and belted outfits since, almost always paired with towering heels.

Vegetable garden

She has kept Mrs. Obama’s vegetable garden, and shown interest in women’s empowerment, military families and children’s issues. Mrs. Obama championed all as first lady. But where Mrs. Obama frequently hosted public events in the garden to encourage healthy eating, Mrs. Trump has yet to hold an activity there.

Next month, Mrs. Trump will lead the US delegation to the Invictus Games, an Olympics-style competition for wounded military personnel. The Obama White House helped promote the games after Britain’s Prince Harry created them in 2014.


On the family front, the first lady’s parents - Viktor and Amalija Knavs - spent time at the White House after their daughter officially moved in in June. They spent Father’s Day weekend with the Trumps at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. The Knavs live in New York and aren’t expected to join their daughter in the White House. Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, lived in the White House during the eight years that Barack Obama was president to help care for her granddaughters.

“She really did admire Michelle Obama very much,” Myra Gutin, a Rider University professor and author of “The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century, said of Mrs. Trump. “Maybe she’s following in those footsteps and is expressing her admiration by doing things that, if they aren’t the same, are similar.”