President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle will host their first state dinner on Tuesday evening, almost a year into their White House tenure, and it is shaping up to be the US power capital’s most glittering party.
Hollywood, Bollywood, stuffed shirts, fancy pants and political top dogs will converge for a glittering party in honour of prime minister Manmohan Singh on the White House lawns.
The White House kitchen garden, Michelle’s much-discussed vegetable patch, which has been the fulcrum of debates in America about healthy eating, will, no doubt, have a starring role at Tuesday’s dinner — Singh is vegetarian. White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and White House top chef Cristeta Comerford are bustling with gruelling last-minute chores. A state dinner is so much more like a big-cast Broadway play than a dinner, quipped state dinner planners.
“Dressing for the Obamas’ first state dinner is a particular fashion challenge because it combines protocol, modern style and politics. The event cries out for a full-length gown. A bit of cleavage is fine but a dress that requires double-stick tape should be saved for the Grammys,” warned fashion critic Robin Givhan.
“It’s always gracious to pay homage to the country being honoured. So in celebration of India, guests might choose colour and embellishment, gowns with movement and drape. But remember, this is not a costume ball. Think subtlety, not Bollywood.”
Givhan speculated on the first lady wearing a gown by Naeem Khan, a New York designer who grew up in India and moved to the US as a teen. “Or maybe she will choose a dress by Rachel Roy, another designer with Indian ancestry,” Givhan hedged in The Washington Post.
Instead of the State Dining Room, the Obamas will dine with 400 guests in a phantasmagorical, heated white tent on the South Lawn. Several notables are good bets, such as Oprah Winfrey and Chicago hotel billionaire Penny Pritzker. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be there, as will treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Mukesh Ambani, who is in the midst of a $12-billion grab for bankrupt chemicals maker LyondellBasell, has snagged an invite. Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai may also make a star turn at the White House.
This is the third time in a decade that India has been given state dinner treatment.