The image of Michelle Obama stepping off Air Force One in a beautiful blue and yellow floral dress with a matching coat is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
The former US first lady knew the power that appearance would have which is why she chose designer Bibhu Mohapatra. Which is why she chose a boy from Rourkela who has made it big in New York. She not only chose an Indian designer, but showed the world that the "American Dream" was still alive. But that was 2015.
The appearances made by US first daughter Ivanka Trump, during her ongoing visit to India, stand in striking contrast. A former model, television personality and self-styled entrepreneur, Ivanka has been pitching herself as a businesswoman for a while now. Unlike the silent and almost surly role that Melania Trump has chosen for herself, Ivanka has always wanted to be seen as someone with both beauty and brains.
Along with working for her father’s company, the Wharton graduate built her own lifestyle brand catering to the 21st century woman; retailing everything from clothes and fine jewellery to writing self-help books. She was then generous enough to "give it all up" to take on her unofficial role in the White House.
Of course, in her attempt to get ahead, she didn’t mind keeping the chair warm for her father during a G20 session with world leaders, including Theresa May and Vladimir Putin. For someone with no power, it was clear who wore the pants.
In India for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, it was expected then that Ivanka’s appearance would be strong and sharp. Instead, as in her recent trip to Japan, there has so far been only a superficial thumb's up to the Indian designers/style. Her first look was a pearl-buttoned black and white Tory Burch jacket. It referenced India with the embroidery, but in reality looked like a cheap brand ripping off designer Rahul Mishra.
For day one of the summit, she walked out in a $3,500 Erdem dress that vaguely referenced the orient with its floral print. She compounded this superficial assimilation of culture with yet another Tory Burch outfit. This time a floral gown that looked like a "me-too" of a Kashmiri pheran for the prime minister’s banquet at the Taj Falaknuma Palace.
In her defence, Ivanka’s outfit changes have been kept in character with her previous wardrobe choices. Being totally tone-deaf to the nuances of public appearance (to be fair, she only has her father as her role model), she displayed a similar pattern in Japan. While she had the choice of picking the most amazing designers, she selected a cherry blossom print, kimono-inspired dress made by the Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz.
While her Neeta Lulla sari-gown did break this streak of insularity this time, we are left with this rather unflattering optics: Ivanka being introduced to Mitra, the five foot made-in-India robot. Alas, he looks more animated than Ms Trump, who represents a different American dream: A botoxed Barbie.