First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump met with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Wednesday. The Trumps were accompanied by First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. For their first official visit to the Vatican, Melania and Ivanka wore coordinating black outfits that were quickly ridiculed on social media.
Both Melania Trump and Ivanka wore black veils and black long-sleeved dresses that fell below the knee. Both of their outfits conformed to the traditional dress code required of female visitors to the Pope at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, Melania and Ivanka’s clothing were roundly criticized on Twitter and Facebook, particularly the First Lady’s black garb. Twitter was soon abuzz with jokes saying that Melania Trump was dressed for the job she wants: that of a grieving widow.
“[W]ondered what was up with Melania’s very widowish black veil & then remembered you’re supposed to dress for the job you want.”
But while many were having fun with the First Lady’s “widow” clothing, there were also those who pointed out that the jokes were terrible and inappropriate, and they went too far.
There were also those who noted that former First Lady Michelle Obama wore similar clothing when she and former President Barack Obama visited Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Others pointed out that Melania’s outfit was a sign of respect and had nothing to do with wanting her husband dead.
It was true that Melania and Ivanka Trump’s modest Vatican outfits were in keeping with the Vatican’s dress code requirements. Except for members of royal families, women meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican are generally asked to dress in long black clothing and make sure that their head is covered.
Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, confirmed this in an email to USA TODAY.
“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the Pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head.”
The Sydney Morning Herald notes that very few women, including Queen Elizabeth II, can choose to completely forego the Vatican dress code. When she met Pope Francis in 2014, the Queen donned her customary hat instead of a veil and wore lavender instead of black.
But American first ladies aren’t royalty. When she met Pope Benedict XVI, Michelle Obama also wore a veil and a black dress, as did former First Ladies Laura Bush in 2006 and Nancy Reagan in 1987.
In addition to the barbs about Melania Trump’s “widow outfit,” images of the Trump family’s visit to Pope Francis have become the latest viral memes. The most popular by far is a photo in which President Trump is grinning ear-to-ear while the First Lady and Ivanka Trump have neutral expressions and Pope Francis seems to be scowling. A version of this image that has been superimposed with characters from popular horror movies has been making the rounds on the internet.
During their visit to Pope Francis, Melania Trump reportedly received a present, which was possibly a rosary. The First Lady is said to have asked the Pontiff to bless the item. The Guardian reports that the Pope asked Melania if she feeds her husband potica, a popular Slovenian cake when they were introduced. Apparently, the First Lady misheard the question and initially thought Pope Francis was referring to pizza.
The visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican is part of Donald Trump’s first international trip as President. Melania Trump is accompanying him on the eight-day jaunt, which has taken them to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, and Brussels. They are currently in Sicily for the G7 summit.
[Featured Image by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]