US & Canada

Michelle Obama: First lady's final state dinner is 'bittersweet'

US President Barack Obama (right) and First Lady Michelle Obama (second left) with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Italian First Lady Agnese Landini at the White House, 18 October 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michelle Obama has emerged as a strong political presence since becoming first lady

It was described as a "bittersweet moment" as Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on Tuesday for the final state dinner of the US president's time in office.

"We saved the best for last," Mr Obama said, as the couple welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini to the White House.

The event, attended by guests from the worlds of politics, finance and fashion, was one of the largest of Mr Obama's eight years as president.

It was Mrs Obama, however, who quickly became the focus of attention on social media after appearing in a rose gold Atelier Versace gown.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Her choice of dress was likely to have been a deliberate nod to her Italian friends and a celebration of the close relationship between the two nations.

The First Lady has a history of attending events garbed in outfits created by fashion designers with links to the US.

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Media captionPresident Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the Italian prime minister for the last state dinner of his presidency

It has been a busy month for Mrs Obama, the first African-American First Lady who has had a strong political presence in her eight years at the White House.

Last week she delivered an emotional speech in New Hampshire condemning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over his treatment of women.

The speech, in which she described how Mr Trump's behaviour had "shaken me to my core", resulted in calls for her to run for the presidency.

Image copyright Twitter

There were also messages of support from Twitter users describing Mrs Obama as the "baddest" First Lady in US history.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Love letters

Mrs Obama has been the subject of "love letters" from prominent feminists, which have been published in The New York Times Style Magazine.

Gloria Steinem, a feminist activist who has been writing about women's rights for more than 40 years, penned a letter in which she said that Mrs Obama had changed history "in the most powerful way ‒ by example".

"We will never have a democracy until we have democratic families and a society without the invented categories of both race and gender," wrote Ms Steinem.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Award-winning author Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel Americanah and had her feminist TED talk featured on Beyonce's song Flawless, said Mrs Obama had transformed the perception of First Lady into something "warmly accessible".

"A person both normal and inspirational and a person many degrees of cool," wrote Ms Adichie, adding that she had become an American style icon for the way that she comfortably embraces fashion.

"No public figure better embodies that mantra of full female selfhood: Wear what you like," she wrote.

Also featured in the magazine are letters from Pulitzer Prize winner and US author Jon Meacham, and US actress and writer Rashida Jones.

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