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Michelle Obama v Peng Liyuan: Meeting of the First Ladies

US first lady Michelle Obama (left) tries out a remote-controlled robot next to Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a visit at the Beijing Normal School, a school which prepares students for university abroad, in Beijing, March
US first lady Michelle Obama (left) tries out a remote-controlled robot next to Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a visit at the Beijing Normal School, a school which prepares students for university abroad, in Beijing, March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US First Lady Michelle Obama (centre), her daughters Malia (left) and Sasha (second left), accompanied by Peng Liyuan (third right), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, look at students demonstrate a remote control mechanical robots at the Beijing
US First Lady Michelle Obama (centre), her daughters Malia (left) and Sasha (second left), accompanied by Peng Liyuan (third right), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, look at students demonstrate a remote control mechanical robots at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
United States First Lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis as Ms Peng Liyuan (right), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, looks on during their visit to the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beiji
United States First Lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis as Ms Peng Liyuan (right), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, looks on during their visit to the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
US first lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis during her visit of Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students for universities abroad, in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US first lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis during her visit of Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students for universities abroad, in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Ms Peng Liyuan (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows United States First Lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students
Ms Peng Liyuan (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows United States First Lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Peng LiyuaN (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows US first lady Michelle Obama how to hold the writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school which prepares students for univer
Peng LiyuaN (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows US first lady Michelle Obama how to hold the writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school which prepares students for university abroad, in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
United States First Lady Michelle Obama and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping share a light moment as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend univer
United States First Lady Michelle Obama and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping share a light moment as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
US First Lady Michelle Obama (centre) and Peng Liyuan (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US First Lady Michelle Obama (centre) and Peng Liyuan (left), wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US first lady Michelle Obama (centre) and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre left), are escorted by officials as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US first lady Michelle Obama (centre) and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre left), are escorted by officials as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (centre), her daughters Sasha (left), Malia (second, left), her mother Marian Robinson (right) and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers as they visit the Forbidden City in
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (centre), her daughters Sasha (left), Malia (second, left), her mother Marian Robinson (right) and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers as they visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (left) and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers as they visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (left) and Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers as they visit the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (left) is greeted by Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a visit to the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014.
United States First Lady Michelle Obama (left) is greeted by Ms Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a visit to the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend university abroad in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
US first lady Michelle Obama, (third, right), her daughters Malia (right) and Sasha (second, right) are greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, left) and his wife Peng Liyuan (left) at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOT
US first lady Michelle Obama, (third, right), her daughters Malia (right) and Sasha (second, right) are greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, left) and his wife Peng Liyuan (left) at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US first lady Michelle Obama (second, left) and her mother Marian Robinson (left) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, right) and his wife Peng Liyuan after a photograph session at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014
US first lady Michelle Obama (second, left) and her mother Marian Robinson (left) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, right) and his wife Peng Liyuan after a photograph session at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US first lady Michelle Obama (third, left), her daughters Malia (right), Sasha (left) and Michelle Obama's mother Marian Robinson (second, left) pose for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping (third, right) and his wife Peng Liyuan (second, right)
US first lady Michelle Obama (third, left), her daughters Malia (right), Sasha (left) and Michelle Obama's mother Marian Robinson (second, left) pose for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping (third, right) and his wife Peng Liyuan (second, right) at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US first lady Michelle Obama, (third right), her daughters Malia (right) and Sasha (second, right) are greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, left) and his wife Peng Liyuan (left) at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO
US first lady Michelle Obama, (third right), her daughters Malia (right) and Sasha (second, right) are greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (second, left) and his wife Peng Liyuan (left) at a guest house in Beijing on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

United States First Lady Michelle Obama stepped out of a plane on Thursday night in a long-sleeved leather-and-suede patchwork Derek Lam dress - and with thigh-high black-heeled boots, no less - against a darkened smog-free Beijing evening sky.

Looking fresh-faced and stylish as usual, few could tell she had just stepped off a 14-hour flight for a week-long trip to China with her mother and two daughters, both of whom were in equally chic complementary outfits.

Sasha, 13, wore a velvet red skirt, a black top and tights while Malia, 15, wore a shiny silver pleated skirt and a brown shirt.

Mrs Obama’s arrival has excited Chinese netizens eagerly anticipating the fashion showdown between her and the equally classy and hugely popular Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan.

Both met for the first time on Friday morning at the Beijing Normal School, which prepares students to attend universities abroad, before heading to the Forbidden City, China’s massive former imperial palace.

While Mrs Obama’s 1.8-metre frame alongside the petite 1.65-metre Madam Peng made them an odd couple, both clearly shared one thing in common - an enviable fashion sense.

Madam Peng, 51, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army and a celebrity singer who was famous across China even before her husband took office, wore a blue trenchcoat over a red top matching a red clutch and stud earrings. Her hair was coiffed and plaited back.

Mrs Obama, 50, was in a simple white and black ensemble: a white long sleeve shirt with a lavender and grey design with a a loose sleeveless black vest thrown over, paired with wide leg black pants and black closed-toe flats. The designer of this outfit is 3.1 Phillip Lim, according to a White House pool report.

The women smiled broadly as they shook hands in front of the school on the red carpet as students waved flags, according to an AP photo.

Mrs Obama then introduced her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters to Madam Peng. Madam Peng introduced the principal of the school to Mrs Obama, the pool report said.

Pictures of the two First Ladies circulating online have caused the Chinese internet to light up with comments warmly welcoming Mrs Obama and quips on how their tastes complemented each other.

China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo user “danzise” said: “Michelle Obama is very fashionable! Clearly, fashion has nothing to do with race or nationality.”

Some also joked that the clear skies on Friday meant the guests did not have to wear masks during their outdoor trips.

While it is not yet known what brand Madam Peng was wearing on Friday, both are known to have their favourites.

Madam Peng made her public debut as First Lady last year, appearing alongside husband, President Xi Jinping, in a dark, trim trenchcoat by Chinese designer Ma Ke, the designer behind brands like Exception de Mixmind and Wuyong.

She also became the unofficial face of previously out-of-fashion Shanghai brand Pehchaolin beauty products when she gave them as state gifts last year on a trip to Tanzania.

Mrs Obama, on the other hand, has frequently stepped into gowns by up-and-coming Taiwan-born designer Jason Wu, who was responsible for the ivory one-shouldered gown she wore to the inaugural ball in 2009 as well as the ruby halter-neck chiffon-and-velvet gown for the same ball last year.

But while Mrs Obama has various blogs dedicated to her fashion sense, tracking her every public appearance, Madam Peng’s profile is much more subdued as Chinese censors generally keep the family members of Chinese leaders out of the media spotlight.

Most mentions of Madam Peng’s dress when she made her first public appearance was scrubbed from the Internet. E-commerce giant Taobao even removed an advertisement for a black purse resembling the one she carried despite more than 8 million searches online for “Peng Liyuan handbag”, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But even after her hype was hushed, Madam Peng has continued to dazzle audiences both domestic and foreign with her style, making it to Vanity Fair’s annual International Best Dressed List last year.esthert@sph.com.sg

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