President Obama gives a thumbs-up about First Lady Michelle Obama's dress while waiting on the North Portico for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan, Sept. 25, 2015, Washington, DC. 
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Michelle Obama, Chinese first lady Pen Liyuan wow at China state dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama chose a dress by a Chinese-American designer for Friday’s White House dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The American first lady wore a black, off-the-shoulder mermaid gown by Vera Wang for the occasion. Fitted, with sheer sleeves, it skimmed the floor with its tulle flounce. Obama swept her long hair off to one side.

The first lady has worn Wang’s designs before, winning raves for the draped, strapless, electric blue column she donned at The Kennedy Center Honors in 2011.

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China’s first lady Peng Liyuan, also a fashion icon, selected an embellished silk gown in a rich aquamarine hue. With three-quarter-length sleeves, it boasted intricate beading on its bodice and skirt.

Peng was considered more famous than her husband when he took office in 2013, having enjoyed a long career as a singer of ballads and patriotic anthems with the People’s Liberation Army arts troupe. Since then she’s emerged as a key force for Chinese “soft power,” ever present by her husband’s side during trips abroad, unlike previous first ladies who largely stayed in the background.

Those appearances have made her a fashion icon. The outfits and accessories she wears often sell out soon after the designers are identified. She wears Chinese designers exclusively, both to show her support for homegrown talent and to avoid the accusations of being a show-off or spendthrift frequently leveled at public figures who appear in Western luxury wear.

The name of the designer of Peng’s gown for the China State Dinner was not immediately available.

Michelle Obama adjusts President Obama's bow-tie prior to greeting Xi Jinping, China's president, and Peng Liyuan, China's first lady, both not pictured, on the North Portico of the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty)
Michelle Obama adjusts President Obama’s bow-tie prior to greeting Xi Jinping, China’s president, and Peng Liyuan, China’s first lady, both not pictured, on the North Portico of the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. 
Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan as they arrive for a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015, on the North Portico of the White House. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan as they arrive for a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015, on the North Portico of the White House. 
Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. 
Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters

(R) First Lady Michelle Obama and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan walk into the White House. (L) President Obama gives a thumbs up about Michelle Obama's dress, Sept. 25, 2015, Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, first lady Michelle Obama and Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan descend the Grand Staircase as they arrive for a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, first lady Michelle Obama and Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan descend the Grand Staircase as they arrive for a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015. 
Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, toasts his wife Peng Liyuan, right, during a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015, in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, toasts his wife Peng Liyuan, right, during a State Dinner, Sept. 25, 2015, in the East Room of the White House. 
Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP

Barack Obama, China, Michelle Obama and White House

Michelle Obama, Chinese first lady Pen Liyuan wow at China state dinner