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“She represents the unification of Europe through her own life story and the capacity to overcome the past and point towards a brighter future,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Merkel at his side.

There was very little color among the dark-clad dinner guests. Like Mrs. Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stood out in white, with a two-piece outfit by Thierry Mugler.

“Very old,” she pronounced it.

The black-tie dinner for Merkel capped a day of all-out diplomatic outreach that was carefully orchestrated to highlight Germany’s growing role in world affairs and its importance as a U.S. partner.

It began with a 19-gun salute on the South Lawn and included meetings with Obama and his advisers, the news conference in the East Room and a State Department lunch.

Merkel was the first European leader to receive such treatment from Obama.

Amid all of the evening’s finery, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., offered a reality check when reporters asked who made her gown.

“This would be …” she began, then confessed: “OK, it cost $170. And the shoes, $29.” And she kicked up her heels to show off her bargain find.



White House guest list:

Menu and other dinner details: