The White House says: "Tonight, Mrs. Obama is wearing a floor length, rose gold chainmail gown designed by Atelier Versace."
At 7:03 pm, on an incredibly warm and balmy October evening, flanked by Italian and US flags, the US President and First Lady welcomed Agnes Landini and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi formally at the White House portico for the state dinner. Landini is an Italian teacher and is known for being "low key" in her appearance. But tonight she was elegant and shimmering. She wore a silver filigree strapless gown with a floral pattern and a sweetheart neckline and a black shimmery shawl. Renzi wore a classic tux. Michelle stunned in a copper shimmery floor length gown with a sequin sunburst on the front and a single shoulder strap. She put her arm around Agnes as they walked inside. Once inside, Obama said to Renzi: " No one cares about what you wear. All they are looking at is you. (Appearing to refer to the women.) This is the 13th and final state dinner for the Obamas. And as Obama told Renzi earlier, they saved the "best" for last.
Guest arrivals began at 6:38 p.m. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) pointed to his footwear and noted to reporters he was wearing special shoes this evening. He quipped that "for tonight only, I pronounce my name 'Canoli,' not 'Connolly.'" Actor John Turturro weighed in on the 2016 race, saying, "I hope Hillary wins...by a large margin." Celebrity chef Rachael Ray said she tore her dress on the steps while entering the White House and laughed that she should probably just sport sneakers from now on. When asked which designer she was wearing, she replied, "I don't know, but I just ripped it!" Ali Wentworth said it was "bittersweet" to be attending her first state dinner, and, she said, likely the last one for the Obamas. She said her purple gown was designed by J. Mendel. When asked which designer her husband was wearing, she yelled the question across the room to her spouse, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, who had breezed past the press line. After he didn't answer her, she told reporters, "Baby Gap, probably." Jerry Seinfeld arrived arm-in-arm with wife Jessica. After a reporter inquired about what a Donald Trump-hosted state dinner might be like, Seinfeld smiled and said after pausing, "Gee, I don't know." More arrivals to come...
At 7:36, The couples walked down the stairs, Obama and Renzi first followed by Michelle and Agnes. They paused for a moment for their official photo just inside the White House foyer before heading out to the dinner.
POTUS and FLOTUS with their guests, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mrs. Agnese Landini, walked down the Grand Staircase at 7:36 p.m. for the official photograph. They paused briefly before pool and continued into the Blue Room as the Marine Band played.
Racing great Mario Andretti said the checkered flag socks he's wearing tonight "represents a good finish line, when you win." Your pooler asked who would win in an auto race between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. "I think Trump," he said, recalling a spoof he did with the GOP presidential nominee years ago on "The Apprentice."
"I drove him one time in a two-seater car in New York and I didn't mess up his hair at all," Andretti told reporters, as an aide attempted to pull him away. Saying he pulled up to Trump Tower, Trump "jumped in it and we took off, and it looked like we were doing 200 miles an hour through Manhattan. It was fun."
It wasn't the first White House visit for singer James Taylor, who said he performed at the Germany state dinner in 2011. Asked what the pressure is like being a performer at such an event, he said, "Familiar."
Fashion designer Naeem Khan, who's created dresses for Michelle Obama, called FLOTUS "the most amazing person as an individual, besides being the first lady."
"Her causes are amazing. She's got the best body. I don't know when glamour's going to be ever back in the White House. Think about it — she pushes the American designers, which is so wonderful," Khan said.
Chance Bennett, known as Chance the Rapper, said what he was most looking forward to: "I hope there's some dancing. There's some good music played. The recurring dance battle that me and the president have had going on for a few years."
Who's winning the dance-off? "I'm very high in the polls," Chance the Rapper said confidently. "I'm just a great dancer. I have the fit, the build for it. I take it very seriously," he said.
The performer had said in an interview with Billboard earlier this month that the media has "unfairly treated" Hillary Clinton. When your pooler asked if the media has treated Donald Trump fairly, he replied, "No. I think the media over-saturated his presence in the election and plays to a lot of his weaknesses, but plays them up as strengths, so he can get more airtime."
Singer Frank Ocean sported black and white checkered Vans to his first state dinner. "First time doing it, probably because it's my first time here," he said with a grin
Ocean said he was most excited about "asking Obama if he had fun, just congratulating him also."
As arrivals finished up, a few White House aides were heard remarking how sad they were to staff their last state dinner, and snapped some photos to mark the occasion.
Guest arrivals ended at 7:51 p.m.
POTUS, FLOTUS, PM Matteo Renzi and Mrs. Agnese Landini were introduced at 9:20 p.m.
POTUS toast highlights:
“Welcome to the final state dinner of my presidency.” (applause) “But in the immortal words of a great Italian American, Yogi Berra, ‘It ain’t over 'till it’s over.’ " (applause).
“I will confess that at first I was a little nervous about this dinner. After all, Matteo is called the “Il Rottamatore” – The Scrapper, the demolition man.
"And Roberto Benigni is here as well and he’s promised not to jump on the tables.” (laughter).
“Tonight we’re reminded that American democracy is embraced by a touch of Italy,” POTUS said, noting that ‘All men are created equal’ is a concept with Italian roots, that The Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol bears the work of Italians.
“And some days,” he added, “our presidential campaigns can seem like Dante’s Inferno.” (laughter)
“Most of all we see the spirit of Italy and the friendships between our people in so many proud Italian Americans. I suspect that many of you here tonight are thinking of your own families, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents who left the old country and toiled and sacrificed and gave everything they had so that the next generation could succeed.”
POTUS said it symbolized America, a place where “no matter what you look like, what your last name is, how many vowels you have in your name, you can make it if you try. And even if we are not Italian American, or Mets fans, we can celebrate that Mike Piazza is finally in the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
POTUS praised his “great friend Matteo,” and from their first meeting he could see “that he represented the energy, the optimism, the vision and the values that can carry Italy and Europe forward.”
He thanked Renzi for his “excellent partnership as we’ve worked to advance the security and prosperity of our citizens and the dignity of people around the world.”
POTUS joked how Renzi early on wore big sweaters and suits (“there’s video”) and added: “Giorgio Armani is here and he would be ashamed to know that the Italian prime minister used to wear things like this.”
He said both he and Renzi “married up and because of our wives, we eat better, we dress better, we are better and we thank you both.”
In closing, POTUS reminisced about his last visit to Rome and the Colosseum.
“As I walked across those ancient stones, worn by the history of 2,000 years, it was a humbling reminder of our place here on earth. In the grand sweep of time, each of us is here only for a brief moment. So many of the things that we focus on each day, the political ups and downs, the successes and the setbacks, those things are fleeting.
“What matters in the end is what we built, what matters is what we leave behind, the things that will endure long after we are gone. As the poet Virgil reminded us, 'Fortune favors the bold.' So I want to propose a toast to the enduring alliance between the United States and Italy, to our friends Matteo and Agnese and to the friendship between the Americans and the Italians, in pursuit of the world we can build for future generations. May we always be bold. May fortune smile upon us.