First lady Melania Trump wore veil in Vatican, but no head covering in Saudi Arabia

First lady Melania Trump wore a veil to the Vatican to meet the pope but no head covering to meet the king of Saudi Arabia. Why the difference?

The answer is a mix of personal preference, diplomatic protocol and religious dictates, according to Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady.  

Vatican protocol dictates that women who meet the pope must wear long sleeves, formal black clothing and a veil to cover their head.

The Vatican’s rules of attire are not strictly enforced. Many women wear veils out of respect. Mrs. Trump is a Catholic, which may make meeting the pope especially meaningful.

Every woman in the U.S. delegation wore a veil, including Ivanka Trump.

In Saudi Arabia, however, the government did not request that Mrs. Trump wear a head covering known as a hijab.

In Saudi Arabia, the first lady dressed conservatively. Throughout the visit, she kept her attire in line with protocol: modest dress, longer sleeves, higher necklines, pants and long dresses.

Ivanka Trump also dressed modestly, and left her head uncovered.

Most Western VIP women who visit Saudi Arabia don’t cover their heads. This includes the former first ladies.

In Israel, the Trumps visited the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

The president wore a yarmulke—a skullcap, which is customary. Ivanka Trump wore a black head covering to the Wall, while Melania Trump wore no head covering.

Ivanka had converted to Judaism before marriage.

Many Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair as a sign of modesty.