Last-Minute Dress Code Left NYT Reporter Wearing Her Wedding Dress to Cover Trump's Dinner at Japan's Imperial Palace

Sandra Sobieraj Westfall

There is a saying among veteran White House correspondents that theirs is “the most glamorous beat in journalism — to anyone who’s never worked it.”

Exhibit A: The New York Times’ Annie Karni on press-pool duty for President Donald Trump’s state banquet Monday with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.

“The guidance that we needed a floor-length gown for tonight’s imperial banquet came hours before my flight departed. I only own one floor-length gown. So, here I am, pooling a presidential event in my wedding dress,” Karni tweeted Monday from a holding room in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Karni, wearing the ivory gown from her 2015 wedding, was one of a half-dozen White House reporters and photographers permitted to cover, on behalf of the entire press corps, the leaders’ brief remarks preceding their six-course meal.

A photo snapped by a colleague in the holding room shows Karni, accessorizing her gown with two lanyards bearing her press credentials, working at her laptop amid snacks set on plastic plates for the reporters accompanying Trump.

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“We were seated in a small, very hot room, somewhere in what felt like the basement of the palace, with mostly just bananas and orange juice for dinner” she tells PEOPLE in an email from Tokyo.

Karni says that with no time to shop for — or borrow or rent — the unexpectedly required floor-length dress before departure last week, she had no choice but to reach into “the back depths of the closet” and fold (!) her wedding gown into her carry-on bag.

“It wasn’t a big, poofy wedding dress, so it wasn’t totally out of the question,” she says.

Adding to the glamour, the president’s schedule that afternoon allowed less than two hours between the end of his news conference and the departure of his motorcade for the dinner that included First Lady Melania Trump.

Karni had to use most of that time for writing and filing her story on the news of the day.

New York Times reporter Annie Karni on duty with the White House press pool following President Trump during his state visit to Japan | Shannon Pettypiece
From left: First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump with Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at the Japanese Imperial Palace on Monday | Kazuhiro Nogi/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“So I sat in a ‘hold’ room in the basement of the hotel for 90 minutes, next to a colleague who was also scrambling on deadline, with all of my luggage, trying to finish our story,” Karni says.

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“I changed in the bathroom about 10 minutes before the press vans were coming to pick us up.”

Worse for Karni, the dress code provided by the White House also stipulated that women wear closed-toe shoes.

 

“I wore the same flat shoes I’d been wearing all week, so the dress was too long without heels,” Karni says, adding that an extra-long gown made extra-tricky work of getting in and out of a motorcade van with her luggage in tow.

“Other than that, it was quite comfortable!”

And, she adds, the dress might yet be called back into duty: “Next time I’m invited to a black-tie affair that isn’t someone else’s wedding, seems like it works!”