I have been aware for some time that fashion makes a statement. That’s what everyone says. My own fashion statement is a sly mashup of cluelessness and indifference. But I’m not much of a lady, and not a First Lady at all.

What I was not aware of was that modern diplomacy is conducted sartorially. In some administrations it is not conducted at all, of course; those would be the Third Grade Nanner Nanner Diplomacy administrations in which the President knocks over the game board and pockets some of the pieces, and his First Lady’s wardrobe literally makes the fashion statement I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U.

But in normal times the outfits send diplomatic messages. At the recent State Dinner held in honor of the Japanese Prime Minister Kishida and his wife Yuko, Jill Biden is given high marks in her choice of beige gown with “mists of blue” at the top, which, apparently, drew the eye up to Mrs. Biden’s smiling face and immediately over to Mrs. Kishida in her bright blue gown—a trick that “would have worked” even if she had chosen a different color. Without her modest elegance and deference, probably no one would even have bothered to look at the younger woman in her bright blue gown. The Style writer at the Washington Post referred to this choice as both an act of graciousness and a “gauntlet thrown.”. Whattya got, Yuko Kisihida? Out-gracious THIS!

Melania Trump, in any case, would not have been capable of such diplomacy. All her gowns appear to be pointed directly at the viewer.

Biden of course had made an even more pointed statement in her Inaugural Ball gown, which featured the embroidered flower of every state and territory. Melania was seen the next day wearing a hat adorned with the dead flowers of every swing state that went for Biden.

Generally speaking, though, wardrobe diplomacy is subtler. Standouts included Hillary Rodham Clinton in a voluminous caftan that said “I’m not wearing any underpants.”

The giant Japanese fans artfully displayed at the state dinner were another nice touch, with each pleat signifying the many different paths life can take, according to the White House social secretary. Fans have a lot to say. They also symbolize the sun’s rays, wealth, royalty, prosperity, and life itself. Fans never really shut up, actually.

Even social behavior is part of diplomacy. The Japanese prime minister Kishida is said to have once competed with a Russian diplomat over who could drink the most while discussing matters of state. Kishida figured he had it in the bag, but he never would have tried it during Yeltsin’s time.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin’s latest state dinner also featured Japanese fans, their pleats representing the sovereign countries he intends to overrun, while the state orchestra played the theme from Jaws in the background. Mr. Putin himself was resplendent in a cutaway with 32 dead crows dangling from the cummerbund, for the number of countries in NATO.

Too bad we can’t send First Lady Rosalynn Carter over there, in a full-length denim sheath with bandana, tool belt, and framing hammer, and see if she can deliver some good ol’ American diplomacy upside his head.