Carlamania. That’s what the British press called it when Carla Bruni-Sarkozy dominated British headlines last week in her first official state visit as the First Lady of France. Accompanying her husband of less that two months, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla managed to snag most of the attention with her grace and elegant Dior wardrobe.

The endless coverage of her clothes and flat shoes (so as not to tower above her husband) was reminiscent of the late Princess of Wales, just as taking the spotlight away from her husband called to mind Jackie O’s success in France in 1961. “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris,” John Kennedy said on that trip when the French basically ignored him in favor of his glamorous, French-speaking wife.

Nicolas Sarkozy understands — even if he lacks President Kennedy’s self-deprecating style. “You have a curious idea of a couple,” Sarkozy snapped at a French reporter who asked him if he felt upstaged by his wife. But a week after the visit, no one in Britain remembers what the President talked about while he was there. However, they can probably tell you in rich detail about every outfit his wife wore during the visit.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy arrives in Great Britain
Mrs. Sarkozy arrives in Britain
for her first state visit as First Lady of France
BBC News

Still, this trip was good for the President’s ratings. After divorcing his second wife last fall and taking up with Italian Carla Bruni, a former model and singer, last December, Sarkozy saw his approval ratings collapse. Both parties have scandal-ridden pasts, and putting them together did not win fans in France. Still, the French and British press can’t bring themselves to snub Carla because she’s beautiful, well-spoken, and well-dressed. It’s such a rare combination in international politics that the media will praise her sense of style even as they recount all of her past transgressions. The day she landed in London, newspapers were running a nude picture of her taken during her modeling days in 1993. The photo is set for auction in the U.S. a little later this spring.

But there’s no denying the First Lady made an impression. After “Carlamania” broke loose, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked Mrs. Sarkozy to spearhead an initiative aimed at injecting more style and glamour into British national life. The program will focus on fashion and cuisine — two things Brits aren’t especially known for — and bringing savoir-faire to the people of Britain. Mrs. Sarkozy will relocate to London for three months, beginning in June, according to a Brown aide, traveling back to France as necessary to participate in State events.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at a State dinner in London
Mrs. Sarkozy at the State Dinner
BBC News

Wow. The British calling on the French for help with style? Victoria Beckham and Naomi Campbell must be miffed. Perhaps Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, could take up the British fashion title held by their late aunt, Princess Diana. It’s a thought . . .