The global economic crisis looked set to reap yet another victim on Sunday -- the storied tradition of normally starchy APEC leaders decked out in gaudy local dress.
As this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is in Hawaii journalists had been salivating at the prospect of leaders like Chinese President Hu Jintao modeling the state's colorful Aloha floral shirts.
But it appeared likely that the leaders would skip the ritual, perhaps to avoid being seen by their publics back home as overly frivolous at the summit amid economic blight back home.
A US official said the foreign leaders would be given local shirts but would not be required to wear them for a cattle call in front of the cameras.
He did not give a reason, but the sight of Obama joshing around with foreign leaders in a silly shirt on palm-fringed Hawaii is hardly the image his political aides want to project as he starts his tough reelection bid.
So barring a last minute surprise, the Hawaiian shirts will stay under wraps.
The leaders also skipped the ritual at last year's APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, appearing in sober business suits, after organizers decided against turning them out in local garb.
Their wives got to wear resplendent silk kimonos handed out by the hosts.
President Barack Obama had stoked hopes that he would restore a tradition in his home state which might be the only way in which normally dry APEC summits penetrate public consciousness.
"The United States was there at the first meeting of APEC leaders on Blake Island (off Seattle), where president (Bill) Clinton began the interesting tradition of having us wear outfits picked out by the host nation," Obama said in 2009 in Singapore when he announced Hawaii would host this year's summit.
"I look forward to seeing you all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts," he told fellow leaders.
The annual APEC group photo has seen its share of fashion disasters.
Clinton handed out leather bomber jackets in Seattle in 1993, but world leaders including then US president George W. Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin were forced to don blue calf-length silk tunics in Hanoi in 2006.
Chilean ponchos were de rigueur in Santiago in 2004, while in Singapore leaders including Obama and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev sported linen shirts with mandarin collars, a style inspired by the blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian culture found in Singapore.
In 2005, in Busan, South Korea, red-faced APEC leaders appeared in blue and gold South Korean silk overcoats called durumagi.
In her autobiography, Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, revealed some of the political calculations that can lie behind even the simple act of donning a fancy outfit overseas.
She said that her husband was given a lesson in international politics at a summit in Japan when she said Clinton chose the most hideous shirt offered to world leaders.
"Why on earth did you do that?" Blair asked Clinton, according to his wife's book.
"'Take it from an old timer,' Bill said," according to Blair, before explaining that the British prime minister's less offensive shirt was a naive political choice.
"'Now you Tony, wearing that particular shirt, people at home might conceivably think that you chose to wear it,'" Clinton was quoted as saying.
"'Me, wearing this shirt, everybody at home is going to think, 'Boy is that Clinton diplomatic, being so nice to those foreigners. There's no way he would have chosen to wear that. What a good man he is.'"