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Image / Style / Fashion / Off The Cuff

We need to talk about the US Presidential Inauguration fashion


by Holly O'Neill
20th Jan 2021

Yes, we do.


Let’s park the discourse that discussing the wardrobe of a new administration is frivolous or trivial. Anyone who thinks these outfit choices are unimportant or unintentional isn’t paying attention.

As Melania entered the helicopter to depart the White House for the last time and her role as the First Lady of the United States, she was wearing all black. A black Chanel jacket, a Dolce and Gabbana dress and Christian Louboutin shoes. There was not a hint of an American designer in her final look, representative of the entire Trump presidency where she wore European labels and Birkin bags. Finally an end to outfits where the most standout moment was when she wore the “I don’t really care, do you?” parka after a visit to a migrant child detention centre, while the world raged at Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the American border. Buh-bye!

Two hours later, we saw President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, fully dressed in American designers. President Joe Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff wore Ralph Lauren suits, the most all-American of designers. First Lady Dr Jill Biden wore Markarian, a new female designer from New York. Vice President Kamala Harris wore her signature pearls and Christopher John Rodgers, a young, Black and queer designer. Hillary Clinton wore Ralph Lauren and Michelle Obama wore Sergio Hudson, a Black American designer.

“Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause,” said the National Woman’s Party in a 1913 newsletter. Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris wore purple, a nod to the U.S. Suffrage Party, and of course, a combination of blue and red, a reflection of Biden’s emphasis in his inaugural speech about “America United.”

On the eve of the inauguration at a COVID memorial ceremony, Kamala Harris wore Pyer Moss, a Black American designer and Jill Biden wore New York designer Jonathan Cohen. As Vanity Fair put it, “fashion diplomacy has returned to Washington.”

How can you say that the outfit choices of these Presidential candidates don’t carry weight and importance when Melania Trump leaves the White House in a dress by designers most famous for their racism, sexism and homophobia and Kamala Harris enters it dressed by a young, Black, queer American? When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has an impeachment outfit?

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, the Biden-Harris administration will bring a spotlight to American independent designers, particularly those from marginalised backgrounds. A welcome change after a Presidency where the most standout outfit was a €40 ugly parka that became a defining moment of the entire Trump presidency, and a representation of the cruelty, stupidity and indignity of the last four years. Prepare to see a lot more American designers on the global stage. And a whole lot of purple coming to the high street.

Photography by @jccic.

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