Biden's Inauguration Brought Back American Fashion to the White House. Finally.

Jessica Iredale
·4 min read
Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images
Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images

From Town & Country

The circumstances of the 2021 presidential inauguration were unlike any other in our country’s two-plus century history. Likewise, the pomp was unequivocally altered. With the celebrations limited and live human exuberance typical of the occasion stripped to a socially distant, televised and virtual medium, the optics were magnified.

Perhaps this year, more than any other, fashion was relied upon as a powerful tool, its messaging amplified. There was much to make of it.

The garments and designers Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wore imparted highly considered information. The daytime ensembles have already been discussed, but the eveningwear, while far less visible than it would have been had there been the pageantry of the customary Inaugural Ball, was equally impactful.

Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images
Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images

Biden chose to wear Gabriela Hearst, an American designer she’s long favored, a woman whose work is ingrained with a mission of sustainability and professional female empowerment. Hearst designed Biden’s ivory double breasted cashmere coat, leather gloves, and ivory silk wool cady dress with embroidery reflecting the federal flowers from every state and territory of the United States of America. President Biden himself wore Ralph Lauren during his swearing in.

Harris wore black, a pile sequin cocktail dress with a floor length tuxedo overcoat of cashmere wool lined with silk satin by Black designer Sergio Hudson, who also dressed Michelle Obama for the day ceremony. Both Vice President and First Lady countered strong tailoring with feminine glamour and delivered it with a Made in America message that was the throughline of every stitch of clothing on their bodies for the duration of the week’s events. That in and of itself was a departure from the previous administration, whose most prominent figures preferred European labels, an inclination that was on sometimes uncomfortable display from the get-go and continued as recently as this week.

Photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS - Getty Images
Photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS - Getty Images

The garments of the family and ancillary players of the ceremony were equally prime for parsing. Consider Ella Emhoff, the 21-year-old daughter of Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff, the first ever Second Gentleman of the United States. She wore a burgundy dress by Batsheva Hay, an American designer who is devoutly Jewish and has made her name by perverting and reclaiming modesty dressing—house and prairie dresses, the traditional uniforms of homemakers—for modern, independent women, and topped it off with a bejeweled coat from Miu Miu, Prada's younger sister brand.

Photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS - Getty Images
Photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS - Getty Images

Then there was Meena Harris, the vice president’s niece, a proud fashion fan who turned up in Coach during the day and in the evening in an emerald green Ulla Johnson dress, its silhouette echoing Emhoff’s Batsheva, and silver sequined boots. She dressed her daughters in custom leopard print coats in homage to a photo of Harris with her parents as a child. Meena’s husband Nik Ajagu’s Dior Air Jordan sneakers wandered into the frame at some point. Hypebeasts in the house!

Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate, wore Prada during the inauguration. The brand has been a fan for a while—she was a speaker at its sustainability conference in New York in the fall of 2019.

Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images

To do the honors of the National Anthem, Lady Gaga joyful custom Schiaparelli—a French house with American designer Daniel Roseberry at the helm—knew no bounds. J.Lo, well, she’s a goddess, but would it have killed her to give a Latinx American designer a little love?

Then again, wearing what she wanted was in line with the unapologetic nature of the inauguration’s fashion attitude. The freedom of expression was earned.

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

The liberal-elite hating right likely loathed every inch of celebratory, designer garb on display, not that they complained for the last four years about a First Couple who were attired mainly in European labels.

Alas for them, there was the gift of Senator Bernie Sanders, king of the far left, who launched a million memes by attending in a Burton ski coat and mittens lovingly knitted from recycled materials by a Vermont schoolteacher. His posture and attire was that of someone who had just shoveled the driveway to learn that eight more inches of snow was on the way. If his clothes could talk, they might say, “It’s a free country.”

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