Fashion Symbolism: Here's What US Inauguration 2021 Fashion Statements Really Mean
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in today as America’s 46th President and Vice President wearing head-to-toe, monochromatic American designers—perhaps the signal of a new beginning with this administration. President Joe Biden attended the ceremonies in a custom Ralph Lauren look and Vice President Kamala Harris wore Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson—she has worn designs by emerging Black designers for all her activities in the week leading up to the inauguration.
Here are a few behind-the-scenes stories from the style front: fashion choices that helped define today’s historical ceremony.
Joe Biden Broke with Tradition in his Custom Ralph Lauren Suit
President Joe Biden, in his sartorially chic navy single-breasted overcoat, suit and sky blue tie complete with a Windsor knot, represented not just a salute to a stalwart American designer but one that perhaps signaled a new beginning. Biden is no stranger to the brand, having been photographed twice recently wearing items from Ralph Lauren, including a polo with a large pony logo while being vaccinated against Covid-19. In the tradition of past inaugurations, former presidents—in fact, 41 out of 45, including Donald Trump and Barack Obama—have all chosen to wear Brooks Brothers for their inauguration, but today, Joe Biden broke from that norm. But he did keep to one tradition. He stuck with the color that most past Presidents have chosen for their swearing in: navy blue.
Meena Harris is Kamala’s Style Connector
Vice President Kamala Harris’ millennial niece, Meena Harris, has become her aunt’s go-to secret style connection in many ways. But who is Meena Harris? She is the only child of Kamala’s sister, Maya, and with a background in tech and law, she is also the founder of the Phenomenal Women Action Campaign, a non-profit organisation that has helped to champion social causes and its current line of merch, emblazoned with phrases and sayings, have become a uniform of sorts for the millennial woke crowd.
Meena is also the author of two children’s books, based on the lives of her mom and her aunt. The most recent one, Ambitious Girl, was just released last week. But in the world of fashion, Meena was said to be the one who connected her aunt with Hollywood stylist, Karla Welch (with whom she is friends) to dress her for the big day. While Welch and others have not publicly confirmed this, the politically outspoken stylist did post a very telling Instagram today wearing a “46 Presidential” baseball cap and pearls.
The Significance of Pearls
Pearls have always had a personal significance to Vice President Kamala Harris—she has said in many interviews leading up to the Inauguration that pearls would always play a big part in her style on the big day. As the symbol of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which Harris belonged to at Howard University, they've also come to represent change and shattered boundaries for countless women around the U.S. and the world. The New York Times reports that over 430,000 women belong to a Facebook group called Wear Pearls on Jan 20 2021 and will all don pearls today to honor the country’s first female VP, someone "who wore her signature pearls when she graduated Howard University, was sworn into Congress, grilled Brett Kavanaugh, debated Vice President Mike Pence, as she received her Covid-19 vaccine."
The First Lady, the Vice President, and Michelle Obama Support Emerging Designers
Dr. Jill Biden, America’s new First Lady, chose to wear the unknown designer brand, Markarian. The founder/designer, Alexandra O’Neill told WWD: “It’s incredible to be even a small part of American history” when she relayed having not slept the entire night before, wondering if her look would be the chosen one. O’Neill recounts being first approached by Dr. Biden’s stylist back in early December and submitting ten sketches and crafting the final look with her small team of six. The coat was all hand-embroidered with Swarovski pearls (a trend today!) and crystals. The previous evening, at the more somber Covid memorial, Dr. Biden chose an elegant, knee length purple coat with a side ribbon-tie from young, independent designer Jonathan Cohen, a designer best known for his vibrant hues.
Vice President Kamala Harris, in a nod to representation, has chosen to wear all emerging Black designers for her festivities and duties this week. At the Covid memorial ceremony, on the eve of the Inauguration, Harris wore a long camel coat from Pyer Moss from designer Kirby-Jean Raymond. Moss, who back in March, turned his design studios into a donation center for PPE when his sister, who works in the medical field, was exposed to Covid. And for the swearing in, she opted for Christopher John Rogers. For the evening festivities, Harris will be dressed in a custom Sergio Hudson look, another Black LA-based designer, who also outfitted Michelle Obama for the inauguration.