FASHION FOR A FORWARD FUTURE
The United States presidential inauguration is an occasion where our country comes together to celebrate the incoming president and vice president. Through performances, pop culture, and fashion, this event offers the opportunity for elected officials to make a statement about their administration. On January 21, 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stepped into their history-making roles as president and vice president. While the inauguration was scaled-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden and Harris, as well as other guests, utilized fashion as a tool to showcase their values for the next four years.
As Kamala Harris was sworn into her role as vice president, she sported a purple, monochromatic dress and jacket by Christopher John Rodgers. Harris, the first Black, South Asian, and female elected to this role, chose to highlight an emerging Black and queer designer in her first moments as vice president. In featuring Rodgers—the 2020 CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year—Harris displayed her commitment to and support of rising minority designers. Additionally, the color of her outfit was symbolic in itself as purple represents the unity between red and blue, or Republicans and Democrats, which was a central theme of the Biden-Harris campaign.
While stepping into her role as First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden wore a sparkly, cerulean dress and coat, designed by the small, New-York based brand Markarian. Amidst an unprecedented financial crisis, Biden’s choice to emphasize a rising American designer demonstrates the administration’s attention to small domestic businesses. That evening, Biden was outfitted by Gabriela Hearst, a designer known for prioritizing sustainability. Overall, Dr. Biden’s day-time and evening outfits were symbolic of the values important to her and her family. Former First Lady Michelle Obama wore a burgundy and plum outfit designed by LA-based designer Sergio Hudson. This was not the first occasion the former First Lady has worn Hudson’s pieces—she has drawn attention to and bolstered his brand demonstrating her support for both small and Black-owned businesses. Furthermore, the plum shade of Obama’s ensemble further emphasized the theme of togetherness and unity as seen through Kamala Harris’ outfit.
The 2021 presidential inauguration was not the first time political figures used this event as an opportunity to showcase their priorities and values through fashion. In 2017, Former First Lady Melania Trump modeled a pale blue outfit by Ralph Lauren. By featuring one of the most well-known iconic American designers, Trump demonstrated her commitment to American-owned brands, a strong theme of her husband’s administration.
Amidst a pandemic, financial crisis, and the recent insurrection at the Capitol, the inauguration appeared less significant this year than it has been in others. While the event might have been a scaled-down version of a traditional protocol, major female political figures seized the opportunity to highlight small businesses that hold similar values to that of the Biden Harris administration. The themes displayed through inauguration day fashion indicate that unity, diversity, and sustainability will be prioritized throughout the next four years.