Fashionable Moments from the 2021 Presidential Inauguration  

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With baited breath, the country, if not the world, awaited the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It has been a tumultuous road to get to this point, but finally, the moment arrived, and the country, if not the entire world celebrated. And how do most people celebrate? They put on their finest outfits and come together.

As we are still battling the global COVID-19 pandemic, safely coming together is difficult. The presidential inauguration events were drastically scaled down, but the fashion was not. That said, the fashion choices, particularly the colors and hues of the outfits, took a poignant and symbolic turn.

The most prominent color of the inauguration was blue, the color of the Democratic party. But blue is also seen as a calming, tranquil, steady color—attributes most needed for the times at hand. There were also seen many shades of purple. Purple is typically seen as the color of royalty, but as the United States is not a monarchy, the presidency is the closest thing we have to royalty. Moreso, the color purple is the blending of blue and red, and on this occasion, the blending of Democrats and Republicans, for, as former president Obama once stated, “we are not red states or blue states, but the United States of America.”

Purple is also one of the colors of the suffragette movement, signifying freedom and dignity. The chief color of the moment is white, representing purity, which has recently been worn in unison by the women of Congress, and donned by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry at this week’s inaugural events.

Fashion has always been a way of subtly or overtly expressing oneself. Fashion can reflect who you are or be a projection of who you want to be. It has always been a mirror of the current world and often foreshadows changes to come. The outfits worn to the inauguration spoke of unity and hope—what the country needs the most right now.

Image courtesy of Instagram

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden

For the three major events of the inauguration—Tuesday’s COVID-19 Memorial Ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony, and Wednesday evening’s virtual concert—Dr. Biden dressed in the three major color schemes of the festivities.

On Tuesday, she wore a purple dress and A-line wrap coat from designer Jonathan Cohen‘s upcoming fall/winter 2021 collection. Dr. Biden accessorized with a printed mask of remnant material from the designers studio line.

For her husband’s swearing in ceremony, Dr. Biden opted for a robin egg blue Markarian coat adorned with Swarovski crystals by designer Alexandra O’Neill. For Wednesday night’s virtual inaugural concert, First Lady Biden wore a custom ivory coat, and matching embroidered dress by Uruguayan American designer Gabriela Hearst. Hearst noted that the gown had floral embellishments to reflect “the federal flowers from every state and territory of the United States of America,” and “the Delaware flower is positioned at the heart level of The First Lady” to honor the Bidens’ home state.

Images courtesy of Pyer Moss and Instagram

Vice President Kamala Harris

Throughout her campaign, Vice President Harris made it a point to celebrate young American designers, especially African American designers. For Tuesday night’s COVID-19 Memorial service, she wore an all-black outfit under a camel coat tailored with a pleated curved wave pattern across the back. The coat is from the brand Pyer Moss, whose designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond, turned his office into a PPE donation center at the beginning of the pandemic.

For her swearing in, Harris wore a purple shift dress and matching coat by Christopher John Rogers and a custom pearl necklace by Puerto Rican designer Wilfredo Rosado. Harris’ pearls represent her Howard University sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), the first African American Greek-letter sorority. On Wednesday night, Madam Vice President changed into a black sequined dress under a floor-length silk-lapelled tuxedo coat by Sergio Hudson and coordinated her outfit with Jimmy Choo Romy shoes and earrings by Irene Neuwirth. Hudson stated “we kept the silhouette very structured and tailored, because that’s who the Vice President is. But the liquid sequins give her glamour and shine, because her influence and the way she’s broken barriers is a light for so many of us. She shines so we can all shine.”

The Former First Ladies

Under a maroon coat, former First Lady/Senator/Secretary Hillary Clinton wore a purple Ralph Lauren pant suit. The power pant suit has become synonymous with Clinton’s fashion style over the past few decades, and this outfit was reflective of the pantsuit she wore in her 2016 concession speech.

Laura Bush wore a knee-length dark gray dress under a powder blue overcoat reminiscent of her ensemble for her husband’s inauguration in 2001. Styled with a pearl necklace, sheer black tights, black loafers and a gray face mask in a matching shade to her dress, Mrs. Bush kept it classy, comfortable, and appropriate for the occasion.

Looking like the second coming of Tamara Dobson (Cleopatra Jones), Michelle Obama stole the show in a Sergio Hudson ensemble. Comprised of a burgundy turtleneck and overcoat, with matching high-waisted wide-legged pant accentuated with a gold buckled belt, the monochromatic outfit, along with her flawless makeup and perfectly coiffed hair was one of the top visuals of the ceremony.

Images courtesy of Instagram

The Performers

To sing the national anthem, Lady Gaga wore an haute couture Schiaparelli ball gown custom made for the event. The look comprised of a fitted cashmere navy jacket and washed red silk faille skirt accompanied by Cornelia James leather gloves. If that wasn’t enough, she accessorized her outfit with gold flower ear cuffs, golden in-ear monitors, and a rather sizeable gold brooch shaped as a flying dove holding an olive branch. Ever the statement-making performer, a number of viewers compared her outfit to what one might expect to see in a Hunger Games movie.

Dressed head to toe in all-white Chanel, Jennifer Lopez sung a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” infused with a line of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish and a bit of her hit “Let’s Get Loud.” Her Swarovski-bedazzled outfit was comprised of a ruffled silk blouse, sequined wide-leg pants, and a floor-length tweed coat, accented by Chanel pearl earrings, pearl bracelets, and pearl belt. The day before, Lopez arrived for a sound check—where she is rumored to have changed outfits at least twice —in a houndstooth matching overcoat and pant ensemble.

The young lady who highlighted the show was Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, who, center stage at Capitol Hill, read her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman donned a full-length yellow Prada coat, a nod to First Lady Dr. Jill Biden who first saw Gorman perform in 2017, while wearing a yellow dress. Gorman chose to wear Prada because of designer Miuccia Prada’s strong feminist statements. Everyone was awed by Gorman’s prose and marveled at her wardrobe selection, and within hours of the inauguration, the coat was sold out everywhere online.

Images courtesy of Twitter and Instagram

The Bidens

Entering the stage for the ceremony, three of the Biden granddaughters caused camera shutters to go into overdrive. Natalie, Naomi, and Finnegan were dubbed the “Neapolitan Trio,” as their outfits resembled the popular ice cream combination. Natalie in a custom pink coat, Naomi in a white Adam Lippes coat, and Finnegan in a camel coat by Brandon Maxwell were unified in the monochromatic looks. However, they would not outshine the subtle sense of individuality shown by Maisy Biden as she paired her Nike Air Force 1 mid “Sisterhood” sneakers with a monochromatic navy outfit. What a great nod to the historic female power moment of the occasion, and her grandfather’s new first class air travel.

Images courtesy of Twitter and Meena Harris

The Harris’

Everyone did a double take when Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter, entered the stage. Dressed in a Miu Miu coat, coupled with her Thom Browne outfit the evening before, Ella, a student studying at Parson’s School of Design in NYC, secured her seat at the fashion table for the foreseeable future. Her young step cousins also brought some youthful delight to the stage in matching faux-fur coats custom made by children’s brand ILovePlum. What makes this especially adorable is that the coats are an homage to a pair of coats their grandmother Maya and her older sister, Kamala, wore when they were young girls. As they brought the cute, their dad, Nikolas Ajagu, brought the cool with his Dior Nike Air Force 1’s. As Senator Amy Klobuchar was speaking at the podium, we caught a glimpse of Nikolas coming down the steps behind her. Tv viewers could briefly see only his sneakers, but for the eagle-eyed hypebeast, that was enough for them to rewind their DVR to confirm that he was indeed wearing the $2,000 pair of sneakers. Mixing comfort and style with formal attire, as often done by Vice President Harris, Nikolas has been subsequently dubbed the Secretary of Drip.

Images courtesy of and Twitter

The Gentlemen

We cannot forget about the men when it comes to the fashion of the day. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff donned a dark grey Ralph Lauren suit for the occasion. But the day was focused on one man, President Joe Biden. For his attire, of course he opted for an American designer, selected to be dressed by Ralph Lauren, in a custom navy suit and overcoat. Completed with a satin blue tie and wool scarf, the entire ensemble was made in Rochester, New York’s Hickey Freeman plant. New York Senator, and now Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Shumer wore a cashmere Hickey Freeman jacket for the inauguration ceremony. He was also in attendance at the plant in 2019 when the company announced plans to invest $8 million to expand its operations and introduce new product lines, adding up to 80 jobs.

Wednesday’s inauguration was magical —because of the importance of the occasion, and because of the sartorial symbolism. There seems to be a fresh breath of air and fashion sense in the executive branch. Even though the previous administration included a former model (Melania Trump) and fashion brand owner (Ivanka Trump), there seemed to have been few fashion moments from the White House. With the vote of over 81 million Americans, and two families stepping into the limelight, it seems a change has come.


—Carl Ayers


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