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U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden, photo by Angela Weiss, courtesy of Getty Images.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris, photo by Jim Lo Scalzo, courtesy of Getty Images.
U.S. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden photo by Alex Wong, courtesy of Getty Images.
A sketch of the Markarian dress First Lady Jill Biden wore to the 59th Presidential Inauguration, courtesy of Markarian.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden dressed in Gabriela Hearst, photo by Chip Somodevilla, courtesy of Getty Images.
Lady Gaga in Schiaparelli, photo by Win McNamee, courtesy of Getty Images.
Courtesy of Schiaparelli.
Amanda Gorman, photo by Patrick Semansky, courtesy of Getty Images.
U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden, photo by Angela Weiss, courtesy of Getty Images.
Fashion

The Story Behind the Sartorial Choices at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration

By Eliza Jordan

January 21, 2021

Yesterday from homes around the world, viewers watched the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States take place in Washington, D.C. By his side was Kamala Harris, who by swearing in made history as the first female—and the first Black and South Asian person—to be the nation’s Vice President.

Still living through the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans were insured by the White House that a virtual fête would touch them in all 50 states. The celebration was tied to our times, centered around a “Field of Flags” that represented missing attendees. As 200,000 colorful flags stood staked in the ground of the National Mall, dignitaries from around the world began to pour out of guarded, unmarked cars in masks—and the fashion we’ve longed for.

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U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden, photo by Angela Weiss, courtesy of Getty Images.

We witnessed former Presidents, First Ladies, Senators, members of Congress, and more show up for the inauguration by supporting American fashion designers for history in the making.

The night before the inauguration, we saw Biden and Harris arrive in Washington, D.C. to stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and honor the 400,000 American lives lost in the global pandemic. But in appropriate, boundary-shattering style, Biden wore a Ralph Lauren look and Harris wore an Oscar de la Renta dress and Manolo Blahnik boots topped by a camel Pyer Moss coat. To their sides were their significant others, on the verge of becoming “First” and “Second” luminaries, with Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff dressed in Ralph Lauren, too, and Dr. Jill Biden adorned in a purple dress by New York-based designer Jonathan Cohen.

“To see First Lady of the United States Jill Biden in one of our designs was a dream come true,” Cohen told Whitewall this morning. “The administration decision to support new talent is evident in their choices which I find to be extremely exciting and invigorating. To be a part of this historic moment is truly humbling.”

The morning of the inauguration, Former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama arrived and wowed those clinging to hope for high fashion. Mrs. Obama gave wineberry plum a new moment with a head-to-toe monochromatic look by Sergio Hudson. It’s been just eight years since the South Carolina-born, Los Angeles-based designer created his eponymous label, but Obama has been in support of the designer in his early years, wearing his creations at the Essence Festival in 2019 and on her Becoming book tour in 2020, among other occasions.

Paired with a mask by Christy Rilling and black Stuart Weitzman boots and gloves, the now-iconic look color-matched a coat, sweater, and pants in the same hue, accentuated by one of Hudson’s eye-catching belts with a circular gold buckle. Equally as important in the fashion credits were hair and makeup details by her longtime trusted glam squad—a timeless smoky eye by D.C.-based makeup artist Carl Ray; and a major hair moment of bouncing barrel curls by hairstylist and owner of Aesthetics Salon, Yene Damtew.

“This particular outfit is about the woman wearing it more than anything. It is about her and what she means to you and to America,” said Obama’s stylist, Meredith Koop, on Instagram. “She is powerful and she needs to move. She is stunning and she represents what’s possible. She has consistently articulated over the years what has been in the hearts and minds of so many. She has taken a look at the rule book and turned the page. She leads and she makes us proud.”

Former President and Secretary of State Bill and Hillary Clinton, Former President and First Lady George and Laura Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were also present—in various designs ranging from a purple ensemble on Mrs. Clinton by Ralph Lauren to Sanders in Burton. (Sanders chose to pair the light brown outwear jacket with a pair of mittens handcrafted by a local Vermont schoolteacher named Jen Ellis, made of repurposed wool and lined with fleece made from recycles plastic bottles.)

As Senator Amy Klobuchar greeted Harris and Biden in a mask made by SCAD grad Sydney Benda, she led the parties of the hour up the stairs and into the eyes of the public with their fashionable families trailing behind.

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A sketch of the Markarian dress First Lady Jill Biden wore to the 59th Presidential Inauguration, courtesy of Markarian.

President Biden, again dressed in Ralph Lauren, was joined by his First Lady-to-be—a show-stopping Dr. Biden in the democratic party’s color, but with a light twist. Created by the New York-based designer Alexandra O’Neill behind the label Markarian was a matching light ocean blue dress and coat set in wool tweed. The coat—with a dark blue velvet collar and cuffs—adorned a tapered dress with a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt. Its neckline, which was hand-embellished with Swarovski crystals in a floral pattern, guided the eye to the matching Markarian silk face mask, dotted up top with earrings by Monique Péan.

The momentous occasion follows O’Neill’s opportunity of dressing celebrities—like Kerry Washington, Laura Dern, Priyanka Chopra, and Lizzo—since founding her brand in 2017. “It is an incredible honor to dress Dr. Biden today,” said O’Neill. “I am so humbled to be even a small part of American history.”

The art of dressing continued with looks by the Biden family. Hunter Biden and his wife Michelle Cohen wore monochromatic looks (as did their newborn Beau), and daughter Ashley Biden appeared in a navy double-breasted Gabriela Hearst coat. Grandchildren followed suit in monochromatic looks, with Naomi Biden in white, Finnegan Biden in a camel set by Brandon Maxwell, Maisy Biden in a black suit (paired with Air Jordan 1 sneakers), and their cousin Natalie Biden in a custom pink Lafayette 148 New York coat and mask. Natalie's brother Robert "Hunter" Biden II donned a classic suit.

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U.S. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden photo by Alex Wong, courtesy of Getty Images.

Next came Vice President Harris, stealing the show and the hearts of young Americans everywhere by wearing a purple coat by 27-year-old Louisiana-born, New York-based designer Christopher John Rogers, paired with Manolo Blahnik black boots. A man of many looks but few, deliberate words, Rogers said on Instagram, “Thank you, Madam Vice President. We are so honored and humbled to have played a small part in this historic moment.” To complement the look, Harris wore black leather gloves, a simple black mask, and American flag lapel pin, and pearls—her signature jewelry of choice—this time by designer Wilfredo Rosado.

Like the Bidens, the blended Harris family worked magic in the minds of fashion lovers near and far. Second Gentleman Emhoff—another first of titles for the White House—was joined by his ex-wife Kerstin Emhoff, as well as their children Ella and Cole Emhoff. At the inauguration, Ella scored the title of fashion darling as she waltzed into the ceremony in a Fall/Winter 2020 Miu Miu overcoat—with an oversized white pointed collar, complemented with burnt orange gem embellishments on its shoulders—over an ankle-length burgundy Batsheva dress. The breakout fashionista paired the look with a Loeffler Randall headband in embossed snake, a black face mask, and her own simple eyeglasses.

“Ella Emhoff in Burgundy today for the inauguration,” said New York-based designer Batsheva Hay on Instagram. “Dream do come true, kids.”

Meena Harris—the best-selling author, Phenomenal founder, and Harris’s niece—arrived in a matching ruffled green Ulla Johnson top and skirt, a Coach shearling jacket, silver stiletto boots, and elegant jewelry by Ana Khouri and Temple St. Clair. Her husband, Nikolas Ajagu, also became a meme sensation, as he was caught wearing the coveted Dior x Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers by Kim Jones. Their two daughters, who changed outfits several times throughout the day like the surrounding adults, went from wearing matching purple frocks to fluffy animal print coats to match an old photo of Vice President Harris when she was a child.

Moments before Biden and Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President, Lady Gaga greeted them and the crowd to sing the National Anthem. Dressed in a custom navy Schiaparelli haute couture jacket and a voluminous red skirt by Creative Director Daniel Roseberry, the musician’s chest was adorned by a large gold bird carrying an olive branch in its beak, also by the house.

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Lady Gaga in Schiaparelli, photo by Win McNamee, courtesy of Getty Images.

“As an American living in Paris, this ensemble is a love letter to the country I miss so dearly and to a performer whose artistry I have so long admired. Maison Schiaparelli is honored to have this chance to dress the iconic Lady Gaga on this historic Inauguration Day," said Roseberry in a public statement. "God Bless Lady Gaga and God Bless America."

After President Biden and Vice President Harris started history with their new titles, and before the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, guests were greeted to more celebrity musical performances by, yet again, fashion-clad icons, including Jennifer Lopez singing “This Land Is Your Land,” dripping in all-white Chanel.

We also witnessed 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman recite her chilling piece "The Hill We Climb" while wearing garments and accessories by Prada. Invited to speak at the inauguration by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden herself, Gorman arrived in contrast, in unity, and in Prada—a designer who has dressed her in the past. For the celebration, she wore a red headband and re-wore a sunny yellow double-breasted coat from the house, topping a white poplin shirt, a black leather pencil skirt, and black leather pumps.

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Amanda Gorman, photo by Patrick Semansky, courtesy of Getty Images.

As the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, a National YoungArts alum, a Gordon Parks Foundation awardee, and a Find Your Light Foundation grantee, Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet in history while also wearing a caged bird ring (a nod to Maya Angelou) and earrings gifted to her by the one-and-only Oprah by Nikos Koulis from his “Energy” collection.

Later that night, after many private processions, policy signings, and photo opps, the Bidens and Harrises made their ways back to the White House to enjoy a lineup of recorded and live performances dubbed “Celebrating America.”

Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria virtually introduced musicians—including Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons singing “Better Days,” The Black Pumas singing “Colors,” John Legend singing “Feeling Good,” Demi Lovato singing “Lovely Day,” Jon Bon Jovi singing “Here Comes the Sun,” Bruce Springsteen singing “Land of Hope and Dreams,” and Foo Fighters singing “Times Like These”—to take part in celebrating hometown heroes in the U.S. against the fight of Coronavirus.

Last but not least, Katy Perry began to sing “Firework” in Thom Browne and Rahaminov heart-shaped diamond earrings in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, as the Bidens and Harrises watched from the Truman Balcony at the White House. After an outfit change, a title change, and many unforgettable moments later, the President and his First Lady, and the Vice President and her Second Gentleman, appeared once more in sophisticated style.

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President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden dressed in Gabriela Hearst, photo by Chip Somodevilla, courtesy of Getty Images.

Enjoying the fireworks that burst in the night sky, Harris stood tall in a Sergio Hudson sequin black shift dress and a silk-lapeled tuxedo coat, paired with Jimmy Choo Romy pumps. The regal First Lady, just feet away and clapping to the beat of Perry’s performance, shined with a sense of unity in Gabriela Hearst—the designer on everyone’s minds, as she leads as the creative director of her eponymous label and now at Chloé, too.

A double-breasted white cashmere coat with an embroidered trim of flowers was worn atop a fitted white silk wool cady dress with silk organza at the neckline and long lace sleeves—also trimmed with delicate flowers.

Inspired by a theme of unity, Hearst created an ensemble that bloomed with symbolism. For this look, the designer represented the federal flowers from every state and territory of the U.S., embroidering them into the coat’s hemline in a pattern that rises organically on its side seams.

“The Delaware flower is positioned at the heart level of The First Lady. From there, all the other flowers branch out,” said the house on Instagram. “The pieces were made entirely in New York City. The Embroidery and Coat were crafted in the garment district and the dress was assembled at the inhouse studio. Each flower took approximately two-four hours to embroider. Careful placements and color selections were carefully studied for weeks. Inside of the coat, representing the lifelong calling and service of Dr. Biden as an educator is a hand embroidery on the lining with a quote from Founding Father Benjamin Franklin: ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ The materials used were existing available fabrics to minimize the impact on the environment.”

Only one question remains from yesterday’s resurgence of fashion: Will the nation’s capital finally become a fashion destination in the United States of America? We’re eager to see.

fashionInaugurationJoe BidenKamala Harris

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