The Meaning Behind the Inauguration Outfits

The Inauguration of the 46th American president Joe Biden was a TED Talk on how to mix fashion and politics. The choice of clothes, brands and colors public figures choose to wear can show intentions, respect and be an amazing way to communicate if done correctly. And if the January 20th is the example, then it is a good sign for the relationship between fashion and politics.

Let’s start with the most important people of the event. President Joe Biden wore a navy-blue Ralph Lauren suit, a safe but meaningful choice. Ralph Lauren is one of the most traditional and well-known American brands, beloved by people with different political views, and is also a symbol of stability. The brand is known for creating classic pieces, that rarely goes out of style, and it caters to multiple age groups. The color of his suit has an even deeper meaning. Navy blue is a shade known to evoke the sense of calm, harmony, and fidelity even though the color feels distant. And, according to Eva Heller’s 2000 book Wie Farben auf Gefühl und Verstand wirken, blue is also the favorite color of most humans, and is disliked by very few people.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wore an ocean blue tweed coat with a matching mask and dress, all by Markarian, an up-and-coming brand by Alexandra O’Neill. Dr. Biden has been highlighting young American designers unknown by the masses. A day before the inauguration was photographed in a purple coat by Jonathan Cohen.

Madam Vice President Kamala Harris also chose an American designer to dress her. For the inauguration ceremony she chose a purple jacket by Christopher John Rogers, a young, black and queer designer, winner of the CFDA’s emerging designer of the year award in 2020. Her signature pearls were custom made by Puerto Rican jeweler Wilfredo Rosado. The choice of color has many meanings, the first one being an homage to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the American congress.  A second reason is because purple was one of the colors of the suffragettes, the group of women who fought for their right to vote. Purple is also one of the colors of power; it was the most expensive color until the 15th century, and during the roman empire only the emperor was allowed to fully dress in the color. By the 19th century this color was part of every woman’s wardrobe, hence being chosen as a symbol for the suffragette movement. A third reason for the choice of color is the fact that the mixture of red (the color of the Republican party) and Blue (the color of the Democrat party) is purple.

The 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, and former FLOTUS Laura Bush, as well as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton also chose to wear purple for the inauguration. Michelle Obama, another former FLOTUS, dressed in Marsala, a deep red with purple undertones. This can symbolize a desire to unite the country, but also the importance of the right to vote.

The poet Amanda Gorman delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb”, which was as beautiful and her fashion choice. Gorman re-wore a bright yellow coat and a red satin headband by Prada, and the details of her outfits spoke as much as her words. Yellow is an ambiguous color, representing both youthfulness and maturity, optimism and intelligence, while red is the color of passions (from love to hate). The coat is also a nod to Dr. Jill Biden, whom she saw wearing the color. Her earrings were a gift from Oprah, who wanted to continue a tradition she started with Maya Angelou of contributing with something to the author’s outfit. Amanda also wore a caged bird ring, another nod to Angelou.

Lady Gaga is known for her extravagant and meaningful outfits, so naturally she didn’t disappoint. She chose a custom Schiaparelli Haute Couture gown that featured a red silk skirt, and accessorized the outfit with a golden dove brooch to sing the national anthem. The day before she posted a photo inside the Capitol building to announce her arrival to Washington. Gaga was wearing matching white mask and dress by Givenchy. Red is a color that represent passion, but is also present in the flag of the United States, while white is another color of the suffragettes, but also represents innocence and sacrifice.

Another entertainer that participated in the ceremony was Jennifer Lopez, who wore an all white Chanel ensemble. She accessorized her outfit with pearls, a Kamala Harris signature.

One of the best dressed people of the event was definitely Ella Emhoff, the vice president’s stepdaughter. She chose a plaid oversized Miu Miu coat, with crystal embroidery on the shoulders, paired with a dress by Batsheva. A day before the inauguration, Emhoff dressed in a full Thom Browne look.


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