Inauguration fashion: Purple, pearls, American designers

·3 min read

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris showcased American designers at their inauguration Wednesday, and Harris gave a nod to women's suffrage and Shirley Chisholm in pearls and purple.

Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush also donned hues of purple. Harris has cited Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, as an inspiration for her career. Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black major-party candidate to run for U.S. president.

Pearls had a strong fashion showing, in line with a social media campaign. Nobody in attendance did them quite like Jennifer Lopez — from earrings to bracelets — as she sang “This Land is Your Land.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, wore a pearl necklace owned by Chisholm. It was a gift from Chisholm's goddaughter.

“Because of Shirley Chisholm, I am,” Lee, who is Black, posted on Twitter. “Because of Shirley Chisholm, Vice-President Harris is.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drew fashion praise on social media for his cozy, comfortable inauguration wear: His signature beige parka and a pair of knit patterned mittens.

Jill Biden wore an ocean-blue wool tweed coat over a dress by American designer Alexandra O’Neill of the Markarian label. The new first lady's matching coat and dress set included a velvet collar and cuffs on the coat, and a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt on the dress. The neckline of the dress is embellished with Swarovski pearls and crystals. The same crystals adorn the coat. The outfit was handcrafted in New York City's Garment District and hand-finished by O'Neill in her studio in Manhattan's West Village, according to a company statement.

Aides said Harris was dressed in Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson. Both are Black designers, Rogers from Louisiana and Hudson from South Carolina. Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, wore a Ralph Lauren suit. Michelle Obama, a fashion icon, drew huge praise from fans on social media for her belted pantsuit in plum, also by Hudson.

Joe Biden wore a navy blue suit and overcoat by Ralph Lauren. It was a change from Brooks Brothers, the oldest U.S. clothier at 202. The brand has outfitted 41 of the 46 American Presidents, including Barack Obama during his inauguration in 2009.

Brooks Brothers fell on hard financial times last year, when it filed for bankruptcy protection and announced a planned sale. Ralph Lauren has a history of nonpartisan dressing, including moments with Michelle Obama and outgoing first lady Melania Trump. Joe Biden wore Polo shirts, emblazoned with the label’s pony and polo player logo, to take both of his COVID-19 vaccinations on television.

Véronique Hyland, fashion features director for Elle magazine, noted the wins for young American designers.

“They chose a diverse group of talents — Christopher John Rogers, Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond, Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill and Jonathan Cohen — to be a part of this historic moment," she said. “It made for a meaningful statement at this particular time, when all small businesses, including fashion businesses, are in need of support and spotlighting.”

Harris’ choice to wear pieces by Black designers “felt particularly significant in light of her triply historic title as the first female, Black and Asian American vice-president of our country,” Hyland added.

Another inauguration fashion star on Twitter was Nikolas Ajagu, the husband of Harris' sister, Meena Harris. Sharp-eyed sneakerheads noted his Air Dior Jordan 1 shoes.

Harris' stepdaughter, Emma Emhoff, also schooled some of the older folks in her embellished Shetland Miu Miu coat in a pied de poule pattern and large brown button at the neck. The pointed white collar took the wind a time or two.

Leanne Italie, The Associated Press