2021 US presidential inauguration fashion recap

Joe Biden and Jill Biden waving at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration are pictured. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

In the midst of recent political drama, there was cause for excitement for another important reason. The first and second families and other attendees of the 2021 U.S. presidential inauguration pulled out all of the stops when it came to their fashion. With high media attention, every fashion choice was intentional. The attendees succeeded in looking amazing and used their wardrobes to send messages. 

The first family is showing all the early signs of having some of the next great fashion icons, perhaps with the lasting influence of someone like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, John F. Kennedy’s wife. President Joe Biden kept his look traditional in a Ralph Lauren blue, single-breasted suit under a navy wool coat. Dr. Jill Biden’s outfit was similarly traditional and safe, but it did not feel dated because of the sparkly detailing, fur panels on the coat and turquoise color. The first lady stunned in a matching sparkly cerulean tweed jacket and coat from Alexandra O’Neill of the New York label Markarian, a female-founded fashion label. She walked the line between modesty and still managing to feel modern perfectly. In addition to the heads of the first family, the grandchildren of the president and first lady also wowed. The granddaughters all went for monochromatic looks but distinguished themselves by choosing different colors. The monochromatic looks succeeded in looking coordinated, but there was still some individual flair, like Maisy Biden’s choice of Air Jordans compared to Natalie Biden’s tall suede boots. If we are lucky, we will get to see more looks from the young Bidens over the coming years. 

The members of the second family also did not disappoint. Ella Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter, wore the most unique inauguration outfit (not including Lady Gaga, as she is in a separate league of individuality) and Twitter responded accordingly with adoration for her unique coat. Her Miu Miu frock stood out for its plaid pattern with unique orange crystals adorning the shoulders. Under the stunning coat, Emhoff wore a Batsheva dress. While Emhoff’s outfit was unique, her stepmother, Vice President Harris, took the necessarily more modest route. Her vibrant purple outfit featured a coordinating dress with a long overcoat and a pair of classic black pumps. Taking advantage of the heightened media attention, Vice President Harris chose to highlight black-owned businesses. She selected an outfit created by Black fashion designer Christopher John Rogers. Additionally, the striking purple of the coat and dress carried a deeper meaning. Vice President Harris wore the color as a possible nod to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and someone who Harris noted has been an inspiration for her. By Harris’ side, Douglas Emhoff, the second gentleman of the United States, wore a charcoal Ralph Lauren suit with a dark overcoat. While the outfit was nothing exceptional, it was a classic look and it looked nice next to the real star of the show: Madam Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Michelle Obama wowed as usual in a burgundy and plum look from Sergio Hudson. The coordinated turtleneck, bootcut pants and coat exuded authority and elegance. Similar to Vice President Harris, Michelle Obama spotlighted a Black designer, as she has done many times before. The next great fashion moment came from Lady Gaga. While the internet had a lot to say about the singer’s dress, namely that it appeared she was emerging from The Hunger Games universe, this actually felt like a very tame look for Gaga. It was extraordinarily extravagant when you compare it to the more muted silhouettes around her, but when you compare it to some of her past looks, it was quite understated. Remember the meat dress? The voluminous Schiaparelli inauguration gown, designed as a love letter to America, maintained Gaga’s trademark flair and drama but felt very fitting for such a formal event because of its plain fabric and stiff structure. Next, Amanda Gorman was impossible to miss, stunning with both her poetry and amazing fashion choices. Yet, a deeper look revealed an impeccable outfit that showed Gorman’s youthfulness while still being very refined and elegant. The Miuccia Prada yellow coat that Gorman accessorized with a red satin Prada headband looked brilliant and was unique, but avoided being too over-the-top that it would distract from her poem. 

The unanimous fashion winner of the day was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in his Burton coat and knitted mittens. He looked like he could have been on the sideline of his grandkid’s soccer game, under the Harry Potter sorting hat or on a ski lift just as easily as the historic Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States. These are all situations that he was edited into after a photo of him went viral. There is something to be said about the power that this universality holds and this ability to transcend made it the most important look. In addition to the aesthetic prowess, the attention to Sanders’ outfit has raised money for some great causes. As of Jan. 27, the senator brought in $1.8 million dollars for Meals on Wheels from selling merchandise featuring his outfit. Additionally, the Vermont teacher who gifted Bernie the iconic gloves are now auctioning off a similar pair in partnership with the LGTBQ+ youth organization, Outright Vermont.

Overall, the excitement of Inauguration Day was elevated by some great fashion moments. For such a formal event, it was good to see unique looks that balanced tradition with individuality perfectly. It will be intriguing to see the future looks that come from the first and second families in the next four years.


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