Inauguration Fashion and the Future of American Fashion

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Adam Bear, Staff Writer

This past year has been lacking in significant moments for fashion. Without major events like award shows, designers have been scrambling to find places to feature their works, and fashion critics have been trying to find fashion to criticize. Because of this, much of the recent fashion discourse has centered around the presidential inauguration.

The inauguration featured several obscure designers, and their fashion choices were a critical aspect of the event. For example, First Lady Jill Biden wore a double-breasted coat by Gabriela Hearst in the evening. Hearst has long made sustainability an important facet of her brand, and, as she has just been appointed creative director at Chloé, is about to become one of the US’ most prominent designers on the global stage. This decision to wear her piece, then, is not arbitrary. This also directly contrasts to Melania Trump’s fashion choices, which were almost always well-known and high brow designers, such as Chanel and Hermés.

Vice President Kamala Harris’s designer decisions also hold significance. Kerby Jean-Raymond and Christopher John Rogers made her coats for the COVID memorial and the inauguration, respectively. Jean-Raymond and Rogers run independent, black-owned businesses, and the former used his studio’s resources to provide PPE to healthcare workers at the beginning of the pandemic. Given Harris’s attentiveness to her clothing’s detail, these decisions are no mistake, such as the color of her clothing. On inauguration day, she wore a purple coat and dress. Purple is significant for many reasons: it’s symbolic of political unity, as it is a blend of red and blue; it’s the color of the US suffragettes, who earned women the right to vote 100 years ago; and it’s a color tied to the black experience, especially black Christians. Harris’s elegant touch of a pearl necklace refers to a tradition in her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the oldest all-black sorority in the US.

Other notable fashion moments at the inauguration include Amanda Gorman, Ella Emhoff, and Bernie Sanders’ outfits. Gorman, the youth poet laureate who recited at the inauguration, wore a yellow blazer, thought to represent hope and light. Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter, wore a white collar atop a Miu Miu coat, and was touted for the outfit’s elegance. Finally, Bernie Sanders, though he won’t be winning “best dressed” anytime soon, took the internet by storm with his casual clothing and statement mittens.

In summation, this inauguration reflected that the future of American fashion will be nothing like the past. In the past, American fashion has been dominated by New York City-based, white men. Today, independent, diverse designers are being worn by the most prominent figures in the United States. There’s no doubt that tomorrow, the face of American fashion will be diverse, multi-faceted, and uniquely American.