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Kamala Harris, Jill Biden select up-and-coming designers for Inauguration Day fashion

Jill Biden’s ensemble might be donated to the Smithsonian’s famous First Ladies Collection in lieu of an inaugural gown.

President-elect Joe Biden flanked by wife Dr. Jill Biden arrives for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
President-elect Joe Biden, flanked by his wife Dr. Jill Biden, arrives for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
Getty

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris showcased American designers at their inauguration Wednesday, and Harris gave a nod to women’s suffrage, Shirley Chisholm and her beloved sorority 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.

Vice President-elect Senator Kamala Harris (R) and husband Douglas Emhoff wave while arriving to the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC
Vice President-elect Senator Kamala Harris and husband Douglas Emhoff wave while arriving at the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
Getty

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

The pearls Harris wore, by Wilfredo Rosado, were also a symbol of unity with her sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African American Greek-letter sorority, said Rachel Torgerson, fashion features director for Cosmopolitan. The founders are referred to as the “Twenty Pearls.” Every new member receives a badge adorned with 20 pearls.

Harris attended Howard University, one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.

“There’s no doubt that every part of her look today celebrates who she is, where she came from and where she hopes to lead the country. Every piece was carefully considered and packed with meaning,” Torgerson said.

Like Harris, Rosado is the child of immigrants.

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.

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.

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama arrive in the Crypt of the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.
Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama arrive in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.
AP

Michelle Obama, a fashion icon, drew 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.

As for the color purple, it was a symbol of unity and bipartisanship. Red and blue make purple.

Lady Gaga arrives to sing the National Anthem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday
Lady Gaga arrives to sing the National Anthem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
AP Photos

“If there’s a message to be taken from today’s inauguration fashion, it’s that those who attended are signaling faith in unity and bipartisanship, as well as restoring truth and trust,” Torgerson said.

Lady Gaga sang the national anthem in a lavish custom Schiaparelli gown designed by Daniel Roseberry with a full red skirt and a black, long-sleeved top adorned with a humongous gold dove holding an olive branch. Garth Brooks went another way: country. He performed “Amazing Grace” holding a black cowboy hat and blue denim jeans paired with a black suit jacket and shirt.

Another inauguration fashion star on Twitter was Nikolas Ajagu, the husband of Harris’ sister, Meena Harris. Sharp-eyed sneakerheads noted his ultra-rare and pricey Air Dior Jordan 1 shoes. The Dior 1s, a collaboration between Dior and Jordan, debuted last year and retail for $2,000. They’re reportedly going for up to $7,000 on some sneaker resell sites.

Harris’ stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff, 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.