Inauguration Day dawned with Melania Trump striding onto Air Force One, departing D.C. in the most expensive Jackie Kennedy Halloween costume ever put together (Chanel jacket, Dolce & Gabbana dress, Louboutins, huge sunglasses).
Biden wore an ocean blue wool tweed coat and dress by Alexandra O’Neill’s New York-based label, Markarian. A representative wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast that the outfit was custom.
“Dr. Biden’s team approached us and a few other designers in December to see sketches,” the representative said. “We had about a month to get everything together and submit a final look. We did not know that she was wearing it until she walked out today! We drew inspiration from her classically feminine style and had a great collaborative dialogue from which the look evolved.”
As a sign of the times, O’Neill also made a matching face mask for the ensemble. The coat had velvet on its collar and cuffs, and the dress has a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt. It was hand-embroidered with Swarovski pearls and crystals by the Markarian team.
“The color blue was chosen for the pieces to signify trust, confidence, and stability,” a press release read.
While Melania Trump went out in a blaze of expensive European designers, Biden’s decision to elevate lesser-known names must be intentional. New York’s fashion community was ravaged by the coronavirus, and some brands shuttered completely due to the economic fallout.
It recalls Michelle Obama’s decision to wear Isabel Toledo and then-unknown Jason Wu for her husband’s first inauguration in 2008. It appears that diplomatic, purposeful fashion is back with the Bidens.
On Inauguration Eve, Dr. Jill Biden wore a look by Jonathan Cohen, another New York studio. It was a feat of color coordination—a purple coat with a velvet sash around the waist, periwinkle leather gloves, and a patterned face mask Cohen made with recycled fabrics from past collections. Cohen’s website sells all three pieces on its website. The “Unity” coat and frock cost $3,895 and $2,295, respectively.
A representative for Cohen declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment, but the brand’s Instagram acknowledged the significance of the moment.
“Waking up with immense pride and gratitude. Here’s to a new day,” read a caption underneath a photo of the Bidens at Tuesday night’s coronavirus memorial.
Speaking of purple, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wore her own big violet coat to the swearing-in ceremony. CNN’s Abby Phillip noted that it was a nod to Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in America to run for president.
It came courtesy of Christopher John Rogers, who works in Brooklyn but grew up in Baton Rouge. He won the $400,000 CFDA/Vogue fashion fund award in 2019. Representatives for Rogers did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Harris showed up to the pre-inauguration coronavirus memorial in a camel coat by Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, which featured very smart, wave-shaped tailoring on the back. Jean-Raymond was a strong champion of the New York design community during the early days of the pandemic, converting his studio into a donation center for PPE. He had also donated $5,000 of supplies to the frontlines and gave $50,000 to minority and female-owned businesses affected by the disaster.
In a statement, Jean-Raymond said, “Kamala’s stylist reached out the day after she was announced as Joe Biden’s running mate. We talked about several projects but always intended to be part of the inauguration. We made several options including dresses and accessories for Kamala and ultimately she chose this jacket which the stylist said is ‘the cat's meow.’
“I’ve been working with the costume designer and couturier Camilla Huey for a few years now. She’s been a constant in my life and part of my growth as a designer. She’s taught me how to achieve more difficult executions that I didn’t know how to do before. She was a part of creating my Sculpture for the MoMA and several of the Met Gala looks I created in 2019, some of which remain unseen publicly. We began working on a fairly ordinary jacket but we got approval to make some changes this week to incorporate some of our brand identity on the piece. The knife pleat is one of our favorite mainstays in our collections.”
Both Joe Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff wore navy suits by Ralph Lauren. Bloomberg’s Kim Bhasin reported that Biden is the first president to choose the all-American designer, though he has dressed first ladies many times. Melania Trump wore a robin's egg blue Ralph Lauren suit to Trump’s 2017 inauguration, and Hillary Clinton often picked him for the campaign trail.
Michelle Obama wore a plum alpaca sweater and pants with a cashmere coat by Sergio Hudson. Her unabashedly look quickly went viral. And how could it not? That hair! The belt! Why pay attention to anything else?
Bernie Sanders’ ultra-comfy mittens look—truly fit for a day spent shopping at a Vermont L.L. Bean outlet—also drew the attention of the internet. Not as significant as the Biden or Harris fashion, of course, but truly a bright moment in a day filled with Trump pettiness and security anxieties.
Perhaps the most literal style statement of the day: Elizabeth Warren’s pink Planned Parenthood-branded scarf. No need to ask where she aligns; she wore it around her neck.
Ella Emhoff, Harris’ stepdaughter and Parsons fashion design student, showed up in a very Brooklyn-goes-to-D.C. look. Her brown plaid coat, with amber embellishments, was a surprisingly delightful moment of the day.
Ultimately, the clothes told the story like they tend to do. More than tell, they screamed: The Trump era is over. Jill Biden and Kamala Harris showed up wearing their morals—and pointedly proving that can be stylish, too.