The presidential inauguration of Joe Biden will look like no other in history. The Capitol is on lockdown, and the limited number of attendees face the dual dangers of an ongoing pandemic and potentially violent day-of protests. It’s a day boiling with uncertainty and anxiety, but there is one thing we can rely on to cheer us up: the fashion.
WWD has reported that Ralph Lauren will dress Joe Biden for his swearing-in as 46th president; the brand would not comment to The Daily Beast’s request to confirm this rumor.
Given Lauren’s history of bipartisan styling—he outfitted Melania in robin's egg blue for Trump’s inauguration and has also dressed Hillary Clinton—it seems like a good bet for Biden. The familiar name Ralph Lauren would inject a welcome dose of tradition and decorum to an event that will be anything but predictable.
With the addition of the first female Vice President in Kamala Harris, eyes will be peeled on what she decides to wear. Though Harris tends to pare things back, preferring simple suits that keep the focus on what she says, her team deftly understands how to wield fashion for significance and symbolism. See: the white Carolina Herrera pantsuit she wore to Biden’s victory speech, which many saw as a nod to suffragettes.
Whatever Jill Biden and Kamala Harris wear, they will be following a sterling fashion tradition that—naturally—became super-fashionable because of Jackie Kennedy, who in 1961 wore Oleg Cassini (and a Halston pillbox hat) for JFK’s inauguration and a beautiful Cassini gown for the evening events. Nancy Reagan brought '80s-era glamour to the swearing-in of her husband. Michelle Obama styled her winter cold-defying inaugural day looks with winning pizazz.
This year will be a bad one for evening gowns. According to the Washington Post, the usual evening ball is canceled, and on the swearing-in and military escort from the Capitol to the White House will be in-person. There will be a televised special hosted by Tom Hanks Wednesday evening, but little is known about that event and whether or not it will give Jill Biden or Kamala Harris the chance to wow us with a fancy dress.
WWD has reported a laundry list of American designers who are “said to be in the running” to dress both Harris and Jill Biden. They are Gabriela Hearst, Wes Gordon at Carolina Herrera, Donald Deal, Prabal Gurung, LaQuan Smith, Oscar de la Renta, and Brandon Maxwell.
Gabriela Hearst would be a trendy pick. Based in New York, she won the Vogue/CFDA Award for American Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2020. Hearst is known for her smart tailoring, and her outfits ooze an easy, minimalist cool. It is the very antithesis of the overdone looks from the women of Trumpworld.
While the industry might know and embrace Hearst, the average American probably does not. If Team Biden/Harris wants to present her to the world, now is the time.
Donald Deal dressed Harris for her recent controversial Vogue cover; much was made of the too-casual blazer and skinny jeans. Still, Harris has a history with the New York-based designer. She wore his looks for past inaugurations as the San Francisco District Attorney and Attorney General of California. For what it’s worth, he called her a “friend” on Instagram.
Harris wore Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese-American designer, at the Democratic National Convention. There would be symbolism if she plucked him again for the swearing-in, as Harris will be the first person of South Asian descent to ascend to the vice presidency.
WWD reported that LaQuan Smith, known for fleshy looks seen on Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and the Kardashians, also submitted “10 to 15 looks” for Jill Biden, Harris, plus Sasha and Malia Obama. Fur is a staple of his designs, but according to WWD that is “off-limits for Biden’s attire because it is too politically incorrect.”
Oscar de la Renta has dressed first ladies since Jackie Kennedy; the last go-round, Ivanka Trump wore a white asymmetric pantsuit of his to watch her father’s swearing-in. When the Bidens accepted the election victory on November 7, Jill stepped out in a floral dress from the resort collection. De la Renta died in 2014; his protégées Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim now lead the label, and they designed it.
Brandon Maxwell rose to fame dressing Lady Gaga, who will perform on the big day along with Jennifer Lopez. He was embraced by Michelle Obama during her time as FLOTUS, who gave the then-up-and-comer a boost when she wore a white crepe gown of his to a state dinner.
Jill Biden wore Maxwell too last year while introducing her husband at the virtual DNC. From inside an empty Delaware classroom shuttered due to the pandemic, Jill spoke movingly about the impact of coronavirus on American families and schoolchildren. Her double-breasted forest green dress matched the gravitas of her words while also projecting a bit of hope and joy.
Absent from the ceremony will be the Trump family, including Melania and Ivanka, so we will not get one last style moment from them. It seems fitting that all eyes will be on the vice president and first lady instead. Though the day will undoubtedly be different, it is not less significant. There is little doubt that fashion will meet the moment.