Some of Jill Biden’s accessories, such as her face mask and Stuart Weitzman boots, have a very literal message: VOTE (specifically, one can assume, for her husband).
But the rest of her wardrobe serves a quieter purpose: it is a visual reminder of her husband’s promised values. Her outfits—an emerald green satin wrap dress for the first debate, a wool blazer, printed scarf, maxi dress and suede boots for a campaign stop in Pennsylvania—speak the language of a seasoned, proficient dresser.
After decades working as a college professor and serving as a politician’s wife, Dr. Biden understands the way clothes communicate personality. But like running mate Kamala Harris, she never wants it to be all about what she wears.
Dr. Biden re-wears outfits often, which earns her “relatability” points on social media and can be viewed as an olive branch to environmentalists. (Though banning fracking would do more to help the climate crisis than recycling a dress or two.)
In an election that some say hinges on the support of suburban women, Dr. Biden looks like one. The subtext, as New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman put it in a headline, “Jill Biden Is Not Melania Trump.”
When asked about fashion in past interviews, Dr. Biden seems to have a cavalier relationship with style. “I think it’s important how I come across to my students,” she told Marie Claire in 2010. “I want them to see how professional women dress.”
In a Vogue profile by Jonathan Van Meter, Dr. Biden “[shrieked] with a combination of disbelief and delight” when asked about campaign fashion. “‘Oh, my God! My outfits?!’” the former second lady said. “I’m going to Pittsburgh on Monday for Joe’s first rally, so I have to have an outfit for that, and then tonight I’m giving a speech in Miami and have to have a fancy outfit... I have a pretty pink dress with sequins at the bottom.”
On March 18, the date of Biden’s kick-off rally in Pennsylvania, Dr. Biden wore a highlighter yellow dress with a blazer. “LOVE” was written on the back of it. The flourish was a bit kitsch, but one can imagine other women her age might own something similar.
There is an easiness to Biden’s wardrobe and her pieces look lived-in—not merely thrown on for an event or photo opp.
In August, WWD spoke with Sissy Dent Aerenson, a “longtime [Biden] family friend” and owner of the Wilmington, Delaware, boutique Peter Kate. “She’s not influenced by designers,” Aerenson said. “She is much more influenced by the occasion and what she needs for her different events.” The shopkeeper added that Dr. Biden has “always been the kind of shopper who looks at price tags.”
The price tag of the Dolce & Gabbana dress she chose to wear to the last debate: $2,195. Hardly her most accessible look, although the floral printed sheath could be easily imitated by cheaper retailers. The Italian luxury label—which Melania Trump has also worn many times—is somewhat of a controversial pick, given the brand’s gaffe-prone founders.
Dr. Biden topped off her midi with a matchy-matchy face mask. The look, again, demonstrated the potential FLOTUS’ sense of fun, especially at an event that was anything but that.
But for her next appearance, it was Professor Biden again— “fancy outfit” gone, replaced by an unpretentious maxi dress, jacket, and mammoth patterned scarf. Though she and Joe Biden were as close as ever at the rally, holding hands and speaking together, Jill Biden proved once more that she is no decorative accessory. Her clothes help sell a story, but what she wears is, right now at least, quite beside the point.