Last week’s inauguration of the 46th President of the United States was awash with it. It is the colour of Royalty, the colour of the badge of honour for US Military veterans and the title of a seminal Pulitzer Prize winning novel on the plight of African American women in the South. It is – as any 5 year old child will tell you – made by mixing Red and Blue together, the common ground on the colour wheel and the visual flag for Biden’s message.
America is United – and we have the clothes to prove it. This was not just fashion, colorful dresses, coats and ties, randomly chosen. These sartorial gestures exploited their potential to take on great significance, to convey clear meaning, the serenity of a few flashes of purple much different than the wave of red hats that dominated the National Mall four years ago. These humble public servants dressed to reinforce their message – this was a celebration of the cause of democracy, an assurance that this new administration was dedicated to serving all of America. Order was being restored. There were rock stars on the podium this day, but they were not the ones being sworn in. Even on mute you could hear that message loud and clear. Clothes have that much power.
A capital city in semi-lockdown, in a country where Covid-19 has claimed 400,000 lives, is no place for a catwalk show, even I accept that. While both the president and Doug Emhoff the first-ever “second gentleman” ( they really need to come up with a better moniker) wore Ralph Lauren, Jill Biden and Kamala Harris used the opportunity to shine the spotlight on lesser known, purpose driven, American designers. Jill Biden wore a matching dress and coat in tweed by Alexandra O’Neill. O’Neill’s ‘Markarian’ brand, makes bespoke clothes to minimise wastage, with production taking place in New York City which is good for home grown business and carbon emissions alike. Harris’ ensemble was created by American fashion designers, Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson. Rogers is originally from Louisiana, now working out of Brooklyn; Hudson who is based in Los Angeles was also responsible for Michelle Obama’s outfit of the day.
The former First Lady (there’s that silly title again) can do no style wrong in my book and so even though the crotch fit on those trousers would not have passed muster on my watch her swaggering coat, trademark high belt and radiant bonhomie won me over completely.
In contrast Hilary Clinton can do no style right. Disappearing almost entirely into an over fussy neckline and sporting a Ralph Lauren pant suit and oversized coat she looked as though she had turned left instead of right that morning and accidentally dressed from her husband’s closet. Former presidents Clinton and Obama were appropriately unremarkable; Bernie Saunders on the other hand achieved a vogue that has been dubbed American Dadcore or as I prefer to call it “see you at the allotment in 10 minutes.”
Biden (aided of course by an army of producers) was mindful of reaching across the union in every way and his choice of performers was as resounding a reinforcement of that as it was possible to get. Garth Brooks, having presumably parked his horse at the door, melted the heart of every middle American with his Stetson and cowboy boots but this member of the fashion police was wholly underwhelmed.
Never mind, moving on.
Lady Gaga’s look – I am calling it a ‘look’ although the ‘look’ was very much one that suggested she was wearing the entire costume department from Gone with The Wind simultaneously - was Daniel Roseberry for Schiaparelli. Described as a red silk ballgown skirt of fairytale proportions with a gilded peace dove on a fitted navy jacket Roseberry called the ensemble “a love letter to the country I miss so dearly”. Privately I was calling it something else entirely but if anyone can get away with this Lady Gaga can. It’s not fashion, its costume, and as such not for the likes of you and me. JLo disappointed in diamond white Chanel, too unstructured and too straight for someone with her Romantic Style Personality.
But the last line goes to Amanda Gorman in Prada. Picture perfect in her sunshine yellow coat, scarlet silk headband and diamante studded mask her look embodied all the hope and joy, the relief and promise that so many of us felt as we watched this event. All that, just from the clothes she wore.
I have a folder on my laptop entitled ‘Perfection’. I am a hard task master and so few make it in, but this 23-year-old beauty, abounding with talent, has secured herself a spot.