fashion

American fashion designers take center stage at the US presidential inauguration

Updated 20th January 2021
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for  the inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.  During today's inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
American fashion designers take center stage at the US presidential inauguration
Written by Allyssia Alleyne, CNN
Contributors Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNNTawanda Scott, CNN
America's fashion industry was given a boost of confidence on inauguration day as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden attended the day's events wearing looks from the country's designers.
Harris stepped out in a purple dress and coat by Christopher John Rogers, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The winner of the 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, Rogers is one of the most buzzed-about young Black designers working today, having dressed former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Rihanna. While Rogers is best known for his use of bold colors and dramatic silhouettes, Harris went for more pared-down look, in line with her usual, more minimal sensibilities.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Congressional leaders prior to the inauguration ceremony.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Congressional leaders prior to the inauguration ceremony. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Congressional leaders prior the inauguration ceremony.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Congressional leaders prior the inauguration ceremony. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Biden and the Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, both wore suits by Ralph Lauren, the Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants who has been the standard-bearer for luxury Americana for more than 40 years.
Jill Biden, meanwhile, wore a blue tweed coat with velvet cuffs, and a dress embellished with Swarovski crystals and pearls (as well as a matching face mask) designed by Colorado-born designer Alexandra O'Neill of the emerging American label Markarian. "It is an incredible honor to dress Dr. Biden today. I am so humbled to be even a small part of American history," said O'Neill in an email to CNN Style.
Jill Biden in American label Markarian.
Jill Biden in American label Markarian. Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Pool/Getty Images
Founded in 2017, the luxury brand, whose A-list clientele includes Lizzo, Priyanka Chopra and Kate Hudson, works on a made-to-order basis out of New York City's historic Garment District.
A sketch of Jill Biden's inauguration ensemble by  Alexandra O'Neil of Markarian.
A sketch of Jill Biden's inauguration ensemble by Alexandra O'Neil of Markarian. Credit: Courtesy of Markarian NYC
The fact that the Bidens, as well as Harris and Emhof, opted for American designers, could signal a return to an America-first approach to White House dressing seen during the Obama administration.
While Melania Trump showed a preference for established European designers during her four years as First Lady (she left the White House for the last time this morning in a buttoned-up Chanel jacket, and Dolce & Gabbana dress), her predecessor, Michelle Obama, often used her platform as an opportunity to champion American talent, from independent designers including Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, Thom Browne and Naeem Khan, to more accessible brands like J. Crew.
Barack and Michelle Obama for the 59th Presidential inauguration
Barack and Michelle Obama for the 59th Presidential inauguration Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

Purple reign

Harris wasn't the the only high-profile attendee to opt for purple: Michelle Obama and former First Lady Hillary Clinton also wore looks in shades of the color by Sergio Hudson and Ralph Lauren respectively.
Hillary Clinton also chose to wear purple on inauguration day.
Hillary Clinton also chose to wear purple on inauguration day. Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Purple, a combination of Democrat blue and Republican red, has long been seen as the colour of bipartisanship. It was also one of the official colors of the women's suffrage movement, symbolizing loyalty to the cause.
Why the color Kamala Harris is wearing is significant

Star power

In typical style, Lady Gaga stole the sartorial show, singing the national anthem in fitted navy cashmere jacket, embellished with a large dove of peace brooch and a voluminous red silk faille skirt.
Lady Gaga arrives to sing the national anthem.
Lady Gaga arrives to sing the national anthem. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images
A sketch by Daniel Roseberry
A sketch by Daniel Roseberry
The custom ensemble was the work of Texan designer Daniel Roseberry for the French house Schiaparelli, where he has served as artistic director since 2019.
In a statement sent to CNN Style, Roseberry said, "As an American living in Paris, this ensemble is a love letter to the country I miss so dearly and to a performer whose artistry I have so long admired."
Jennifer Lopez performs during the inauguration in all-white.
Jennifer Lopez performs during the inauguration in all-white. Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Moments later, Jennifer Lopez, singing a medley of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful," revealed her top-to-toe white outfit, another hallmark of color of women's suffrage, worn by Harris to deliver her vice presidential acceptance speech last November, and by Hillary Clinton in 2016, when she accepted the Democratic presidential nomination.
The color white was also notably worn by Shirley Chisholm in 1968, when she became the first Black woman elected to Congress.