Was it really just a couple of days ago that I complained about the momentary lack of sartorial entertainment? Oh well. Wednesday not only introduced to the world a slew of new style icons, but also brought back the lost art of laughing at regular political satire and memes. Also there was Bernie and yes, a new president was sworn in.
What a refreshing show it was. Washington DC is not exactly known for its fashions, and why would it be? Public servants’ main focus, generally speaking, seldom veers on the sartorial. In American political life the dress codes still tend to be quite conservative. I already got used to seeing cookie cutter versions of the women who worked in the previous administration, which is a similarly uniform style often imposed on women presenters on American TV.
(That is to say bright body-con dresses (loadsa Spanx is my guess), never tights, never flats, industrial amounts of silicone in hair.)
The obvious reason for dressing in such a way is of course that the look is put together on camera and photographs well – no bells, no whistles, instead clear silhouettes. It does have a hint of ‘Miss Texas 1986’, but it is a very classic look that Melania and Ivanka pulled off extremely well.
It is, however, not a very interesting look, especially when herds of women end up looking like each other’s clones. There’s nothing modern about it, and it is mainly favoured by certain waspy types.
Therefore, after years of freakishly curated parades of wax dolls, it was exhilarating to observe a congregation of actual, real people gather together at the inauguration. Yes, everybody seated up on the podium yesterday is basically a millionaire (Amanda Gorman will be soon, too) and so it might not be correct to speak about inclusive styles, but I will attempt to make a point anyway.
For all the Schiaparelli- and Chanel wearing Lady Gagas (extra points for her Yulia Tymoshenko-inspired hairdo) and Jennifer Lopezes there’s always the underdog who steals the show, and yesterday it was senator Bernie Sanders who wore a grumpy attitude, a camping tent and Himalayan-inspired mittens. His lewk absolutely made the cut in the sea of Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren (favoured by the new POTUS). People were generally in the affirmative that Sanders would have worn the same exact outfit also to his own inaugural.
Overcoats in jewel tones were a hit, the obvious winner being Michelle Obama, who had clearly put some thought into how her outfit (and hair) will photograph. May I say really well?
The event being outside, the coat must be part of the outfit, not a random warp thrown over the actual outfit. The less colours and bits and bobs flying about, the better.
Unless, of course, you are the poetry sensation Amanda Gorman who did mix colours and textures (satin hairband, leather skirt, wool crepe coat) and looked spectacular. She also single-handedly revived the short-lived puffy hairband trend, and Prada will hopefully bring the colourful ones back as I’m sure the demand will be skyrocketing (asking for a, um, friend).
Another high-profile headband-wearer was Vice-President Harris’ stepdaughter Ella Emhoff who channeled Donna Tartt circa ’93 on Tuesday evening at the National Mall, and pulled off a very avant-garde look for the inauguration ceremony yesterday. It included all elements we never usually see in these things: naturally curly, not obviously dyed or keratin-treated hair à la Joyce Carol Oates, glasses, military-style boots and The Dead Poets Society –vibing, bejewelled overcoat with a white collar overlay.
The below coat is MiuMiu and the leather headband by Loeffler Randall.
Here’s Emhoff’s outfit on Tuesday at the National Mall (I also like the blue-tinted glasses the person to her right is wearing):
This is, I imagine, how actual young people dress (Emhoff is a student at Parson’s School of Design and resides in the much cool Brooklyn) in real life.
Vice-President Harris‘ niece Meena Harris wore a dress by Vampire’s Wife to the inauguration – another edgy designer, although the UK-brand has received the royal approval by Kate Middleton, who’s been seen wearing their creations on various events.
Then let’s take a minute to look at the photo of the Biden family, taken yesterday evening:
Don’t they look like something an actual family would look like? Everybody wearing this or that and nothing too coordinated or styled?
Also, that’s Biden’s daughter Ashley wearing a tux.
Which brings me to the other famous tux-wearer in the White House: Melania. If there has been any prior doubt about her only communicating through her outfits, we got the needed confirmation yesterday.
Her White House exit outfit was an all-black, form-fitting ensemble (Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana) with on-brand, yet tone-deaf exhibits of wealth, such as a crocodile Hermès Kelly worth more than most Americans’ annual gross income at $75,000. She looked spectacular for sure, but then again she always does, a fact that has been the cause of great cognitive dissonance to me.
As the Air Force One landed in Florida, Melania had changed into a brightly patterned, loose-fitting caftan dress by Gucci, promptly named the “out of office -dress“, and wore flats. Melania never wore shapeless muumuus or flats. Yesterday she did, and literally skipped down the stairs and fucked off to her SUV, leaving Agent Orange standing on the tarmac like a lemming.
Given that the outside ceremony alone was already a source of such a delightful parade of style, and finally gave the magazines something to write about, a fully fledged evening ball with all the trimmings might have been a sensory overload for the audiences ravaged by the pandemic.
So it’s baby steps, but yesterday’s teaser definitely woke my sartorial interest for the rest of the mandate. I’m here for Bernie rocking tan Bermuda shorts at this year’s 4th of July reception.
Photo of Kennedys at Inauguration Gala 60 years ago: The original image is the property of the Smithsonian Institution. Mrs Kennedy is wearing a silk gown by Oleg Cassini, who remained one of her go-to designers during her years in the White House.