Fashion: The Inaugural Dress of Biden’s Presidency

My family and I always make an effort to watch the Presidential Inauguration every four years. In fact, we make a day of it. The news stays on nearly all day as we watch the inspiring speeches, amazing performances, and of course, the swearing in of the new president and vice president. However incredible those elements are, I always pay closer attention to a different aspect of Inauguration day: the style. 

For those who don’t know, every Inauguration Day the new President hosts an Inaugural Ball to which the First Lady wears a specially made gown. Much like her causes and political projects, the First Ladies’ Inaugural gowns often communicate their values along with what they personally will bring to their new role in the White House. For example, Jackie Kennedy (First Lady from 1960-1963) wore a European-made gown to signify bringing high culture into the White House. Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison (First Lady from 1889-1893) wore an American made gown to represent her husband’s “America First” policy. During Obama’s Inaugural Ball, Michelle wore JCrew gloves, rather than designer ones, to communicate that she was “a first lady for the people,” says Vogue. This year, however, due to COVID-19 restrictions, President Joe Biden sadly had to go without an Inaugural Ball. 

What was Different About this Year?

The absence of a televised ball wasn’t the only element that made this year’s Inauguration different. For starters, America had just come off of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and COVID-19 cases were climbing. Because of these two elements, many people were questioning whether or not it would be safe to even have an inauguration at all. As a solution, they ended up compromising on limited seating and higher security. And as a reaction to the less extravagant ceremony, the overall styles themselves were way more casual than normal. Not only that, but as the first female Vice President, all eyes were on Kamala Harris as well as the new First Lady, regarding what they would wear and what the meaning behind it would be.

The Looks

All the women attending the Inauguration were seen wearing monochromatic looks in varying vibrant colors — most notably purple. Not only was purple one of the signature colors of the Suffragettes, but it also represents the coming together of both political parties under Biden’s presidency — with the mix of red and blue. This was especially significant, keeping in mind the severe division the Democratic and Republican parties were experiencing just weeks prior. As one of the colors of the Suffragettes, meaning royalty, freedom, and dignity, purple signifies a new age of politics in America: a feminist age. VP Kamala Harris, former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former First Lady Laura Bush were all wearing shades of purple. 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Credit:

So where does the First Lady come in? First Lady Jill Biden, though she wasn’t wearing a shade of purple, made the decision to wear exclusively American designed pieces, communicating and going back to the “America First” mentality. She adorned a beautiful blue tweed ensemble designed by Colorado designer Alexandra O’Neill. Jill Biden wasn’t alone in her decision, either. President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, and even the Biden children and grandchildren all wore exclusively American designed looks as well. Not only were the designers American, but a lot of them are also minorities. The designer behind Kamala Harris’s look was none other than Christopher John Rogers, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Rogers is one of the most buzzed-about young Black designers working today, having dressed former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Rihanna,” reported CNN. President Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff both wore suits by Ralph Lauren, a well known Jewish designer from New York. The President’s daughter, Ashley Biden, was wearing pieces by Latina American designer Gabriela Hearst. The deliberate choice of pieces by diverse American designers is very representative of what America is: a country of immigrants. Also, the Black Lives Matter movement is something both Biden and Harris are very passionate about, and the two are setting a clear tone for their time in office.

Natalie, Finnegan, and Naomi Biden at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration (Credit:

This new decade has already brought many new fashion trends with it, one of them being mask fashion. We’re all well aware that face masks are annoying to have to wear all day, but what if they added something to your outfit? Along with their American designed monochromatic looks, each attendee wore a face mask to match their outfit. Jill Biden and her grandchildren are a great example of this. The mask mandate is one of the first things Joe Biden has encouraged as president and enforced on federal employees, so the decision to wear fashionably coordinated face masks reflects their values of health and safety as America navigates COVID-19.

Biden’s presidency is just beginning, and we can all hope that he and Vice President Kamala Harris enforce what their Inaugural looks symbolized: unity, equality, and safety. If you want more information on this topic, I read the article on titled: “American Fashion Designers Take Center Stage at US Presidential Inauguration,” along with a Vogue article titled “A Fashionable History of All the First Ladies on Inauguration Day.” As we know by now, fashion, especially when worn by people of influence, is so much more than just clothes. 


Chloe Stefani ‘24, Fashion Editor