Harris’s outfit, a purple coat and dress by New York City-based Christopher John Rogers and pearls by Wilfredo Rosado, likewise sent a strong message. Rogers, from Louisiana, is a queer Black designer and purple is notable for being a blend of blue and red, tying to the “America United” theme of the inauguration. Rosado was born in New Jersey to Puerto Rican parents. By all accounts, Harris’ outfit was a take on her signature power suit but dialed up several notches because that’s what making history calls for.
“To be Vice President is very different than being First Lady,” says Dr. Steele. “So Harris needed to focus more on professionalism and less about seeming like America’s official feminine ideal. She does this usually by wearing dark pantsuits but today called for a greater degree of pageantry.”
It’s already clear a marked shift is afoot from four years ago when people criticized legacy fashion house Ralph Lauren for dressing Melania Trump for the inauguration of Donald Trump, and designers from Zac Posen to Marc Jacobs vowed to not dress her while she was First Lady. The American fashion industry appears fully ready to embrace the women of the White House in a way they haven’t since the Obama years—a win for First Lady Biden, Vice President Harris, and their families but also for the economy.
“The visibility and support…is good for each brand [Biden and Harris wear] but also is a boost for the American fashion industry overall, which contributes $383 billion to the US economy,” says Steven Kolb, the CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Fashion is an industry that’s particularly felt the financial strain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s no wonder excitement has been palpable. Just don’t expect these two women to be fashion figures in the vein of global trendsetters like Michelle Obama and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Susan Kelley, the creator of fashion blog “What Kamala Wore” tells Glamour to expect a “quiet kind of influence. Speaking of Harris specifically, Kelley says: “She is not into having her fashion talked about, but she is sensitive to the impact she can have with what she wears and this [inauguration] is a perfect example of her taking the opportunity to champion Black designers.”
Other Harris and Biden recent fashion moments have similarly seized the opportunity to quietly communicate their value with fashion. There was the white Carolina Herrera suit and pussy bow blouse — a nod to the suffragist movement — that Harris wore to deliver her victory speech in November.