The 2021 inauguration looked very different this year — an empty Mall, no parade, and certainly no opulent balls to fete the new president and first lady. Instead, Americans were treated to a primetime televised event and a grand fireworks display that President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden watched from the White House balcony. Dr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris still managed to make a fashion splash with their evening wear that nodded to their new places in American history.
As WWD reports, Biden wore an ivory cashmere coat and matching dress by Gabriela Hearst for the night’s virtual festivities. Hearst is an immigrant from Uruguay, and started the boho womenswear brand Candela in 2004. She kicked off her namesake label in 2015 to critical acclaim, and in December 2020, she was appointed to be the new creative director of Chloé.
Hearst’s meteoric rise in the fashion world is due, in part, to her exquisite attention to detail. For Biden’s ensemble, Hearst hand embroidered flowers that represent all 50 states. The Delaware state flower, the peach blossom, was stitched over Biden’s heart on the dress’ bodice. On Instagram, Hearst explained that each flower took up to four hours to embroider in the designer’s New York City studio.
The coat also pays tribute to Biden’s career in education. It features a quote from Benjamin Franklin stitched into the lining: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Hearst cited “the message of unity” as the design’s main inspiration. “Unity makes strength and it is needed for the road ahead.”
For Harris, her evening look specifically showed off Black excellence and joy. She wore a stunning black sequined shift dress and tuxedo overcoat by Black designer Sergio Hudson. It was Hudson’s second appearance at the inauguration — earlier that day, Michelle Obama floored us all in a plum belted jumpsuit and coat ensemble.
Hudson told WWD that “As a father of daughters, African American daughters, it means more to me than any project I’ve ever done. To be a part of something this historic, it’s changing the landscape of how my daughters will see themselves in the future. Being a part of it, I’m so honored.” Brimming with pride in his work, he also added that “I want to normalize African American designers being American sportswear designers…Today, it was the signal to the world I can go toe to toe with any designer.”
If this is any indication, Harris plans on using fashion to highlight Black creatives with her increased public visibility. We can’t wait to see where she shines her spotlight next.