Downtime

Biden’s Granddaughters! Bernie’s Mittens! All of Michelle Obama!

The altogether thrilling fashion of the inauguration, reviewed.

Lady Gaga in front of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Gaga is wearing a voluminous red skirt with a black top.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with Lady Gaga. Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden’s inauguration isn’t just a relief in terms of politics. It’s also a relief in terms of style: After four years of Scotch-taped ties and generally upsetting aesthetics, we can finally expect some more appealing visuals. At Biden’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, he, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, their families, and other attendees, gave us our first official glimpse at what the fashion of the Biden years might have in store. And it was pretty spectacular, honestly.

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Jill and Joe walk down the stairs at inauguration. Jill wears a blue coat with a matching blue dress, mask, and gloves. Joe wears a fitted suit with an overcoat and a dark mask.
First lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden. Patrick Semansky/AFP via Getty Images
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President Joe Biden wore an understated navy suit and overcoat, both by Ralph Lauren, but no surprises here: The women’s outfits were far more worthy of discussion. First lady Jill Biden, in a turquoise-y blue coat and matching dress by Markarian, an up-and-coming American label, partook in one of the big trends of the day, dressing monochromatically. As notable as all the head-to-toe looks in one color were, each woman was able to put her own spin on it, and Jill’s, with her textured wool and darker collar and cuffs, had a touch of fairy godmother–from–Sleeping Beauty whimsy to it. Both the president and the first lady wore masks as well, a choice that seems like a no-brainer in the pandemic but that certainly has never before been a common sight at an inauguration. In contrast to the superspreader events of the Trump White House, the sea of masked faces was some kind of relief. The question of how to pair masks with formalwear also introduced a novel challenge here—the first lady led the way by opting for a shade similar to the rest of her outfit.

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Doug Emhoff and Kamala Harris wave in front of the Capitol doors. Emhoff wears a dark suit, overcoat, and mask. Harris wears a purple coat with a purple dress underneath and a black mask.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Vice President Kamala Harris. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
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Vice President Kamala Harris answered the question of what the first-ever female vice president wears to be sworn in: a purple suit by Christopher John Rogers, an American designer who is Black and queer, with darker gloves and a black mask. The emphasis on uplifting American designers represents a return to the Obama era, when first lady Michelle Obama was known for championing American, and often Black American, labels.

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Though pantsuits are normally Kamala’s thing, for the inauguration, she went a bit more feminine and formal. (She also skipped the Chucks.) Vogue and other outlets speculated that the purple, though it looked royal blue in some lights à la the Dress, may have been a reference to both the women’s suffrage movement and the idea of bipartisanship, purple being the result of mixing red and blue; others said it called back to her campaign colors and Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president as a major-party candidate.* Kamala also wore a set of pearls—by an American designer of Puerto Rican heritage, Wilfredo Rosado—that have special significance to members of the sorority she was part of at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

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Barack and Michelle Obama arrive at the inauguration. Barack wears a black overcoat, scarf, and mask. Michelle wears a maroon coat with matching pants, sweater, and belt with a large, gold buckle.
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. Jonathan Ernst/AFP via Getty Images
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But the undisputed showstopper of the day, to judge by the rapture online, was Michelle Obama in another monochromatic standout in a maroon look by Sergio Hudson, a Black American designer. The outfit’s floor-length coat, funky belt, and high-waisted, bell-bottomed pants added some serious swagger to the day’s proceedings, as befitting a post-presidency first lady who can dress like she has Netflix money and no more campaigns or approval ratings to worry about ever again.

Three young women each in monochromatic outfits. One in white, another in pink, and the third in beige.
Natalie, Naomi, and Finnegan Biden. Alex Wong/Getty Images
A woman holds a baby wearing a plaid jacket and blue bonnet.
Baby Beau Biden. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Some more ecstatic favorites from the day included the Biden granddaughters, who wore pantsuits and matching jackets (and masks) in pink, white, and tan, leading more than one Twitter user to joke that they were serving Neapolitan–ice cream chic. Their only real in-family competition? Hunter Biden’s baby son Beau, having a plaid/bonnet moment.

Nancy Pelosi arrives, wearing a blue jacket and mask.
Nancy Pelosi. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Bill and Hillary Clinton arrive. Hillary is wearing a purple pantsuit under a dark purple coat.
Hillary Clinton Pool/Getty Images

More monochromatic queens included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in blue and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—remember her?—who opted for a similar shade of purple as Kamala with her pantsuit selection, but her choice of a darker jacket gave the look decidedly less drama.

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Ella Emhoff wearings a beige herringbone coat with a wide white color and sparkles around the shoulders.
Ella Emhoff. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that the ceremony was a big coming out moment for the extended Harris-Emhoff clan. Ella Emhoff, the vice president’s stepdaughter, turned heads with her quirky sparkle-laden Miu Miu coat—which turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her Ella’s art-school-kid style, as evidenced by her Instagram page, which is full of her modeling unique clothes she’s made herself. Guessing her follower count is gonna see a bump.

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Meena Harris wears a shiny green dress under an olive-green coat.
Meena Harris. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Another one of Kamala’s most stylish relatives might be her niece Meena Harris, who rocked a green dress and silver boots to the inauguration, but whose husband, Nikolas Ajagu, may have outshone her with his Air Jordan Dior 1s … if it weren’t for both of them being outdone by their daughters, wearing furry animal-print coats inspired by a coat Kamala wore in a childhood photo Meena shared on Twitter.

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Gorman wears a bright yellow coat over a white button-down shirt. A red satin headband holds back her hair.
National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. Alex Wong/Getty Images
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Elsewhere in new faces, inaugural poet Amanda Gorman proved that she is just as good at putting together outfits as she is at putting together words, wearing a bright yellow Prada coat, a red satin headband, and a red bejeweled mask that was probably the best face covering of the day.

Lady Gaga talks to Joe Biden. She is wearing a voluminous red skirt with a close-fitting navy top, topped with a large gold bird pin.
Lady Gaga. Win McNamee/Getty Images
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No fashion roundup of the inauguration would be complete without an overview of the pop stars in attendance. National anthem singer Lady Gaga, whose most recent album title, Chromatica, preordained that she would not be limited to one color, wore a custom Schiaparelli Couture ball gown, featuring a navy long-sleeve top and low-waisted red bell skirt. With milkmaid-style braids and an oversize gold dove pin, Gaga did a nice job of integrating “inauguration-appropriate” with the ongoing performance art piece that is being Lady Gaga.

Jennifer Lopez arrives escorted by a member of the military. She wears an all-white outfit with wide-legged pants and a flowy blouse under a long white jacket.
Jennifer Lopez. Patrick Semansky/Getty Images
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Our other present pop star was Jennifer Lopez, who graced the inauguration crowd with a “This Land Is Your Land”/”America the Beautiful” medley. (She threw in a little bit of “Let’s Get Loud,” which was … a moment.) Lopez wore classic all white, but she did some texture-mixing in there too, pairing a ruffled shirt with sequined pants and a Chanel coat.

Bernie Sanders sits cross-legged in a folding chair in an olive-green coat and knit mittens.
Sen. Bernie Sanders Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
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Despite lacking the glamour of a J. Lo or a Gaga, social media was as enthralled with Sen. Bernie Sanders as ever, praising his coat—the same one he’s wearing in an image that’s become a meme, and thus confirming that he is a frugal king—as well as his mittens, which were made from repurposed wool sweaters and, according to his admirers, provide undeniable proof of his competence, because of the extremely low odds of owning a pair of mittens for two years without losing them.

Janet Yellen sits in a folding chair in an all-black outfit with a white mask.
Janet Yellen. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
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Ladies don’t have the privilege of going full unkempt Bernie in their looks, but it was nice to see some kind words for Treasury Secretary–designate Janet Yellen’s more casual vibe as well: She had on a black puffer coat and was sensibly keeping warm under a blanket.

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Elizabeth Warren wears sunglasses, a purple face mask, a pink scarf, and a purple puffer coat.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren was also in a no-frills puffer coat, but her pink blanket scarf with a prominent Planned Parenthood logo on it was a nice touch. Being practical and sticking to your principles: hopefully that will never go out of style.

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Correction, Jan. 21, 2021: This article originally misstated that Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to run for president. She was the first Black woman to run for president as a major-party candidate.

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