Kamala Harris and Jill Biden’s First 100 Days of Style


On April 28, when President Joseph R. Biden delivered his deal with to the joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris at his shoulder and Jill Biden and Douglas Emhoff watching from the balcony, it marked the primary high-profile public look of the primary and second households because the inauguration.

President Biden, of course, was just one talking. That didn’t imply the opposite three had nothing to say.

It is on precisely these events of state that image-making comes into its personal, that costume turns into a key half of political theater. So the truth that Ms. Harris was sporting a cream go well with by the Asian-American designer Prabal Gurung that was made in New York, and that Dr. Biden was sporting a navy gown by the Uruguayan-American designer Gabriela Hearst constituted of upcycled silk wool and embroidered with the flowers of the 50 states of the union — that mattered.

That was, mentioned Susan Kelley, the founder of the web site What Kamala Wore, “a branding exercise — not just for the individual but for the administration and the nation as a whole.”

Yet in the case of the ladies of Brand Biden — the vp, a heartbeat away from essentially the most highly effective workplace within the land, and the primary woman, a heartbeat away from essentially the most highly effective man — the entire topic of gown is seemingly off limits, rife maybe with actual alternative but additionally angst.

They are clearly in several positions: Ms. Harris an elected official steering the nation; Dr. Biden a political partner. But every in her personal means represents a brand new paradigm (first feminine vp, first first woman to maintain working whereas within the White House), and every is being watched within the petri dish of Washington. In a visible age, meaning not solely phrases and actions but additionally outfits matter.

It started throughout the inauguration, when the 4 protagonists rose to the event with grace and forethought. In a broadly applauded merging of style and substance, the new first and second families used their appearance before the nation to stake out territory that seemingly supported the words on which they had campaigned: empathy, inclusivity, the whole building-back-better thing.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Emhoff each wore a suit by Ralph Lauren, a designer who has become synonymous with American style. Even more on point, Dr. Biden wore a “Unity” coat and mask by the young independent Jonathan Cohen, and then a dress embroidered with the flowers of all 50 states by Gabriela Hearst, a designer focused on sustainability. Ms. Harris wore clothes by three different independent Black designers, including a purple dress and coat that merged blue and red.

It seemed to herald a new age of conscious dress, and a new dawn for the American fashion industry, reeling after four years of an administration that had trampled all political norms, including the tradition of using their clothes as an expression of patriotic duty. Not to mention the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with its closures and bankruptcies.

And when it comes to Ms. Harris and Dr. Biden, there is clearly consideration going on — and the watching public clearly cares. And neither of those things is a bad thing.

Her extreme consistency effectively silences commentary. When someone wears the same thing day in and day out, at a certain point what else is there to say? But then, when Ms. Harris departs from the script, the effect is to draw attention to her choices, imbuing them with even more meaning. Thus the public brouhaha over her appearance in Converse on the campaign trail, the fact she wore a white pantsuit on the night she and Mr. Biden were declared the winners of the election, and at the inauguration. (And thus the universal freakout over the Vogue cover that appeared just before the swearing-in.) It’s a master class in framing.

“From what I’ve seen, she has a real point of view,” Mr. Altuzarra said, who also credited the vice president with sparking a notable interest in his tailoring despite the fact that during the last few months, all anyone could talk about was the end of the suit. “She has developed an image that is incredibly powerful but also is not trying to erase her femininity. She strikes that balance really well.”

According to Ms. Kelley of What Kamala Wore: “I really questioned the endeavor when I started: Is it appropriate to write about her clothes? It’s a fraught topic, and this is clearly a secondary consideration. But people are really interested in people who are considered role models. Fashion builds bridges — it’s a point of commonality. I get lots of emails from young women who want to be like her, saying ‘Where can I get a less expensive version?’”

It’s not that every outfit contains a coded message; that would be exhausting to imagine and misstates the way clothes are used. But every appearance is an expression of identity — for public officials and those who represent them as for everyone. That’s why what Dr. Biden and Ms. Harris wear receives so much attention. Through their clothes, we think we can know them. And that’s why it would not be compromising for them — or, to be fair, their offices — to acknowledge it.

Indeed, it is possible to imagine them taking the clothes question and turning it into, say, a … teachable moment.

For example, Ms. Harris and Dr. Biden often rewear clothes from their wardrobes. (This has on occasion created a minor brouhaha for Ms. Harris, who like many professionals has Dolce & Gabbana pantsuits in her wardrobe, Dolce having come under attack for a variety of racist statements in recent years.) Why not admit that and underscore its connection to individual action and sustainability — and then use that to pivot to the Biden climate agenda? If wearing an American designer, why not seize that moment to focus not on the dress itself but on the industry that made it and how important it is to the economic fiber of the country?

“If it’s purpose-driven fashion, that’s something that should be celebrated, and the information shared,” Ms. Kelley said. Ms. Harris and Dr. Biden have set so many precedents. This could be another one.



Source link Nytimes.com

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