Last week we covered some design matters of Biden’s inauguration because, as we said, design matters. This week we look at fashion at the inauguration where design is particularly concerned with symbolism.
In fashion, as in other design matters, the contrast between the former and the current incumbents is just as different as their politics.
The Trump’s dress style was vile. Donald J wearing overly long ties drawing attention to his crotch obsession. Melania insensitively wearing a coat emblazoned with “I really don’t care, do U” when she visits a children’s prison in Texas, although she claims it is reference to her hatred of liberal media. Ivanka’s fashion label of glamorous jewellery and ordinary day wear fails to capitalise on daddy’s fame and closes in 2018.
Here’s some antidotes.
Purple is a key colour, said to be an ode to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to congress in 1968, and the first black woman to run for the democratic presidential nomination in 1972. “It was also an ode to bipartisanship” said Symone Sanders, Kamal Harris’ senior advisor and chief spokesperson. Chisholm used a shade of blue-purple during her campaign at public events because purple mixes Republican red and Democrat blue.
Kamala Harris is a staunch supporter of her university sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was the first African American Greek-letter sorority. Its founders are referred to as the “Twenty Pearls”, and in honour of more than 300,000 AKA members she wore pearls as a recognition of their rallying support around her throughout her run. “Family is my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha”.
Kamala Harris appeared at the COVID-19 memorial on Jan 19th wearing a camel coat by Kerby Jean-Raymond, another Black designer known for his work for Michelle Obama and Colin Kaepernick. “This will highlight where the fashion industry and its consumers will have serious work to do to address anti-blackness and how it buttresses economic inequality for black designers and fashion brands,” said Eric Darnell Pritchard, Illinois Professor and cultural critic.
Markarian is a 3-year-old clothing brand designed and made entirely in NYC, based on a made-to-order, sustainable, minimal-waste policy. Choosing Markarian is seen as a nod towards the administration’s investment in American business and parallels Biden’s commitment to confronting climate change, re-joining the Paris Agreement and cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline.
“We did pick the colour blue because it symbolizes loyalty, confidence and stability, and that’s a nice message to get across on a day such as yesterday” said Markarian founder Alexandra O’Neill; “with this choice Jill Biden has reinforced her intention to support small businesses, US designers and emerging talent in the fashion industry”.
Contrast this with the Trump’s fashion choices: Donald J wearing Italian suits from Brioni, a move that critics said undermined his message of creating more jobs for Americans; and Melania making “a showy display of European design houses and luxury brands, rather than publicly supporting American designers in the tradition of First Ladies past” according to Time Magazine, 2 days after the inauguration.
At age 22, Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in US history. Her choice of Prada was controversial. A European rather than American label, Prada has a long history of strong feminist statements, which Gorman admires according to Vogue Magazine, but has controversially been accused of racial insensitivity in advertisements.
In 2017 Jill Biden came across Gorman from a video of her performance of “In This Place: An American Lyric” at the Library of Congress wearing a similar bright shade of yellow. Jill Biden asked Gorman if she’d be willing to write and recite an original poem for the inauguration, adding that she had “loved her dress’s colour from the 2017 performance”. Hence the yellow choice.
Amanda Gorman told Vogue the coat had hidden meaning and was a nod to Jill Biden.
If you don’t know about Michelle Obama’s support for black American designers, then you’ve not been paying attention for the last 12 years. Now the most respected woman in the world, have a look at the rising black designers riding on her coat tails.
Lady Gaga’s skirt was said to symbolise unity with its use of the Democratic and Republican colours. Designer Roseberry, the French-born designer behind the ensemble, described Lady Gaga's look as an homage to his home. "As an American living in Paris, this ensemble is a love letter to the country I miss so dearly and to a performer whose artistry I have so long admired," he wrote via a statement. "Maison Schiaparelli is honoured to have this chance to dress the iconic Lady Gaga on this historic Inauguration Day. God Bless Lady Gaga and God Bless America."
The gigantic gold brooch sent the internet into a frenzy: a large gilded dove of peace brooch in the upper left corner of her bodice. Lady Gaga explained the meaning behind the exaggerated accessory, tweeting a photo of the pin with "A dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other."
Finally, the internet has claimed that Lady Gaga's fashion moment was paying homage to a story about another political uprising—The Hunger Games. Can’t adequately explain that
Lots of fashion design matters to parse in the future.
Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected]