JANUARY 20, 2021
On a chilly Wednesday in January, during a pandemic that’s forced Americans to wear masks obscuring their faces, the most high-profile attendees at the inauguration of the 46th president knew their outerwear would have to send the messages that their faces couldn’t.
President Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff brought their A-game, both sporting coats made by Ralph Lauren. But others, including the incoming first lady and vice president, stole the show.
Jill Biden’s sophisticated Markarian tweed
Joe and Jill Biden leave the inauguration. (Patrick Semansky/Reuters) (Pool/Reuters)
The incoming first lady’s ensemble is designed by Alexandra O’Neill’s sustainability-focused label Markarian. Many found its bright ocean blue color — in two complementary shades, with matching gloves and mask — striking in the good way. Others had flashbacks to “The Undoing,” with its notably lavish outerwear.
Kamala Harris’s blue-purple Christopher John Rogers
Vice President Harris stands with husband Doug Emhoff as she takes the oath of office. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Vice President Harris’s outerwear, designed by rising-star Black designer Christopher John Rogers, was purple, a color symbolic of both unity (mixing red and blue) and of the suffragette movement (along with white). Many have suggested the color is also in tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president. Purple is one of many colors Chisholm used in her campaign, according to Katheryn Russell-Brown, the author of the picture book “She Was the First! The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm.” (Harris’s presidential campaign used not only purple but red and yellow, a nod to Chisholm having used them, the Guardian reported.)
Harris also wore pearls, as she often does to honor her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which refers to its founders as the “Twenty Pearls.”
Ella Emhoff’s Miu Miu top coat
Cole and Ella Emhoff, Doug Emhoff’s children and Harris’s stepchildren. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Emhoff — daughter of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, stepdaughter of Harris and a textile-design student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City — garnered many a heart-eye emoji with her beige Miu Miu Shetland Pied De Poule coat adorned with gold at the shoulders. Some wondered if it ushered in the age of be-sequined shoulders:
Michelle Obama’s maximalist Sergio Hudson
Barack and Michelle Obama arrive. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Another of several women in politics wearing purple at the inauguration, the former first lady wore a dramatic long overcoat in a warm burgundy shade, designed by Sergio Hudson, a Black designer from South Carolina. The coat, alongside the rest of the Obamas’ sartorial choices, inspired “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes to tweet a photo with praise: “I don’t even have to comment. You see them.”
Bernie Sanders’s all-purpose Burton parka
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Tasos Katopodis/AFP via Getty Images)
At the inauguration, it appeared Sen. Sanders was once again taking the opportunity to showcase a hometown brand: His practical winter coat, made in Burlington, Vt., is the same one he’s wearing in the photo that became the ubiquitous “I am once again asking” meme. To some, Sanders’s ensemble of parka and hand-knit mittens lent him the distinct air of a gruff granddad, or of having run a few errands beforehand
Amy Klobuchar’s “big aunt energy” gold
Sen. Amy Klobuchar. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/Bloomberg)
Who says you can’t wear the same coat twice? Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who acted as an emcee of the event, wasn’t afraid to repeat the mustard yellow coat she wore in a blizzard at the beginning of 2019 when she announced her candidacy for presidency. Wearing the same coat at two giant public events? “Big aunt energy,” according to writer Rachel Syme on Twitter. The gold coat, combined with her maroon scarf, was a subtle nod to the colors of the University of Minnesota.
Nancy Pelosi’s turquoise extravaganza
Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s monochromatic outfit of a turquoise coat paired with a turquoise scarf, not to mention turquoise stilettos, had plenty of fans.
But it probably won’t end up being as adored as the brick red Max Mara coat she wore to that meeting with former president Donald Trump in December 2018 to drive home a big fat “no” to the border wall right before the government shutdown. That coat has its own Twitter handle: @NancyCoat, whose bio reads: “I’m a coat, what else can I say? I have big coat energy.”
Amanda Gorman’s yellow Prada (and, oh, that headband)
Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, but the 22-year-old inaugural poet had the real “A Star Is Born” moment, not just for her incisive verses but that amazing bright yellow Prada coat. It was her nod to Jill Biden, who had recommended her for the honor of being the youngest poet to write and recite an original poem at an inaugural. “[Jill Biden] said, ‘I saw this video of you and you were wearing yellow and I loved it,’” Gorman told Vogue.
Her jewelry was provided by none other than Oprah Winfrey, who is a fan of Gorman’s. Vogue reported that when Gorman’s idol, Maya Angelou, spoke at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, Winfrey sent her a coat and a pair of gloves. Gorman wore gold hoops, and a ring in the shape of a caged bird, symbolizing Angelou’s memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” But runner-up to the coat (which has already sold out on Farfetch) is that fabulous giant red Prada headband.
Janet Yellen’s toasty-warm, weather-appropriate puffer
While Sanders channeled America’s no-nonsense patriarchs, the nominee for treasury secretary took up the mantle of our nation’s sensible moms and grandmas. Bundled in a hooded black puffer jacket and a navy lap blanket, Yellen’s ensemble struck a chord with those whose clothing philosophy is “form follows function.”
Meena Harris’s green-on-green shearling
Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Harris. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Harris’s very fashionable niece Meena Harris, debuted her green shearling coat from Coach with a simple mic-drop tweet: “WE IN HERE AMERICA.”
But the lawyer and best-selling children’s book author said — and moms everywhere can relate — that the hardest part of her day was just leaving the house in winter with two daughters under the age of 5. “Is there an award for getting your entire family dressed for cold weather and out of the house under very stressful circumstances without killing your family [sic] I would like to nominate myself,”
Her daughters also had excellent coat game, wearing fuzzy animal prints to resemble coats that Harris and her sister Maya, Meena’s mom, had worn as kids.