BY BROOKE BOBB
November 11, 2020
Jill Biden will become first lady on January 20, 2021. After eight years in the vice president’s residence, she is familiar with the spotlight, but her new role will bring a heightened level of visibility to her choices, sartorial and otherwise.
During the campaign, Biden’s most visible moment came at the Democratic National Convention, when she gave a speech from the high school in Wilmington, Delaware, where she taught English. Her dark green Brandon Maxwell shirtdress conveyed poise and capability. The elegant but unassuming Oscar de la Renta dress she chose for husband Joe Biden’s acceptance speech on Saturday once again telegraphed a chic, yet down-to-earth sensibility. And it seems her fashion choices are already having an effect on consumers: Thanks to Biden, the Oscar de la Renta look sold out in several hours on The Outnet. Perhaps her experience in the classroom has influenced her approachable, warm style. After all, as Joe Biden said in his wife’s Democratic National Convention introduction video: “Teaching is not what Jill does. It’s who she is.”
While the inaugural gowns of first ladies go down in history—we’re sure designers across the U.S. are lining up for the chance to dress Biden—their day-to-day wardrobes are now a growing source of fascination. Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House style was the subject of a Costume Institute exhibition in 2001, and Michelle Obama’s outfits were closely watched and roundly applauded. (Who can forget, for instance, the J.Crew sweater she accessorized with an Azzedine Alaïa belt?)
Biden’s formal fashion will certainly be something to watch in the coming months, especially during the inauguration, but her most endearing style trait is the fact that she isn’t overtly glamorous or fond of high fashion with a capital F. She’s down-to-earth, and her clothes reflect that easy sensibility. While she is always chic and well-heeled, she also runs in leggings and T-shirts every morning, and she will continue to teach, becoming the first first lady in history to maintain her day job after Inauguration Day.
By necessity, Biden’s clothes will have to be just as practical as they are emblematic. Her latest choices highlight her thoughtfulness: For the DNC, she went with a unifying choice, selecting Brandon Maxwell, who is from Texas, a red state that has a chance of going blue in the next election cycle. Again, unity is the key message of the Biden-Harris office. So too is diversity and inclusion. For her first appearance as first lady-elect, she chose a look from Oscar de la Renta, which is now helmed by Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, who were born in South Korea and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
The symbolism inherent in those dresses suggests that Biden—like many but not all of her predecessors—understands the impact the first lady has on America’s vision of itself. To us, it looks like she’s ready to roll up her sleeves, stretch out her arms, and begin the work of healing this country.