As America embraces renewed vigor with President Joe Biden commencing his much-awaited four-year term, we pay tribute to the layers of plum political sartorial choices of the prominent women in his inauguration, symbolic of the American zeitgeist and its effects on the global context.
Never has fashion been more victorious in sending multitudes of messages than it is now in an age where together with words, appearances are given as much importance and meaning. At the recently held inauguration ceremony, where President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris assumed their roles as top executives of their proud country, America and the world watched in anticipation as a new chapter unfolded. And while the men surely had their fashion moments (Biden wore Ralph Lauren), it was the women who took the fashion spotlight in their silent demeanor where their sartorial choices spoke volumes, resonating narratives that needed to be heard from here on to the next generation.
The Political Rhetoric of Purple and Pearl
While the color purple and its related shades have long been symbols of monarchy and royalty, the turn of the century has seen the rise of new symbolic euphemisms. The Purple Heart is bestowed to the brave men and women who have died or have been wounded in the line of duty. The Color Purple, penned by Alice Walker, narrates the experiences of African-American communities in the South and has been praised for its rich cultural sensibilities. So as the premise of an oft-used shade denotes physical wealth and stature, it has since then evolved to a rich experience of culture and proud heritage.
Like the hue of mention, pearls are also symbols of wealth and of power. The simplicity of its shape and the purity of its color have become safe yet powerful choices in the world of fashion. And in the world’s obsession with the hidden meaning of gems and precious stones, the pearl has become a shining ode to wisdom and healing. Its immaculate color has also been associated with purity and of integrity. John Steinbeck’s novel, The Pearl, is a parable of perseverance and a realization of what is truly essential.
And all these things considered, both pearl and purple became worthy choices of the significant women who graced the inauguration to proudly declare their inspiring stories for the world to see, read, and feel.
Packed With Meaning and Purpose: Vice President Kamala Harris
The 49th Vice President of the United States of America wore a purple ensemble made by Black designers Christopher John Rogers (coat and dress) and Sergio Hudson (pumps). More than the aforementioned symbols, Harris paid tribute to women’s suffrage, the sorority she belonged to, and Shirley Chisholm. What makes these items truly noteworthy are the stories behind these significant pieces of American history.
It was in 1920, after a tumultuous push and pull with naysayers, when America rightfully gave women the right to vote. The countless number of women who’ve supported and led the movement sewed the colors of purple, gold, and white to the flag they raised in heralding the vision. Harris has become the first woman in the US to hold the Vice President position, furthering the movement and cementing her place in the history of women’s suffrage.
Harris also wore pearls by Wilfredo Rosado (an immigrant like her mother), an ode to her sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha: the first African-American Greek-letter sorority. Pearls were given to new members of the sisterhood and represented unity (the founders are referred to as the “Twenty Pearls”). Lastly, Shirley Chisholm, who Harris has cited as an inspiration in her career, was also present in her choice of outfit. The first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black major-party candidate to run for U.S. president, Chisholm was known to wear purple in her campaigns.
The First Ladies Circle: Jill, Michelle, Hillary, and Laura
The incredible women who have stood beside the country’s former presidents were also awash in pearl and/or purple. Sans Melania Trump, all former first ladies were present in the ceremony to support the Biden-Harris administration: Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush.
Dr. Jill Biden, the new president’s FLOTUS, wore blue to represent “trust, confidence, and stability.” Opting for a Markarian ensemble (an American label from designer Alexandra O’Neill), the handcrafted coat and dress ensemble was bedecked in Swarovski pearls and crystals seen in the neckline and the coat.
The Color Purple: Plain and Simple
At the penultimate hour, the color purple stands beyond the multi-layered meaning and signifies the unification of a nation once divided. Considering the colors bannered by the political parties (red and blue), purple is simply the seamless marriage of both. As President Joe Biden calls for unity amid diversity, the hope of all Americans—be they blue or red in political stance—remains positive and energized more than ever. How this affects the global landscape is yet to be seen. But as the world watches and listens, may these imageries and symbols be optimistic predictions of the years to come.