scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Inauguration Fashion

Inaugural fashion nods to political unity and American design

From left to right, Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren on Inauguration Day at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Before she strode across the Capitol dais on Wednesday to take her oath of office, Vice President Harris had already made a statement: one in brilliant purple.

After four years in which the country was often sketched in terms of red states versus blue, where something as simple as a red baseball cap became shorthand for discord and division, Harris’s decision to wear a purple coat and dress on Inauguration Day sent a message of unity — a hopeful coming together of red and blue.

The vice president wasn’t alone in her choice of the harmonious hue. Hillary Clinton wore a rich purple scarf and suit to the inauguration Wednesday morning. Senator Elizabeth Warren wore a lighter purple scarf. And former first lady Michelle Obama stunned in head-to-toe burgundy. A smattering of purple neckties also could be spied among the guests.


For Harris — the first woman, first Black person, and first Asian American to be elected vice president — purple signified more than unity, however. She also reportedly wore the color in honor of Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman in Congress and, in 1972, the first Black woman to run for president. Harris topped off the ensemble with her signature pearls, a nod to her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was founded at Harris’s alma mater, Howard University, in 1908.

Harris’s vivid purple coat was designed by 27-year-old Christopher John Rogers, a 2020 CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year. Rogers, who is Black and hails from Baton Rouge, La., posted a photo of Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, along with a message of thanks, on his Instagram on Wednesday.

First lady Jill Biden also chose an up-and-coming American designer for the inauguration, wearing a rich cornflower blue ensemble with a hint of sparkle by Alexandra O’Neill of the Markarian label. A matching face mask, leather gloves, and pumps completed her look on the cool, breezy day. President Biden, meanwhile, went with a sharp navy suit by designer Ralph Lauren and boasted a periwinkle tie (just a hint of purple, perhaps?) for the historic day.


President Biden and his wife Jill Biden arrived for the 59th presidential inauguration at the US Capitol.Saul Loeb/Associated Press

There were a few other show-stoppers at the inauguration. Michelle Obama, well-known for her impeccable fashion sense, had the fashion world agog Wednesday in a plum ensemble designed by Sergio Hudson. Skipping a dress altogether, Obama went with wide-leg trousers, a turtleneck, and a perfectly tailored wool coat so long it brushed the red and blue carpet of the inaugural stage. A shiny gold belt buckle was the chef’s kiss. Social media exploded with praise. (Harris wore Hudson-designed shoes at the inaugural as well.)

Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the inauguration.Rob Carr/Getty

Two performers also donned striking looks on Wednesday. Lady Gaga, who sang the national anthem, looked as if she was on her way to the Grammys in a black and red ball gown by Schiaparelli, trimmed with a massive golden dove brooch. (Her matching gold microphone was also a nice touch.) Jennifer Lopez wore icy white Chanel for her performance, which paired perfectly with her enormous diamond engagement ring from beau Alex Rodriguez.

Lady Gaga talks with President Joe Biden at the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.Win McNamee/Associated Press
Jennifer Lopez performs during the inauguration.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Harvard graduate and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman also made an unforgettable appearance at the Capitol, and not only with the breathtaking recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb.” The 22-year-old wore a padded red Prada headband, earrings given to her by admirer Oprah Winfrey, and a sunflower yellow coat, which, Gorman told Vogue, was for first lady Jill Biden.


“I’m also wearing a yellow coat, which is my own nod to Dr. Jill Biden, who was the one who recommended me in the first place, and I’m so honored by that. She said, ‘I saw this video of you and you were wearing yellow and I loved it,’” Gorman said in the interview.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reads her poem during the inauguration.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at