Still, it is encouraging to see a new mix of designers given global exposure. Vice-President Kamala Harris has officially christened a new era of American fashion by wearing Pyer Moss and Christopher John Rodgers—both brands owned by Black designers—over the past 24 hours, permanently etching their names into history. Jill Biden, in a dress, coat, and matching mask by the new-ish brand Markarian, looked fabulous, though she has always worn clothes remarkably well. Still, when I read in a press release that “the color blue was chosen for the pieces to signify trust, confidence, and stability,” I couldn’t help but think of my local bank branch. (Former First Lady Melania Trump, making an elaborate Irish goodbye in the presidential chopper, channeled Jackie at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, in a shrunken Chanel jacket and Dolce & Gabbana skirt. The Chanel jacket debuted on the runway in early December, for the house’s Metiers d’art collection, which means it’s not yet in stores—but private client status trumps politics.)
The two best looks of the day came not from American designers, but courtesy of an Italian fashion master: Miuccia Prada. First was Ella Emhoff, the Vice President’s step-daughter, who has become a cult figure online for her interest in slow fashion and quirky knitwear. (Get ready to see a lot more of the aesthetic my colleague Noah Johnson calls “bardcore.”) After wearing a Thom Browne shirt and tie with silk skirt last night, she attended the inauguration in a plaid Miu Miu A-line coat, embellished with crystals across the shoulders, with a sweet, white lace collar and a big tortoiseshell button—festive, appropriate but not scene-stealing, and a perfect employment of Mrs. Prada’s nerdy-girlish diffusion line. The second was a young woman I clocked before the proceedings began, standing tall on the stage filming the crowd with her camera in a striking banana-colored coat and a fat red headband. How bold of her to wear yellow!, I thought—and realized shortly thereafter that she was the inaugural poet, the 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, dressed in head-to-toe custom Prada. That thick headband, a cult object since Mrs. Prada debuted it in Spring 2019, is one of several talismans representing the new generation of Prada acolytes, who worship the designer for her intellectually biographical designs just as their elders did in the ’90s. For the millennial and Gen Z cognoscenti, Prada represents the peerless blend of intellect and glamour.
The other fashion highlights were also the less stage-managed ones: Nikolas Ajagu, the husband of Kamala Harris’s niece, wearing the ultra-rare Air Dior sneakers, and Bernie Sanders, bundled up in his old Burton jacket and mittens made by a local Vermont school teacher from old sweaters (and lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles). These attendees weren’t practicing political theatre. And even though Sanders wore a coat he’s definitely worn before, it didn’t scan as a wished-for return to the Time Before Trump. Instead, the best fashion at the inauguration was a demonstration of fashion honesty. These attendees had an awareness of the limits of political clothing—and of the power of showing us who they are.
An earlier version of this story stated that Amanda Gorman is 23. She is 22.