Whether or not one should analyse the clothes worn by female politicians and the wives of politicians is a fiercely contested subject. Is it reductive? Does it distract from the more important message?
Often yes, there are much more important issues at stake. However to suggest that women in such positions should be free to think only of loftier things than what they are wearing –and that the media should not comment or translate messages, supposed or intended, from their outfits – is perhaps to over simplify.
For in reality there is no escaping the fact that the clothes worn by anyone in such an important, globally visible role as the First Lady or the Vice President of the United States of America, are bound to be read and analysed for clues the world over.
Fashion is a powerful tool through which to communicate a message; particularly given most images are shared without an accompanying verbal or written commentary from those pictured. The message must be communicated through the clothes themselves.
And today’s predominantly purple inauguration ensembles sent a powerful subliminal message to America’s people, and to the rest of the world: this was a new administration that stood united in a mission to heal a divided America.
Vice President Kamala Harris, former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, 2016 democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and newly appointed First Lady Jill Biden all wore various hues of purple to attend inauguration events.
Dr Jill Biden arrived in Washington wearing a purple outfit from New York designer Jonathan Cohen, then Kamala Harris arrived at the inauguration ceremony wearing a violet-hued ensemble by emerging black designer Christopher John Rogers. Michelle Obama wore a purplish raspberry-coloured look from Sergio Hudson while Clinton wore a violet suit with matching scarf and aubergine overcoat.
As a blend of Democratic Blue and Republican Red, the predominance of purple at today’s ceremony sent a clear signal that the Biden administration intends to unite the country once again.
“The significance of wearing purple, a powerful colour that is both inspiring and purposeful,” colour consultant Jules Standish tells the Standard. “It shows leadership with a visionary mind and being a mix of red and blue, is a diplomatic political statement. Purple is also calming and healing; both wonderful properties for this momentous occasion.”
The colour purple also holds particular significance for Kamala Harris, who often wore the hue on her own presidential campaign as a nod to Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman to run for president in 1972 under the Democratic party and the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress.