Today, Melania Trump released her final message as first lady. A polished, rehearsed farewell speech that gloriously hyperbolised her four year White House rendezvous while conveniently glossing over any and all bumps. Her systematic sentences played out from behind the official podium, hair perfectly quaffed, cheekbones expertly bronzed and a herringbone pea coat neatly fastened around her collar. Her wax lyrical preached “love over hatred, peace over violence and others over yourself”. All this despite a reported refusal to offer Dr. Jill Biden a handover tour of the White House. A tradition that’s be in place between first ladies since the Eisenhower administration.
Sour grapes aside, her final (official) look was sharp and elegant. We have to give her that. Its ilk not a far cry from the herringbone cape-coat she wore as she and Donald accepted the White House Christmas tree last November. You know, around the time of that leaked phone call when Melania spat “Who gives a f*#k about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”. What a time.
Melania Trump leaves behind an anti-legacy, one unlike any first lady before her. A designer-dressed, perfectly tressed (and probably stressed) hype girl that poker-faced her way through nearly half a decade of tumultuous tenure. She closes out this chapter of her life with public scrutiny tallying equal parts speculation (those deciphering her fashion as a code they hoped would prove she’s actually a prisoner) and condemnation (those who made a sport out of being horrified by her life on a high horse.)
As I write this, the White House is being deep cleaned for incoming President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. And, in what sounds more like awkward innuendo, this deep clean is to be much larger than would normally be, given the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. A literal wiping of the slate clean. An act with so much irony I almost need to lie down. Then, soon after the Bidens move in, Vice President Kamala Harris will take her office residence, becoming the first female, black, Asian-American Vice President ever.
The weight of this historic moment is garnering a patriotism the United States has been depleted in ever since Trump was sworn in to office. Not only is this a moment of deep relief for much of the country, it’s also one of pride given its message of progression, acceptance and equality. The Biden-Harris inauguration is to be a celebration, of course, but right now the room is sombre and the people are wounded. Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ campaign tag line might have been a met with mixed reactions but its focus on healing and change is just what Americans need before they can feel ready to revel in a brighter future. Industry is suffering, employment is down, much of the population is being ravaged by the pandemic and morale for leadership is exhausted. So, come inauguration day, the Biden-Harris camp is said to be keeping things relaxed.
Even the merchandise is chill. Each incoming presidency boasts a range of slogan wears and this one is no different. However, the Biden-Harris line, which centres on unity, includes a tie-dye tee by Gabriela Hearst, a beaded Unity bracelet by Roxanne Assoulin and a college-style hoodie designed by Kanye West alum Joe Perez. Certainly the antithesis to the MAGA mania we all came to know and loathe. To add insult, the Unity range is reported to now also be the highest selling Presidential merchandise ever.
Despite the importance of being earnest in this 2021 era, fashion still has a major part to play. There is a swathe of chatter and speculation around just who will dress both the Vice President and the First Lady come Thursday’s big event. Harris is already a notable style leader, for all the right reasons. Her choice to wear a Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera white pant suit on the night of the election win announcement was more than just a chic option. It was symbolism steeped in history. A nod to the fight for women’s suffrage. Then, her rainbow spangled disco jacket worn at San Fransisco’s Pride Parade last June made a welcome statement for her support of the LGBTQIA community. She favours Converse over stilettos and has honed the pantsuit to almost become her personal style uniform. She’s putting the VP in MVP.
Like Harris, Dr. Biden’s style is borne of both form and function. An evening wardrobe of well-cut trousers, chic blazers, peplum skirt suits and elegant tulip dresses that flank the all-American jeans and jackets she often chooses for her appointments by day. Given than Ralph Lauren is tipped to dress the incoming President for the inauguration, his name has become a frontrunner for dressing Dr. Biden as well. American-made is generally the order for such an event, even Melania chose Ralph Lauren when she and Trump were sworn in in 2016 (despite immediately changing into a Dolce & Gabbana two-piece for her official portrait). Michelle Obama wore Isabel Toledo (followed by Jason Wu for the ensuing Inauguration Ball), Jackie Kennedy wore Oleg Cassini, Hillary Clinton wore Sarah Phillips and Nancy Reagan wore James Galanos.
Biden and Harris are more than likely to also take a patriotic turn. The fashion bookies are listing labels like Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Carolina Herrera as high possibilities for both women. However, while these might have the greatest odds, wildcard labels like Brandon Maxwell, Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung, Pyer Moss and even Fear Of God have been bandied about.
Whomever these women choose as their fashion representative on the night will mark a major moment for the label/s. When Dr. Biden wore a Oscar de la Renta gown to her husband’s acceptance speech event the label’s site near crashed for style stealers keen to buy the same. But more than an opportunity for chaotic retailing, it will mark a historic moment in time.
And how wonderful to know that being allied to the presidency will once again be held in high regard. Designers will undoubtably continue to clamber to be worn by both Harris and Biden over the next few years, as all eyes of the United States (and the world) watch them, in hope of a harmonious, honourable future.