WASHINGTON — Operation Inauguration Dress is well under way and designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka are only too happy to help frenzied shoppers ahead of the big day on Jan. 20.
“We’ve been coming to D.C. off and on for as long as I can remember,” recalled Badgley over the weekend at a Saks Fifth Avenue luncheon, where he showcased some ready-to-wear gowns ideal for inaugural party hopping.
He and Mischka have a bipartisan fan base here, especially with the political elites.
“We used to do dresses for Hillary [Clinton] when she was first lady, and we did the inaugural gowns for the Bush twins. We came for a million fittings for those things,” Badgley explained.
Surprisingly, Badgley and Mischka have a high opinion of Washington’s sometimes dubious style, ranking it right behind San Francisco and New York.
“The women are always very put together here,” Badgley observed. “The women know how to dress and appreciate fine apparel.”
As for First Lady Michelle Obama, both agree she’s set the bar high for her successor.
“Mrs. Obama publicized designers people had never heard of,” said Mischka.
“She sort of blurred the high-low so well. It was all cool and relevant. We’ve never met her, but her stylist has called in clothes. We think she’s amazing,” Badgley added.
The two have a long working relationship with Melania Trump and say that will not change, despite the industry’s tentative reaction to President-elect Donald Trump’s wife.
The question for every fashion designer these days seems to be: Would you dress Melania Trump?
“We support the office of the first lady, so the answer would be yes. She’s a lovely person,” Mischka said.
“She’s very attractive and has a great figure. Hopefully she’ll support American designers,” Badgley explained, describing Melania Trump’s taste in dresses as “streamlined and sleek.”
“It’s an emotional time for everybody. James and I are not political people, but we understand those feelings just as well. There’s no easy answer,” he continued, referring to the recent statement by designer Sophie Theallet calling for a fashion boycott of Trump. Other designers, like Marc Jacobs, have followed suit.
This year marks a special anniversary for Badgley Mischka as it’s been 30 years since the label has been carried by Saks.
“We started in a little loft in Hell’s Kitchen in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing out there but gas stations and junk yards. Somehow we got the Saks buyer to come and see us,” Mischka said, remembering how the retailer became their first account.
Capitalizing on inauguration mania, Saks is launching pop-up shops in hotels across Washington where shoppers can buy last-minute additions to their Inauguration Day ensembles like bags, cuff links, ear muffs and wraps.
But Badgley explained that not all dresses need to be so skimpy. “You don’t have to flaunt it like you used to. All the cool girls are wearing dresses with sleeves. Covered up is pretty, too. Finally women don’t have to freeze themselves to death for a black-tie event.”