TRIED AND TRUE: After President-elect Joe Biden delivered a message of hope, unity and possibility in his Saturday night victory speech in Wilmington, Del., his wife Jill seemed to convey a similar message wearing a vibrant floral dress.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also emphasized the promise of America in her speech, which preceded those of her running mate. Wearing an American flag lapel pin on an ivory-colored Carolina Herrera pantsuit and a silk pussy-bow blouse, Harris spoke confidently about what the future may hold and encouraged children to imagine themselves in ways that others might not yet recognize as achievable.
Outside of the Chase Center, thousands sat on the rooftops of their cars or stood together listening intently to the speeches and in some cases waving American flags. Millions more tuned in remotely to what was a must-see televised event after a slugfest of a campaign. Additional disputes are expected since President Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.
After running onto the outdoor stage wearing a navy suit and light blue tie, Biden pledged that he would be a president who “seeks not to divide but to unify.” He told the crowd of supporters, “Let us be the nation we know we can be. A nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed. There’s never anything we’ve tried we’ve not been able to do.”
After his speech, Biden’s wife, wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress, and the rest of his family joined him on the stage, waving to the crowd. While the president-elect spoke without a mask, his family members wore them. His wife stood out in her short-sleeved dress with an asymmetric hemline. Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia designed the celebratory dress. The company touted their alliance to its 4.8 million Instagram followers Saturday night with a photo of the first couple-elect. “Today we congratulate our President-elect Joe Biden and the [future] first lady Jill Biden. Jill Biden, standing beside him, wears a navy floral vine dress by Oscar de la Renta.”
Asked for comment Sunday, the company’s chief executive officer Alex Bolen said, “We’ve been fans of Dr. Jill Biden’s for many years and have had the privilege of working with her in the past. Oscar adored the opportunity to work with accomplished women, finding role models such as [former] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, Mrs. [Laura] Bush and Dr. Biden particularly inspiring,” Bolen said.
“Like Oscar, Laura [Kim] and Fernando [Garcia] relish the challenge of helping women lead their lives — especially if those lives take place on the world stage — with a tremendous sense of confidence,“ said Bolen. He also congratulated the Bidens and Sen. Harris on behalf of the design duo, himself and his wife Eliza, the company’s executive vice president. “We wish them every success,” Bolen said.
De la Renta, who died in 2014, suited up various first ladies for key occasions through the years including Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. During her father’s administration, first daughter Ivanka Trump has been known to wear Oscar de la Renta on occasion.
An executive at Carolina Herrera confirmed that Harris wore the brand Saturday night but declined further comment Sunday. Some observers considered the color choice of Harris’ pantsuit as a nod to the suffragette movement.
Wes Gordon is the creative force behind Carolina Herrera now, but the company’s founder dressed her share of first ladies. Another New York-based designer, Prabal Gurung, suited up Harris in a pantsuit for her acceptance speech at last summer’s Democratic National Convention.
At one time, designers clamored to spread the word that whenever a first lady wore one of their ensembles. As women are being recognized for their achievements more so than their appearances, that has waned somewhat. In addition, the contentious political divide has prompted some to stay mum rather than offend shoppers in either political party. Business is business, and many are in need of consumers and sales of any kind more than ever, due to anemic sales, shuttered stores and ultracasual dress codes brought on by the pandemic shutdown.
Biden could potentially help rev up the American fashion industry, when she steps out onto the international stage as first lady in January. Known to shop local, ask about prices and consider her purchases in her home city of Wilmington, Del., Biden’s style decisions may stand to change. In recent months she has gravitated from classic looks from lesser-known contemporary labels to powerhouse designers with large social media followings like Ralph Lauren, Christian Siriano and Brandon Maxwell. Lauren, like de la Renta and Herrera, is bipartisan when it comes to dressing political figures and their spouses. He designed the custom pale blue suit First Lady Melania Trump wore for her husband’s inauguration. FLOTUS has been criticized for not wearing items from more American designers, but some have openly said they would not dress her.
As a lifelong educator, Biden understands the equation of how strong sales can lead to more jobs for a fashion brand or retailer. And for generations of Americans and immigrants, their livelihoods hinged on entry-level factory jobs in fashion.