JUST IN TIME: Without question Inauguration Day is the breakout moment for the president and first lady, and their official debut also elevates the designers whose clothes they choose to wear.
Incoming First Lady Jill Biden provided one such Cinderella moment for the little-known New York-based designer Markarian label run by Alexandra O’Neill. And Vice President-elect Kamala Harris did the same, by wearing looks from Christopher John Rogers. A David Yurman flag pin completed the look. At a pre-inaugural event Tuesday night at the Lincoln Memorial, Harris wore a Kerby Jean-Raymond-designed Pyer Moss coat with an Oscar de la Renta dress. Biden also supported a younger designer at that event, wearing a purple ensemble from Jonathan Cohen.
On Wednesday, Biden chose a custom-made wool tweed coat and dress in ocean blue with a coordinating face mask from O’Neill. As Biden’s designer of choice for the inauguration, she has been crafting the look with a small team in the Garment District in Manhattan. Her husband, President-elect Joe Biden, meanwhile, went for an iconic American designer, Ralph Lauren, for his navy blue suit and topcoat.
Known to shop local, as well as buy big-name designers like Ralph Lauren, Jill Biden appears to be pulling for an upcoming designer this time around. O’Neill only started her company in 2017. She trimmed Biden’s coat with a dark blue velvet collar and cuffs, and the tapered dress has a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt hemline. Swarovski pearls and crystals adorn the neckline of the dress in a floral pattern. Swarovski embellishment is also on the coat to subtly reflect the light, according to press material provided by the company.
Reached Wednesday, O’Neill said she didn’t sleep at all Tuesday night, because she was too excited about the prospect of dressing Biden. It wasn’t until Biden stepped out Wednesday morning that she knew her ensemble had been the winning look. “This is the ultimate.” O’Neill said. “We’ve been working in this straight since late December. We’re a very small team – six people in total. It was all hands on deck.”
Noting how fashion is a leading industry in New York that creates and supports a lot of jobs in manufacturing and contracting ones, O’Neill said Jill Biden “is pretty well aware of the impact that her choices have on fashion, and the impact that has on so many jobs, especially stateside.”
Rogers was not immediately available to comment.
The choice of the color blue is meant to symbolize trust, confidence and stability, according to information provided by the company. A deeper blue is also true to the Democratic Party. With many Americans struggling financially and health wise due to the pandemic, the first lady may be hinting at the importance of helping unsung workers. Manhattan’s Garment District is certainly hurting for work, due to the drastic decline in retail sales. Corporate tenants are few and far between, with only 10 percent of Midtown office workers having returned to their offices.
Through the years, other first ladies have helped to raise the profiles of smaller designers. Michelle Obama wore a lemon-colored dress and jacket from Isabel Toledo for her husband Barack’s first inaugural. And Jason Wu’s career skyrocketed after she donned one of his evening gowns for the first round of inaugural balls. Melania Trump also selected an unexpected designer to create the evening gown for the 2017 inaugural balls — New York-based designer Hervé Pierre.