The Power Of Purple: The Hidden Meaning Behind The Biggest Color Trend Of Inauguration Day

Rob Carr/Getty Images News/Getty Images

While you were focused on Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Poet Amanda Gorman reading 'The Hill We Climb,' and Joe Biden placing his hand on the Bible as he was sworn in, it would be easy to miss a small sartorial detail. But, in politics, even when no words are spoken, clothing can send a very direct message. On Inauguration Day, the color purple was central to the outfits of the countries' most influential women. In addition to the fact that Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Michelle Obama chose to support emerging designers — often also people of color — they carefully aligned their messages through a united wave of purple hues.

Kara McLeod, fashion historian and professor at FIDM told TZR in a story this past September, that the color holds a deep significance in women's fight for equality. She explains that purple is one of three symbolic colors, “white for purity, purple for dignity and loyalty, and green for hope.” The color also serves as a call to unity as it is the combination of red (a symbol of the Republican party), and blue (which traditionally is the color of choice for Democrats). While each woman chose a different tint, designer, and silhouette, the overall message was loud and clear — the future of the country is unified and inclusive.

Inauguration Day Outfits: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris in Christopher John Rogers. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

For her swearing in, Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear two Black American designers. The CFDA's Emerging Designer of the Year in 2020, Christopher John Rogers designed Harris' calf-length purple coat and dress, and will be wearing Sergio Hudson later in the evening. For the occasion, Harris also wore a pearl necklace and earrings, a nod to her sorority at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Harris also chose a Black designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss for her camel coat the night before the inauguration.

Inauguration Day Outfits: Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton In Ralph Lauren. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also chose purple for the inauguration, forgoing a dress for her signature silhouette, a bold purple pants suit, designed by American fashion label Ralph Lauren. Clinton also chose a purple-detailed suit from the designer when she gave her concession speech after the election in 2016. Lauren also designed Joe Biden and Doug Emhoff's suits for the day's celebration.

Inauguration Day Outfits: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama in Sergio Hudson. Photo: JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images

Michelle Obama was well known during her time as First Lady for her ability to send a message with her clothing. Over the years she has championed young American designers and set a new precedent of how to tell stories through what you wear. For Inauguration Day, Obama chose a maroon-purple ensemble also by Sergio Hudson. In addition to Harris and Obama, the designer has previously dressed stars including Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Inauguration Day Outfits: Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden in Jonathan Cohen. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

While on Inauguration Day itself, Dr. Jill Biden chose a blue dress and coat from New York-based emerging label Markarian, the night before the official ceremony, Biden chose a purple look that also nodded to the coming event's symbolism. During the evening's Covid-19 memorial, she wore a coat and face mask designed by Mexican-American designer Jonathan Cohen. Cohen is known for his sustainable practices, and the mask was created using leftover fabric from previous collections.