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Commentary: Inauguration fashion: From Ralph Lauren’s Melania and Hillary two-fer to Kellyanne Conway’s military cats

When it came to assessing who wore what on Inauguration Day, there was a whole lot of sartorial symbolism going. Not to mention a freaky fashion confluence that resulted in the incoming first lady and her husband’s bitter rival for the presidency wearing the same label, as well as two high-profile pantsuits, both in white, and the sight of  Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Trump clad in the colors of the American flag — red, white and blue, respectively.

The biggest reveal of the day came early, with incoming First Lady Melania Trump stepping out for the day’s events clad in a sky-blue double-faced cashmere Ralph Lauren Collection ensemble that included a cropped cutaway jacket and a mock turtleneck dress. Taken together with the suede gloves and stiletto heels — in the same shade of blue — and upswept hairstyle, the first impression of the new first lady was one of elegance and poise.

The monochrome outfit’s slightly ’60s vibe — thanks to the mock turtleneck collar and sleeves cropped to mid-forearm — instantly drew comparisons to the most memorable looks of Jackie Kennedy’s time as first lady. At the same time, the cut of the cropped cutaway jacket lent a little futuristic-airline-stewardess feel to the whole thing.  

The choice of Ralph Lauren was hardly a surprise — the label had been one of the odds-on favorites since the fashion handicapping began earlier this week and it had been Melania Trump’s go-to for several high-profile appearances during the campaign season. It was also, as many have pointed out, the source of many a Hillary Clinton pantsuit during the 2016 campaign, a fact of which we were reminded when Clinton arrived for the ceremony also clad in Ralph Lauren — an off-white pantsuit with a white jacket draped over her shoulders.

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While the first ladies past and future found themselves united by a brand that’s positioned itself as America’s symbolic clothier (Ralph Lauren, need we remind you, is the longtime official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic team), Clinton and Ivanka Trump found themselves sharing the white pantsuit look — the latter in a version by Oscar de la Renta, which included a long, asymmetrical-cut jacket accessorized with an American flag pin. (Her half-sister Tiffany also chose an all-white outfit for the occasion.)

From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton; Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr.; Michelle Obama and President Obama.
From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton; Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr.; Michelle Obama and President Obama.
(From left: Saul Loeb /Getty Images, Win McNamee / Getty Images, Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images )

As if that wasn’t enough fodder for the fashion machine, outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama attended the festivities in a red dress (provenance unknown) with a fit-and-flare silhouette and accessorized with a thin black belt. Together, these three women literally represented the colors of the American flag.

There’s one more red, white and blue combination that bears mentioning: the Inauguration Day outfit of Trump’s special advisor Kellyanne Conway, who turned out for her boss’ big day in a military-inspired coat from Alessandro Michele’s 2017 resort collection for Italian luxury label Gucci. The red, off-white and blue wool A-line look (which she accessorized with a red cloche hat, red gloves and red handbag) was studded with 10 metal buttons with feline-shaped heads.

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Kellyanne Conway, in Gucci, talks with former Vice President Dan Quayle on Inauguration Day.
Kellyanne Conway, in Gucci, talks with former Vice President Dan Quayle on Inauguration Day.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images )

While the buttons certainly could have been lions, tigers, pumas, it didn’t take much heavy lifting to draw a connection between the cat motif and the litter of cat references that have been ping-ponging through the political landscape for the last several months.

Of course, there was the comment by Trump on an “Access Hollywood” bus about grabbing women, caught on video and released before the election. Then Melania Trump turned up not once but twice wearing outfits with the distinct neck detail known as a “pussy bow.”

This was catnip to fashion sleuths (this one included), who mused that perhaps it was a calculated nose-thumb to critics and reference to the incident.

That in turn spawned the knit pink “pussyhats,” which have become the de facto sartorial symbol of Saturday’s upcoming women’s marches nationwide.

From where we’re sitting, it’s almost impossible not to see Conway’s choice as a kind of catty callback and final commentary on the whole situation.

To which we have to say: “Meow, meow.” 

Melania Trump turned up twice wearing outfits with what is called a pussy bow, and fasion sleuths mused that perhaps it was a calculated nose-thumb to critics. (Jan. 20, 2017)
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First Ladies of the United States of America

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.  

ALSO:

The defining looks of Michelle Obama’s White House Years

Melania Trump’s election-night style: clueless or calculated?

Dear President-elect Trump: Here’s a four-point-plan to make America (look) great again


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