What Will Kamala Devi Harris Wear at the Inauguration?
Speculations range from her signature power suits to a sari.
With barely a few days remaining for the presidential inauguration, it won’t be an understatement to say that all eyes are on Kamala Devi Harris, the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American vice president of the United States. Her words, her clothes, her demeanor, will all be under watchful eyes. It will tell the world what she will bring to the office of the second-most powerful person in this country.
Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris was a Tamilian from India, while her father, Donald Harris is a Black man from Jamaica. Along with her mother, Harris’ sister, Maya, and her niece, Meena, play a big role in Harris’ life, along with her husband, Doug Emhoff, and her stepkids, Ella and Cole.
While some argue that the fixation on Harris’ clothes deviates from the real issue, others say Harris is well positioned to be a fashion icon for today because she is an accomplished woman, and a woman of color.
As a woman, Harris stands at a delicate juncture of politics and fashion, where women are held to a different standard than men. Since her presidential campaign and as President-elect Joe Biden’s running mate, Harris’ wardrobe has come under a lot of scrutiny. Her well-tailored pant suits or her blazers and jeans, always worn with strands of pearls as a nod to her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and her famed Converse shoes, have been lauded and critiqued by fashion pundits and the general public alike.
There’s symbolism and ease in her attires. They make a statement as well. When she took the podium in Delaware on November 7, 2020, to address the nation as the first woman vice president-elect, Harris chose a Carolina Herrera white pantsuit and silky, pussy-bow blouse, giving a nod to women suffragists in the early 20th century, who were clad all in white while fighting for the right to vote.
What works in Harris’ favor is her ability to strike the right note with ease, and also projecting a playful and confident personality, be it the Joseph Altuzarra plum-colored suit she wore on August 19 to accept the nomination, or the jeans and green blazer and timberland boots she wore when she went to inspect the fires in California last summer.
It is this symbolism and ease in Harris’ dressing that is making several Indian Americans speculate if Harris will wear a sari at any of the inauguration events. Will it be a sign of hope and positivity in this time of conflict and divisiveness? There is a lot of conjecture on the topic in several social media groups of Biden and Harris supporters.
Indian American fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra told CNN that he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Harris at the inauguration ball in a “beautifully woven Banarsi sari.
“I think she understands the power of that image,” he said.
Similarly, Naeem Khan, who dressed Michelle Obama several times when she was the first lady, told CNN that Harris could “employ her heritage as a form of diplomacy as well. Having Vice President Harris in the White House changes the whole point of view.”
However, this question has been posed to Harris before as well. During her own presidential campaign in 2019, at an event in Nevada, an audience member lightheartedly asked Harris if she would commit to wearing the sari to her inauguration if she were elected president. “Let’s first win,” Harris said, smiling. “My mother raised us with a very strong appreciation for our cultural background and pride. Celebrations that we all participate in regardless of how our last name is spelled. It’s the beauty of who we are as a nation.”
And whether she does wear the traditional Indian garment or not, there is no denying that Harris has shown the world how to break barriers one after the other, and emerge victorious each time.