On the campaign trail in 2008, Michelle Obama revealed that she was wearing J.Crew. This wasn’t just any J. Crew, it was Jenna Lyons’ J.Crew. It was the era of the Tippi sweater, the Pixie Pant, the Quilted Puffer, the Paper Bag skirt and the Gemma ballet flat. Those were the trademarks of an America dressed by J.Crew, and an experiment forged by Mickey Drexler. I still remember high fashion’s shock at this omission. How common! How mass market! Michelle Obama’s predilections towards 100% cashmere and cotton-wool blends were taken as an indictment on The White House itself. A move so “radical” and “revolutionary,” it’s unbelievable that all Michelle Obama wanted to do was wear argyle and pastel.
Politics and preferences are an integral part of presidential style. Historiographies have enshrined Presidents (and their families) as not only political leaders but community ones. In the court of public opinion, is the President or First Lady a sartorial leader? A trendsetter? An Influéncer, if you will?
JFK’s style inspired J.Crew alone. The khakis, the sports coat, the slightly sunkissed hair fresh from a weekend at Hyannisport. Kennedy’s most notable move was his commitment to the timeless Ray Ban wayfarer. The square-shaped dark frames were a mainstay of the 1960s, an era defined by distinct silhouettes, patterns, and prints.
It’s presidential style that meets resortwear. These were sunglasses that made the muggy district summers that much more tolerable, and the impulse not to enact the nuclear codes that much more satiable.
People need to know that Ike was a fashion designer. And by Ike I’m referring to General and Creative Director Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Allied Forces (**fit check**). His concept for the jacket was described as “very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking.” This may be a hot take, but I sort of like the design. Hence, the Ike x His Tailor x WWII collaboration.
Eleanor Roosevelt (not Virgil Abloh) was the one to declare that “streetwear is dead.” Well, she actually said something like “a woman is like a tea bag,” but she was referring to something of a 1930s cottagecore-inspired resurgence. Known for her love of handmade goods, Roosevelt started a craft furniture workshop with her bffs. There’s one photo where she’s wearing what reads as a full utilitarian look with delicate patchwork at the collar, a very casual and cool “working” first lady moment. Bode Spring 21 is calling.
Deacon (à la secret service)
Deep in my bones, I knew that Jimmy Carter had style. You can’t grow up on a peanut farm and not have the most inspired farmhaus americana rare finds known to man. I stumbled across this image of the Deacon himself, jogging in red, white, and blue. I’m one to avoid this color combo (a faux pas in these times), but Carter manages to make the ensemble both stylish and sensible. I respect his ability to rock long legs with a crisp white short, not an easy sartorial feat.
We’re embarking on a new journey.
Today, the inauguration instilled a sense of hope in the next generation of fashion & political junkies alike. Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, and Michelle Obama stunned in a trio of jewel tones, crystallizing the return of democratic royalty — or “the establishment,” depending on the way you think about it. Joe Biden wore a navy suit from Ralph Lauren, a designer best known for dressing Americans for the world stage.
Against a sea of darker hues, his granddaughter, Natalie, donned a bright pink mask-and-jacket combo. Her look signals an awareness of 2021 trends, with 1960s mod style projected to come back strong this spring.
Lastly, Ella Emhoff (former Depop Queen) served a delightful look that towed the line between fantasy and sensibility — a Miu Miu plaid coat with crystals on the shoulders.
After four years of gauche Pennsylvania Avenue fits, we finally have a new era of West Wing style.