Which designer will Jill Biden wear for Inauguration Day 2021?

The First Lady's Inauguration outfit can set the tone for the Presidency to come

what will Jill Biden wear inauguration day 2021 outfit dress
What we predict the First Lady will wear to Joe Biden's Inagauguration ball

From Lady Bird Johnson’s canary yellow dress in 1965, to Michelle Obama’s white chiffon look in 2009, the outfit which any incoming American First Lady chooses to wear to their husband’s inauguration is destined to be a global talking point.

Immortalised in photographs, whatever Dr Jill Biden wears on Wednesday 20th January will also be ultimately put on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, alongside the dresses worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush and more than two-dozen women who came before her.

Some past First Ladies have chosen to use the global platform afforded by the inauguration events to shine a spotlight on a new, young designer, while others have bolstered all-American mega-names. Some have bought something off-the-rack at an American department store, while others have blown the budget, commissioning a symbol of hope, or wealth, or whatever they believe their nation might need to see at the time.

Mrs. Lyndon B Johnson in 1965

Inauguration outfits can set a tone, subliminally, for the presidency to come. So which values might Jill Biden choose to project at the 2021 inauguration?

For this inauguration, we’ve been told to expect a coronavirus-proofed schedule of events. Crowds will be discouraged from gathering, parades will be socially-distanced, and the usually-glittering evening ball will be ‘reimagined’, due to the pandemic. Something too flashy might be seen as ostentatious in a time of division and struggle in America, while something too muted might be seen as miserable, not uplifting enough. 

Michelle and Barack Obama in 2009

Biden could choose to nod to her husband’s climate change U-turn for America, by wearing a dress from an eco-label. She might wear an outfit by a designer actively involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, or choose to support women designers in business. She might go subliminal, or literal - like when she wore boots emblazoned with the word VOTE on the campaign trail. All that, and will there be a mask to match? 

Even if the events are largely a digital experience, this is still an opportunity for Biden to be seen and arguably the message she chooses to send via her clothing will matter even more to audiences at home. 

It’s a fine line to tread, and for whichever designer gets the first big fashion commission of 2021, there will be pressure to get it right. So who will Jill Biden choose? These are the runners and riders...

Which designer will Jill Biden wear for the Inauguration ball?

Gabriela Hearst

Jill Biden wearing Gabriela Hearst

Biden is well acquainted with Uruguayan-American designer Gabriela Hearst, and wore a three-year-old fringed cocktail dress by her namesake label to the first 2020 presidential debate. What Biden - and other high profile patrons including Ivanka Trump and the Duchess of Cambridge - get when they wear Hearst is eco-style credentials with a generous dash of luxury.

Hearst works to strict environmental standards, affording anyone who shops with her a stance on sustainable fashion. Wearing Hearst will nod to Joe Biden’s decision to bring America back into the Paris Climate Accord and send a message to fashion brands in the US that this First Lady wants to see a cleaner industry.

Read more: Best Inauguration ball gowns through history

Ralph Lauren

Melania Trump wearing Ralph Lauren

One of America’s most famous exports, Ralph Lauren dressed First Lady Melania Trump for the 2017 inauguration, at a time when several other American names declared that they would not for political reasons. The bipartisanship secured Lauren a career-defining commission. Might Jill Biden choose the same label, offering a symmetry and a bridge-building exercise of sorts? America can’t agree on much, but can it agree on Ralph Lauren? 

Christian Siriano

Jill Biden wearing Christian Siriano

The New York designer, who also dressed Michelle Obama, has championed size-inclusivity and racial equality through his work, since founding his label as a Project Runway winner in 2008. He also was one of the first designers to begin making PPE masks from his manufacturing base, supporting essential workers at the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Might this all have been relayed to Jill Biden, who now stands in need of a mask-matched outfit worthy of viewing on the world stage?

Tory Burch

Michelle Obama wearing Tory Burch

Tory Burch made a couple of chic day dresses for Michelle Obama during her tenure, but hasn’t yet been commissioned by a First Lady for a ‘wow’ event. She has, however, already built a rapport with Jill Biden, after joining the incoming First Lady for a talk about entrepreneurship in October, so might be in with a chance. With a billion-dollar self-made brand, in Burch America has an inspiring female-led success story - and that might be something Biden wants to highlight. 

Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia at Oscar de la Renta

Jill Biden wearing Oscar de la Renta

One of American fashion’s mega-names, the house of Oscar de la Renta is now designed by New York duo Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia. It could use a boost (as, arguably, could any eveningwear-trading brand attempting to recover post-pandemic) and Biden might see this as an opportunity to align herself with the storied American brand.

De la Renta originally became a global name in the 1960s, dressing Jacqueline Kennedy and helping to put her on the map as a timeless fashion muse. Biden already called on Garcia and Kim, purchasing an embroidered, asymmetric dress from their winter collection to wear as her husband made his victory speech. “We are here to help her and her wonderful next eight years,” Garcia recently commented.

Wes Gordon at Carolina Herrera

Kamala Harris wearing Carolina Herrera

Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera founded her eponymous New York fashion house in 1980 and dressed First Ladies, including Jacqueline Onassis, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump. She retired in 2018, handing over the reins to Wes Gordon, who could continue that tradition and legacy, after making the ‘suffragette white’ suit which Kamala Harris wore to claim her victory on 7th November. Could he do the double, and get to make something for Jill Biden too?

Brandon Maxwell

Jill Biden wearing Brandon Maxwell

When Jill Biden last wore Brandon Maxwell, she chose one of the Texas-born designer’s green shirt dresses for a day event. But Maxwell’s skill and flair typically is heightened on the red carpet. Lady Gaga’s long-term collaborator specialises in bold volume and vivid colour. It might be unexpected, for a First Lady, but if optimism is the message the new administration wishes to project, he could be a shoo-in for the commission.