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    Deb Haaland Makes History, and Dresses for It

    When she took her oath of office, the first Native American cabinet secretary also took a stance for self-expression.Forget pantsuit nation. The Washington dress code is changing, one swearing-in at a time.On Thursday, Deb Haaland made history when she began her job as Secretary of the Interior, becoming the first Native American member of the cabinet. And she did so not in the recent uniform of many female politirati — the fruit bowl-colored trouser suit — but rather in traditional Indigenous dress.Standing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to Vice President Kamala Harris to take the oath of office, Ms. Haaland wore a dark jacket over a sky blue, rainbow-trimmed ribbon skirt embroidered with imagery of butterflies, stars and corn; moccasin boots; a turquoise and silver belt and necklace; and dragonfly earrings.Against the flags and dark wood, the former Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico stood out, her clothes telegraphing a statement of celebration and of self at a ceremonial moment that will be preserved for the record. It was symbolic in more ways than one.According to an Instagram post from Reecreeations, that company that made the skirt for Ms. Haaland’s swearing-in, the ribbon skirt is a reminder of “matriarchal power”: “Wearing it in this day and age is an act of self empowerment and reclamation of who we are and that gives us the opportunity to proudly make bold statements in front of others who sometimes refuse to see us. It allows us to be our authentic selves unapologetically.”This is yet another break from the four years of the Trump administration, when the West Wing aesthetic could best be described as “Fox wardrobe department, the D.C. version.” Think primary-colored sheath or wrap dress, high heels, Breck hair and lots of false eyelashes.And more broadly, it’s a break from the prevailing wisdom regarding female dress in the corridors of power, which dictated safety in a dark suit — with maybe the occasional red jacket for pop. The point being to look like the (male) majority that ruled; to be a company woman and play the part of the institution. Not any more.In 2019, when Ms. Haaland was sworn in as a congresswoman representing New Mexico, she also chose native dress, including a red woven belt more than a century old. Joshua Roberts/ReutersWearing traditional dress has become something of a signature for Ms. Haaland during big public moments. In 2016, she wore a classic Pueblo dress and jewelry to the Democratic National Convention; in 2019, when she was sworn in as one of the first Native American members of Congress, she did the same, including a red woven belt that was more than a century old. And in January, at President Biden’s inauguration, she also wore a ribbon skirt, one in sunshine yellow, with a burgundy top and boots.As she told Emily’s List on her first day in Congress: “I just felt like I should represent my people. I thought it would just make some folks proud out there.”Indeed, when Ms. Haaland posted a photo of herself at the inauguration on her Instagram feed (she has 124,000 followers), it was liked more than 45,000 times, with many comments applauding her attire. Not in order to diminish her achievements, the charge often leveled at commentary on a female politician’s wardrobe choices, but to underscore them.Similarly, after a video taken by her daughter of Ms. Haaland getting ready for her swearing-in began to circulate online Thursday, users cheered. “Ribbon skirt, moccasins, hair down — Deb Haaland inviting all the ancestors to her swearing in ceremony,” tweeted one user.Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called it “my spiritual lift for the day.”Ms. Haaland is not the first or only female politician to use dress to express identity at moments of guaranteed public scrutiny, but she is part of a new generation of women in Washington that is increasingly, and intentionally, individual in their choices.Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, for example, wore a traditional Palestinian thobe to her swearing-in, and Ilhan Omar, the Democratic representative from Minnesota, became the first woman to wear a hijab in Congress when she was elected in 2019.And though Vice President Harris has largely adopted what seems like a sea of dark trouser suits for her everyday work life, the fashion choices she made during the inauguration, focused on the work of young, independent designers of color, suggest that she is more than aware of the way carefully calibrated imagery can resonate with viewer — and is more than ready to deploy that tool with calculated precision.As Ms. Harris said after Ms. Haaland was sworn in, “History is being made yet again.” It’s only fitting to dress for it. More

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    Does a Red Tie Immediately Scream ‘Donald Trump’ Now?

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyask vanessaDoes a Red Tie Immediately Scream ‘Donald Trump’ Now?Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of The New York Times, takes reader questions.Jan. 22, 2021, 5:00 p.m. ETWhen it’s time to head back to the office, and on the few days when I wear a suit and tie, I should retire my red ties, right, unless I want everyone to assume I am a Trump supporter? Is it possible for any man to wear a red tie now and not immediately call to mind the former president? — Ken, Newton, Mass.Though the death of the tie is declared regularly — especially given the pressures of both the long-term office-casual movement and our current working-from-home reality — Guy Trebay, our men’s wear critic, maintains that you should not count the accessory out quite yet. As he said, “even if we’re not wearing them much during lockdown, you don’t want to give up on an element of the wardrobe that’s been around for 400 years.”Ties can, after all, be used to signal “your club, your interests, whether you are a jokester, a brainiac or even a clown.” Not to mention, as you say, “political affiliation.”The question is whether the party dividing line between red and blue that has swept even the necktie into its maw will remain uppermost in everyone’s minds now that unity is the word of the moment (and purple the color). Given how central red ties were to President Trump’s uniform, it is natural to think that we may now have a Pavlovian response to the color. But the fact is, red ties were a wardrobe staple long before Mr. Trump got hold of them.Indeed, from the time presidential debates began being regularly televised in color in 1976 until 1988, both candidates wore red ties 14 out of 18 times; they were, essentially, considered less partisan than eye-catching and powerful. George W. Bush loved a red tie, but so, too, did Barack Obama. Though President Biden seems partial to blue, he wore red ties during the primary debates, and I am sure he will again. Unless, of course, he hews to the Mark Zuckerberg-Steve Jobs theory of dressing and settles on a specific uniform to wear every day.According to Richard Ford, a professor at Stanford Law School and the author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History” (out in February), the real signature of Mr. Trump’s ties is not the color, which is too generic for any single person to truly monopolize. “A red necktie paired with a white shirt and blue suit has always had an overly literal symbolism,” Mr. Ford said. “Red, white and blue, see? I’m patriotic!” Rather, the Trump ties are generally “tied to be way too long,” so they dangle a few inches below his belt.It’s the combination of shade and style that makes the statement of allegiance, not simply one or the other. That’s what you should keep in mind when getting dressed. Then go ahead: Tie one on.Your Style Questions, AnsweredEvery week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Who Designed Jill Biden’s Inauguration Outfit?

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWho Designed Jill Biden’s Inauguration Outfit?A brief guide to how Alexandra O’Neill’s young label Markarian landed in a rare spotlight.Dr. Jill Biden arrives for the inauguration ceremony at the Capitol on Wednesday.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York TimesJan. 20, 2021, 4:13 p.m. ETJust like any first lady stepping into the White House before her, Dr. Jill Biden’s Inauguration Day outfit was bound to draw attention.Guesses were made about which American designer she would choose: Brandon Maxwell or Christian Siriano, whose dresses she had chosen for the Democratic National Convention? Tory Burch? Oscar de la Renta?Few — or none, perhaps — would have predicted that Dr. Biden would walk out into the cold Washington morning on Wednesday in a matching blue coat and dress by Markarian, a small New York City brand whose typical aesthetic signatures include feather trims and full-body sequins. Here’s why:Alexandra O’Neill working on Dr. Biden’s dress.A sketch of the full ensemble proposed by the designer.What is Markarian?Founded in 2017 by Alexandra O’Neill, Markarian is best known for V.I.P. party dresses. With statement sleeves and slim silhouettes, the brand has outfitted celebrities like Laura Dern, Kerry Washington, Millie Bobby Brown and Anna Kendrick on red carpets and talk-show couches.But much of Markarian’s business is designing custom pieces for special events and weddings. The line is carried at Bergdorf Goodman and on Moda Operandi, among other retailers. Most ready-to-wear dresses are priced between $1,000 and $4,000.Ms. O’Neill, who has said she produces everything in New York City, often describes her work as romantic and ethereal. Before starting Markarian, she founded the label Porter Grey, with her sister Kristen, while she was still in college. That brand also had famous fans, like Blake Lively and Jessica Biel.Why does it matter?It’s tradition for first ladies to wear American designers throughout the inaugural celebrations. Melania Trump wore Ralph Lauren during her husband’s swearing-in ceremony; Michelle Obama wore Thom Browne and, four years earlier, Isabel Toledo. These outfits are seen by millions, dissected by the fashion press and become part of history.In choosing Markarian, a relatively unknown-outside-fashion brand, for this high exposure moment, Dr. Biden is drawing an unrivaled amount of attention to a young designer.It’s not the first time this has happened. In 2009, when Mrs. Obama wore an inaugural gown from Jason Wu (to his surprise), it was a career-making moment for the then emerging designer. That was during the Great Recession; 12 years later, the country is again facing financial crisis, and it is again a precarious time to be an independent designer.In a phone interview on Wednesday (conducted at the very moment the Bidens walked onto the inaugural platform), an “excited and humbled” Ms. O’Neill, 34, said that Dr. Biden “recognizes the impact that a choice like this can have on an emerging designer.”The neckline was embellished with Swarovski pearls and crystals.How was Markarian selected?In December, Ms. O’Neill was approached by a stylist for Dr. Biden, who asked for concepts and sketches for “something classic and something feminine for Dr. Biden, but something that was special and appropriate for this momentous day,” Ms. O’Neill said. “They were really open to any ideas that we had.”But she also knew that Dr. Biden’s team was commissioning looks from multiple designers. She didn’t know her ensemble — mostly wool tweed, but accented and embellished with velvet, chiffon, crystals and pearls — had been selected until this morning, when Dr. Biden was seen leaving her home for the traditional inauguration morning church service.What about that shade of blue?Blue is not a surprising choice for the wife of a Democratic president. But there are hundreds of shades of blue. Mrs. Trump’s matching set on Inauguration Day in 2013, for example, was a very different kind of blue — a Jacqueline Kennedy-channeling powder blueWhen Ms. O’Neill came across the base fabric for this dress, a rich (and sparkling) teal tweed, she thought it stood for “trust and loyalty.”“That was important for us, to get that information across,” she said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Meena Harris, Building That Brand

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    Election Results: Biden Wins

    Electoral College Votes

    Congress Defies Mob

    Georgia Runoff Results

    Democrats Win Senate Control

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