Why Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama wore purple on Inauguration Day

Elise Solé
·3-min read

Kamala Harris’s clothing choices are dissected by fashion critics, political pundits and fans. But her choice to wear purple as she was sworn in as the nation’s first female vice president deserves extra attention.

As the inauguration commenced on Wednesday, Harris, 56, took her place at the U.S. Capitol’s West Front alongside Joe Biden they were sworn in as the 46th president and 49th vice president of the United States, respectively. But one detail of the ceremony stood out: Harris’s brilliant purple coat, by Brooklyn-based designer Christopher John Rogers, worn over a matching dress and pined with a David Yurman American flag pin.

Kamala Harris is sworn as vice president of the United States on January 20, 2021. Depicted with husband Doug Emhoff and President Joe Biden. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Kamala Harris is sworn as vice president of the United States on January 20, 2021. Depicted with husband Doug Emhoff and President Joe Biden. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Though inarguably gorgeous, the color choice wasn’t accidental: Purple is one of the official colors of the suffragist movement, which resulted in the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensuring women the right to vote, and historically associated with royalty. It also signals bipartisanship, as it results from mixing the primary colors blue and red, which represents the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton attend Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton attend Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama attend the  inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021. (Photo: JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama attend the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021. (Photo: JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sporting other shades of violet were Hilary Clinton, 73, who wore a Ralph Lauren blouse. The former secretary of state noted the connotation in her 2017 memoir What Happened while reflecting on the election she lost to former President Trump. “The morning after the election, Bill and I both wore purple. It was a nod to bipartisanship (blue plus red equals purple),” she wrote. For that 2016 concession speech, Clinton wore a purple-and-gray pantsuit (also by Ralph Lauren), matching with husband Bill’s purple tie.

And Michelle Obama, 57, wore a berry-stained suit and coat by Sergio Hudson, while Senator Elizabeth Warren wrapped herself in a violet scarf. First lady Jill Biden, 69, was cool in blue, with a dress and coat by Markarian, the New York City-based label founded by designer Alexandra O’Neill.

According to CNN anchor and senior political correspondent Abby Phillip, Harris’s outfit also paid respect to the late Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 was elected the first Black female United States congresswoman and was the first African-American candidate to run for president in 1972. “When she ran for president, one of her colors of her campaign was purple and yellow,” Phillip said on-air. “That is a nod to Shirley Chisholm who ran for president as a Black woman decades ago and has inspired her political career.”

Purple wasn’t the only stylish fashion Easter egg on Inauguration Day: Harris’s pearl necklace, by Puerto Rican designer Wilfredo Rosado, is a reported signal to Alpha Kappa Alpha, the sorority she pledged at Howard University. This week, the group declared Jan. 20 “Kamala D. Harris Day,” and encouraged women to wear the jewelry in support. And for the ceremony, California congresswoman Barbara Lee wore a string of pearls once owned by Chisholm herself.

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.