Why Vice President Kamala Harris' Royal Purple Inauguration Day Outfit Is Symbolic to Many

Harris honored rising Black fashion designer Christopher John Rogers for her history-making moment on Capitol Hill

Vice President Kamala Harris' Inauguration Day outfit packed not only a sartorial punch, but made a strong statement about how she will honor herself, her community and the country through her outfit choices during her time in office.

Harris, the first Vice President to be female, Black and of South Asian descent, chose to wear an outfit by a Black American designer for her swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol. Her double-breasted royal purple coat worn over a matching dress was created by Brooklyn-based designer Christopher John Rogers.

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC
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Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President of the United States as her husband Doug Emhoff looks on during the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington
Kamala Harris (left) is sworn in as vice president on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Alex Wong/Getty

The Baton Rouge-born Rogers, who has dressed everyone from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Beyoncé, won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2019 and has become a favorite in the fashion community.

"Thank you, Madam Vice President. We are so honored and humbled to have played a small part in this historic moment," Rogers shared on Instagram alongside a photo of Vice President Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, the first Second Gentleman of the United States. Emhoff wore a Ralph Lauren suit for the historic day.

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Harris styled her look with a David Yurman lapel pin featuring the American flag, Manolo Blahnik heels, leather gloves, a black face mask and a custom pearl necklace by Puerto Rican designer Wilfredo Rosado, according to Women's Wear Daily. Pearls have become a campaign signature for the Vice President, a nod to her Howard University sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

In honor of Harris' groundbreaking achievement, thousands of Americans across the country are wearing pearls to celebrate her on this historic day.

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC
Win McNamee/Getty

The reason behind wearing the color purple holds a specific meaning to Harris. CNN's Abby Phillip pointed out during Inauguration Day coverage Wednesday that Harris used purple and yellow as colors to launch her presidential campaign — a nod to Shirley Chisholm, who became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. Chisholm would later run for president in 1972. Phillip noted that Chisholm's boundary-breaking trajectory in politics "inspired" Harris' career.

The incoming First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, also selected her ensemble carefully. Her custom "ocean blue" coat and matching dress set made in wool tweed with a matching silk face mask was created by the female-founded American brand Markarian. The color blue "was chosen for the pieces to signify trust, confidence, and stability," the label said in a press statement. She finished the look with nude Jimmy Choo pumps.

Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Designer Alexandra O'Neill founded the New York City-based luxury womenswear label in 2017; her clothes have been worn by celebrities including Demi Lovato and Kerry Washington. According to the brand's statement, "The look was carefully crafted by a small team in the heart of New York City's Garment Center and hand finished by O'Neill in her West Village studio."

jill biden inauguration outfit
MARKARIAN NYC; Joe Raedle/Getty

Both the incoming Vice President and First Lady have used their clothes to convey messages (remember Biden's "Vote" boots?) and to telegraph their support for American designers.

On Inauguration Eve, Harris honored another Black designer, selecting a camel Pyer Moss coat designed by the brand's American-Haitian founder Kerby Jean-Raymond, for a speaking engagement at Covid Memorial mourning the 400,000 lives lost.

covid memorial
From left: Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden and Joe Biden at a memorial for COVID-19 victims on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Dr. Biden wore a purple dress and coat from American designer Jonathan Cohen's fall/winter 2021 collection and matching mask from the designer's studio collection. Cohen is the son of two Mexican immigrants, who immigrated to San Diego to carve out a better life for their family.

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In addition to purple's special meaning for Harris, the color has often been worn by women in the political sphere as a sign of "unity" — of Republican red and Democratic blue coming together. For her presidential race concession speech in 2016, Hillary Clinton chose a Ralph Lauren Collection suit with royal purple accents as a way to represent both parties coming together.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrives with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden
The Clintons arrive at the U.S. Capitol. Rob Carr/Getty Images

The former Secretary of State wore purple again to the 2021 Inauguration, once again selecting a Ralph Lauren Collection suit, as she shared a strong sentiment about the significance of welcoming Harris to the Vice Presidency.

"It delights me to think that what feels historical and amazing to us today—a woman sworn in to the vice presidency—will seem normal, obvious, 'of course' to Kamala's grand-nieces as they grow up. And they will be right," Clinton shared on Instagram hours before Vice President Harris was sworn in on Wednesday.

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