When it comes to the White House, fashion goes beyond looks.
"As First Lady, I was slowly watching myself being exposed to the world," Michelle Obama recalled in her 2020 Netflix documentary, Becoming. "I had to become more strategic in how I presented myself because it had the potential of defining me for the rest of my life."
"Fashion for a woman still predominates how people view you and that's not fair, that's not right, but it's true," she pointed out. "That's when fashion isn't just fashion. It's how do you turn it into your tool rather [than] being a victim of it."
Indeed, before the country's leaders—particularly women—open their mouth to speak, their clothing has already spoken for them. And, while it can often seem superficial or trivial, fashion can be a powerful, advantageous force in the White House if used properly. As demonstrated by several first ladies like Obama, many have used it to show the world not only quite literally who they are, but also what they care about, who they want to uplift and what kind of image they want to evoke long after their duties are done.
While the country's male leaders have yet to take as much advantage of this influential outlet—or the world unfairly pays less attention—the sartorial story of White House women officially begins on, as its name suggests, Inauguration Day.
As a day packed with multiple events, Inauguration Day gives members of the First and Second Families many opportunities to wear designers they want to spotlight, trends they want to promote and even colors that can elicit a certain feeling as they step out in the public eye, simultaneously ushering in a new term for the country.
Now, as the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden approaches on Wednesday, Jan. 20, all eyes will be on the president-elect, along with the soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. As style experts wait to unpack any statement-making fashion that arises, it certainly won't be the first time. Keep scrolling to revisit decades of Inauguration Day fashion that packed as much power as it did style.