Fashion’s role in politics changes depending on the person, with some coyly delivering messages through the designers or the clothes they choose to wear, and others, like First Lady Jill Biden, opting to stay mum on creators or brands.
Jacqueline Kennedy was in the first camp and used fashion as a tool to attract or divert attention, while simultaneously setting fashion trends throughout her life. On Friday, the White House Historical Society will hold a dedication ceremony in Kennedy’s honor at Decatur. It’s the first of two fashion-themed events in Washington, DC – the second is the premier fashion gala, to be held in October.
Biden is expected at the White House Historical Society ceremony, which will dedicate a new garden with a sculpture designed by Chas Fagan to honor Kennedy’s legacy in restoring the White House and preserving Lafayette Square. Fagan postponed any comment on Thursday until after the unveiling. Like it or not, Biden and Kennedy’s personal style is likely to be referenced in media coverage or by designer reps. Gabriela Hearst’s team, for example, informed the media on Thursday afternoon of Biden’s choice of a designer-custom embroidered dress for an appearance at the annual Concordia Summit.
Then, in a bid to highlight the power of fashion in the political sphere, the inaugural fashion gala will be held on October 12, to celebrate the work of designers who have dressed first ladies and first gentlemen around the world. For security reasons and to avoid revelers, the event location will be revealed closer to the event. Ticket sales for the 350-person event will benefit the non-profit organization Diplomacy and Fashion to help underprivileged students across the United States study fashion and design. The organization’s founder, Indira Gumarova, whose husband, Hynek Kmonicek, is the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, has previously worked on a Manolo Blahnik shoe exhibit and a fashion show in the Department of Education building. American State. Diplomacy and Fashion also collaborated with DC Events to develop a TV mini-series about how former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s lapel pins signaled diplomatic messages.
After reflecting on the number of first ladies around the world, Gumarova said “there is no better place to start this gala” than in Washington, DC, where there are more than 200 embassies. She started working on the project a year ago, and the work of designers who have dressed first ladies, kings and queens from more than 35 countries will be featured.
“Diplomacy and fashion is also the theme of the gala. Fashion is the silent language of diplomacy. It’s as powerful as a sign language. He speaks through facial expressions, gestures and visuals,” she said, adding that a sign language translator will open with a message that will then be highlighted by a fashion show categorized by geography. The organizers are still determining which designers will be present.
Naeem Khan, whose designs were worn by Michelle Obama about 28 times during her years in the White House, is providing two dresses for the event. The bipartisan event will also include an Oscar de la Renta dress that Laura Bush donned in her role as first lady, and a dress that once belonged to Edith Wilson, who married widower Woodrow Wilson during her first term as president in 1915. “She was a fashionista. She started bringing French couture to America. She always dressed impeccably,” said Gumarova, who also requested borrowed dresses from Biden’s press team and the Kennedy family. .
“Fashion in Washington, DC, exists. It’s not like New York, Milan or Paris. It’s really according to the protocol, [and is representative] of different countries, protocol and respect. It exists. It’s just different,” Gumarova said.
Fashion is “a silent language,” she says. “At first you see people, then they talk. Their dress speaks first and then they give a message. But the message should definitely support the way they dress. If you dress inappropriately, it definitely creates controversy, like Melania Trump’s jacket with “I really don’t care, do I?” [that she wore in 2018 to visit migrant children in a Texas detention center].”
Gumarova also mentioned that first ladies have been known to give interviews to Vogue magazine, even if they don’t directly discuss fashion in their comments. Biden has appeared on the cover of Vogue, as has his Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska more recently, to much controversy. Referring to the message of first ladies through fashion, Gumarova said: “They definitely use it and it has been used for over a century by Edith Wilson. It still continues today and every country in the world uses it.
Ultimately, Fashion and Diplomacy aims to develop curricula in colleges and universities on its eponymous subject. Talks are underway with Marymount College, according to Gumarova.
As an advocate for sustainable fashion, Diplomacy and Fashion educates diplomats and emerging designers on the role of fashion in diplomacy and promotes designers. It also aims to inform and celebrate different cultures, as well as the usual gifts, gestures and protocols for makeup, shoes, accessories and everything in between. Recalling how Meghan Markle once commented in an interview that she didn’t know what to wear to meet Queen Elizabeth II or where to look for this kind of information, Gumarova tries to create a one-stop site for all kinds of information on Diplomacy and fashion.
“It all goes together. And people are watching you, especially in Washington. Then suddenly it’s in the news and all over the world. That is why this mission and this gala, and I hope the [college] the courses will be so influential that people around the world will recognize how important this is and that it is high time to talk about it,” Gumarova said.