We’re less than six months into Jill Biden as First Lady, and yet it feels as though we’ve already seen everything we’re going to see over the next four years in terms of fashion. In short, very little.
When American Vogue unveiled Jill Biden on the August 2021 cover this week, it came as no surprise for the lot of us who have never fully gotten over the fashion establishment’s snubbing of former First Lady Melania Trump — the nation’s most stylish first lady, arguably in history, but certainly since former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Vogue features for a First Lady have become routine these days, particularly Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour’s bestowing of a cover.
Despite the cardigans and flats, former First Lady Michelle Obama scored three Vogue covers in just seven years. First Lady Pat Nixon was featured in 1969, posed in her mimosa silk inaugural gown, designed by Karen Stark for Harvey Berin.
For Mrs. Biden, though, the idea of a Vogue cover seems out-of-place considering Vice President Kamala Harris was the first woman in the administration to be featured when she landed the cover in January (my thoughts on that mess, here).
My only question when Vogue announced Mrs. Biden’s cover: Why?
Put yourself in the shoes of Mrs. Biden’s public relations team. First things first, a First Lady is never second. Second, a First Lady ought to dictate her public persona.
Rather than following Harris’ Vogue cover for a second place finish, Mrs. Biden should have been pitched to a different magazine, perhaps Vanity Fair or one that deemphasizes fashion. Mrs. Biden has made it clear, style is not her lane and yet, she’s been pushed onto the pages of the fashion bible, opening her wardrobe — which would have been glossed over — to criticism.
Since Mrs. Biden’s PR team violated both those cardinal rules, we have to examine her Vogue cover as if she genuinely cares about the skirts she chooses each morning.
While I was speaking to a friend about Mrs. Biden’s shoot with photographer Annie Leibovitz, he mentioned that he could have “taken this on my fucking phone.” I cannot help but agree. The cover photo embodies no sense of regality.
It is a nice photo of a pretty lady in Oscar de la Renta. Perfect for a church directory! There’s no issue with the photo itself, just that it has nothing to do with Vogue.
Look back to what Vogue once was and what it can be again without Wintour in the way. The covers of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s were fashion spectacles — models dressed in the latest haute couture, flashes of the season’s most vibrant colors, posed meticulously to feature handbags, hats, and jewelry.
But if we’re going to put Mrs. Biden on the cover, this could have been amped up to fit the persona she seems to want to brand. That is, America’s grandmother. A nice woman who probably has the best baked goods on the block that you can count on to be lovely in any encounter.
The last time the United States had a First Lady who was sort of like the nation’s grandmother was the late Barbara Bush. She was a spitfire with a big personality, stark white hair, giant pearls, and a loud wardrobe that could be seen across a hallway.
First Ladies, in a sense, are sort of like presidents. They chart their own path, but they pull from the past. Mrs. Biden could have, and should have, taken a bold note from Mrs. Bush for this Vogue cover.
Go big or go home, Mrs. Bush would probably say.
That’s not to say Mrs. Biden isn’t taking cues from past First Ladies.
In fact, I’ve said for a few months now that Mrs. Biden does seem to be embracing the sense of style, or lack of, that former First Lady Rosalynn Carter brought to the White House — a presence unconcerned with the whims of fashion.
Like Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Biden has preferred a wardrobe of boots and coats likely because they are practical in every which way. Boots tend to be comfortable, there’s no risk of them flopping off while walking across the White House lawn, and coats are warm and cozy.
Mrs. Carter stuck to this ethos, a contrast from the fantastical First Lady style of the late Nancy Reagan who in every way personified the 1980s woman with her furs, embellishments, formalwear as daywear, and Dynasty-esque silhouettes.
Will we have any major fashion moments from Mrs. Biden? Likely not. I can barely remember her inaugural gown.
Similarly, I cannot think of any memorable garments worn by Mrs. Carter. Then again, she was never given a Vogue cover and the American people were never asked to buy into the claim that she was a beacon of style.
But we do seem to be having to do that with Mrs. Biden. The Vogue cover is only the first step. We’ve got at least four years of the fashion establishment prodding us, begging us, telling us to believe them when they declare Mrs. Biden fashion royalty in 21st Century America.
Luckily, my eyesight doesn’t lie.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter here.