‘Wow, Wow, Wow’ were the first thoughts that entered my head as the colour bomb of outfits hit the podium during the inauguration of President Joseph Biden. The vibrancy and intensity of the colour hues were poignant in their message that these powerful women were wanting to convey to the world; a message of positivity, hope and the excitement of new beginnings.
But these colour choices are also signifiers to deeper meanings and an insight to the characteristics of who these women are and what defines them. Kamala Harris and Hilary Clinton both wore purple which have historic connections as the official colour of the American suffragette movement. In addition it was a recognition of the role played by Shirley Chisolm as she tried to enter the male dominated world of American politics. She was a democratic politician, and the first black woman to be elected into congress where she served 1969-1983. In 1972 she announced herself as a candidate for the democratic presidential election, at which she wore a purple dress, again in recognition of the suffragette movement. She lost the nomination but 50 years later her legacy significantly continues on. Jennifer Lopez also looked stunning in her beautiful all white Channel outfit, which was the other official colour associated with the suffragette movement.
Lady Gaga was given the prestigious responsibility of singing the national anthem and wore a striking dress from the Texas designer Daniel Roseberry. Clad in a form fitting navy blue cashmere jacket with gilded dove of peace broach, and vibrant washed red silk skirt, the stunning ensemble screamed patriotism as loudly as her beautiful rendition of the The Star-Spangled Banner. Her choice of colours was to identify the American values and optimism for her country as she explained on Instagram on the day before the Inauguration: ”I pray tomorrow will be a day of peace for all Americans. A day for love, not hatred. A day for acceptance not fear. A day for dreaming of our future joy as a country. A dream that is non-violent, a dream that provides safety for our souls. Love, from the Capitol.”
Finally, and arguably one of the main stars on stage during the afternoon, was the Youth Poet Laureat Amanda Gormon, who radiated energy, confidence and optimism in her vibrant bright yellow coat. She chose Miuccia Prada to design it as she respected her as a long term defender of feminism. Yellow has represented wisdom and intellect throughout the ages, as well as exhibiting happiness and clarity, so it was a perfect choice for this very energetic and articulate young Poet to wear. In addition it was a respectful nod to Dr Jill Biden who had been instrumental to her presence on stage that afternoon. She had been so taken with Amanda’s performance in a video she had seen that she suggested that she should write a poem for her husband’s Inauguration. For the performance in which she had made such an impression on Dr Biden, Amanda had worn yellow.
So, an explosion of colourful signifiers lit up the stage as America saw its 46th President sworn in. Fashion has always been a window to how we think and feel. The colour choices made by all of these strong pioneering women signalled significant historical references alongside a greater hope for a better world to come. We can only speculate to what Melania Trump was thinking and feeling as she boarded the steps of the private jet dressed in her sombre black Chanel suit.
Influencers, fashion students and all who love some arm candy will be queuing along Cromwell Road and into Knightsbridge and beyond when the V&A opens its doors on the highly anticipated exhibition Bags : Inside Out on Nov 21st
Iconic bags such as the Fendi Baguette and the Birkin will feature alongside other notable pieces all with their own backstory to tell. The bag, whatever its size, is the ultimate accessory and can make , or break , the outfit sillouette.
But the history of the humble bag can be traced back to the sixteenth century when women wore a ‘chatelaine’ which was basically a clasp with chains to which household items such as keys were attached.
Moving onto the eighteenth century, ‘chatelaine’ morphed into ‘indispensables” and became more practical with a drawstring enclosure able to enclose more personal items such as a fan or perfume.
However it was in the mid nineteenth century when the first ‘designer’ bag emerged. An up and coming entrepreneur, Samuel Parkinson noticed his wife’s ‘indispensable’ was far too small for the practicalities of travel. He asked for the help of a London based manufacturer of leather goods, H.J. Cave & Sons, to design a larger leather handbag which would distinguish his wife from the less affluent travellers. His designs are said to have inspired Louis Vuitton and Guccio Gucci ……the rest is handbag history !!
Fast forward to the twenty first century and designer handbags have become an object of desire. For many they are out of their price range and as such a huge industry in fake bags emerged. The grades of manufacturing are often so high it can be almost impossible to tell the difference between that and the real thing. For those where the latest IT bag is affordable, yet unattainable, there are other companies who can do the hard work for you. One such London based company Aquarius Luxury Concierge (aquariusconcierge.com) offer a bespoke personnal shopping experience, sourcing luxury products, including handbags, for their clients.
For the rest of us who can only dream of owning such a collection of desirables, we can pop along to the V&A at the end of the month where the endless display of clutches, crossbodies and totes will continue to fuel our handbag fantasies.
Bags: Inside Out opens at the V&A from Nov 21st.
Tickets available https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/bags