The role of fashion in politics changes from person to person, with some self-consciously conveying messages through designers or the clothes they choose to wear, and others, like First Lady Jill Biden, choosing to stay quiet about designers or brands.
Jacqueline Kennedy was in the former camp and used fashion as a tool to attract or divert attention, while setting fashion trends throughout her life. On Friday, the White House Historical Society will host a dedication ceremony honoring Kennedy at the Decatur. It’s the first of two fashion-themed events to be held in Washington, DC: the second is the First Fashion Gala, to be held in October.
Biden is expected to attend 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 deferred any comment Thursday until after the opening. Like it or not, Biden and Kennedy’s personal style is likely to be mentioned in news coverage or by designer reps. Gabriela Hearst’s team, for example, hinted in the media Thursday afternoon about Biden choosing a custom embroidered dress by the designer for an appearance at the Annual Concordia Summit.
Then, in an effort to highlight the power of fashion in the political sphere, the First Fashion Gala will be held on October 12, to celebrate the work of designers who have dressed first ladies and first gentlemen from around the world. the world. For security reasons and to avoid crashing the party, the location of the event 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 in the US study fashion and design. The organization’s founder, Indira Gumarova, whose husband, Hynek Kmonicek, is the US ambassador to the Czech Republic, previously worked at a Manolo Blahnik shoe show and fashion show at the State Department building. Diplomacy and Fashion also collaborated with DC Events to develop a television miniseries about how former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s pins signaled diplomatic messages.
After thinking about how many first ladies there are around the world, Gumarova said “there was no better place to start this gala” than Washington, DC, where there are more than 200 embassies. She began work on the project a year ago and will feature the work of designers who have dressed first ladies, kings and queens from more than 35 countries.
“Diplomacy and Fashion is also the theme of the gala. Fashion is the silent language of diplomacy. It is as powerful as a sign language. It speaks through mimes, gestures and visuals,” she said, adding that a sign language translator will open with a message that will then be highlighted with a fashion show classified by geography. Organizers are still determining which designers will attend.
Naeem Khan, whose designs were worn by Michelle Obama some 28 times during her years in the White House, will provide two dresses for the event. The bipartisan event will also feature an Oscar de la Renta dress worn by Laura Bush in her role as first lady, and a dress that belonged to Edith Wilson, who married widower Woodrow Wilson during her first term as president in 1915. “She was a fashionista. She began to bring French haute couture to America. She was always impeccably dressed,” said Gumarova, who also has requests for borrowed dresses on the press team from Biden and the Kennedy family.
“Fashion in Washington, DC, exists. It’s not like in New York, Milan or Paris. It’s really according to protocol, [and is representative] from different countries, protocol and respect. Exists. It’s just different,” Gumarova said.
Fashion is “a silent language,” he said. “In the beginning, you see people and then they talk. Their clothing speaks first and then they give a message. But the message should definitely support the way they dress. If you dress inappropriately, that definitely creates controversy, like Melania Trump’s jacket with ‘I really don’t care, do you?’ [that she wore in 2018 to visit migrant children in a Texas detention center].”
Gumarova also mentioned how first ladies have been known to give interviews to Vogue magazine, even if they don’t directly address fashion in their comments. Biden has graced the cover of Vogue, as has her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska more recently, generating much controversy. Referring to first ladies’ messages through fashion, Gumarova said: “They definitely wear it and Edith Wilson has worn it for over a century. It continues even now and every country in the world uses it.”
Ultimately, Moda y Diplomacia aims to develop a curriculum in colleges and universities around its namesake theme. 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 that kind of information, Gumarova is trying to create a single site for all kinds of information on Diplomacy and Fashion.
“Everything goes together. And people watch you, especially in Washington. Then all of a sudden it’s in the news and all over the world. That’s why this mission and gala, and hopefully the [college] The courses will be very influential for people all over the world to recognize that this is such an important topic and that it is high time to talk about it,” said Gumarova.