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What Kamala Harris' purple coat has to say

The new US vice-president, known for her sharp blazers, pearls, and Converse sneakers, chose an outfit by Christopher John Rogers, a rising star in the fashion industry

US Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Douglas Emhoff at the 59th presidential inauguration in Washington, DC, on 20 January. (Bloomberg)

At the swearing-in ceremony of US president-elect Joe Biden on 20 January in Washington, D.C., vice president-elect Kamala Harris sent a powerful message with her bright purple clothes.

Harris, who's created history after becoming the first female, first Black and South Asian US vice-president, chose a design by Christopher John Rogers, a 27-year-old Black designer who won the 2020 CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year.

By wearing an outfit of an up-and-coming American fashion designer over an established label, Harris showed her awareness that her fashion choices matter. Even the choice of colour matters. Purple, halfway between blue and red, is historically associated with nobility, an original color favoured by the suffragettes.

Her attire reflects her approachable personality. In fact, her sharp blazers, skinny pants, pearls and fun Converse sneaker have brought in a new style of power dressing.

“Her style is understated, tailored, elegant, businesslike, with a touch of whimsy,” said Susan E. Kelley, who runs the blog What Kamala Wore, in a report in the New York Post.

“The clothes don't wear her; she wears the clothes,” Kelley said.

Harris' fashion sense dates back to the days when she was a lawyer in San Francisco. She had a big collection of sharp blazers in neutral tones, along with accessories like boldly patterned scarves, colourful Converse or the jangly bangles she wears alongside a Cartier watch, the report said.

Harris has always maintained a simple yet graceful look, whether it was her debut as the vice-presidential candidate or her victory speech when the Democrats won the 3 November presidential election.

"She dressed in her usual work style of dark neutrals and simple lines. In the pictures, she doesn’t look stiffly styled or glamorously made-over for her debut as a vice-presidential candidate. Her clothes do not look like they’ve been pulled fresh from a shopping bag," a report in The Washington Post said.

In recent months, at least two blogs, Kamala's Closet and What Kamala Wore, have been launched detailing every stylish or mundane look she is donning.

Hazel Clark, professor at the Parsons School of Design, said that Harris has managed to dress in a way that lets her be taken seriously and also be true to herself. “She shows that you don’t have to be a slave for fashion and be stylish. You can be you and be on the cover of Vogue. I think that is inspiring,” Clark was quoted as saying by the New York Post.

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