What to Know about Kamala Harris’ Victory Speech Outfit

On the night of November 7th, 2020, millions of Americans heard messages from President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and countless news reporters – but many missed the message delivered by Harris’ very particular choice of clothing as she accepted her victory. Whether or not you noticed, Harris’ white pantsuit spoke, though inaudibly, to women’s rights and the hope for a strong female future. 

Harris’ outfit was designed by Wes Gordon, the creative director for Carolina Hererra, a female-founded, American-based company. Hererra is a Venezuelan American whose company has provided clothing for several notable female political figures, including Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump. Wearing this particular label served as a tribute to the values of the women of the White House who came before Harris. Though it may have just seemed like a classy outfit by Carolina Herrera, Harris choosing to wear the white pantsuit for her victory night is more significant than meets the eye; it represented a historic triumph for women’s rights and alluded to her female political predecessors. 

Traditionally, white clothing has long represented the women’s suffrage movement. Though the garments have changed due to the dynamic, ever-changing nature of fashion, the connection between white clothing and women’s rights dates back hundreds of years. 

In the early 1900s, women wore white with pride to celebrate their femininity and symbolize their desire to stand out in a way that wouldn’t threaten traditional masculinity. Assigning symbolism to a color – as opposed to a type of clothing – let nearly anyone who wanted to participate be part of the movement, as long as they had access to white clothing. Photographic documentation of much of US history features thousands of women striding through the streets fighting for their rights while wearing white.

Other female political figures have used their clothing to demonstrate the same message. Shirley Chrisholm, who became the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968, also wore a full white outfit; so did Geradline Ferraro when she accepted her position as Walter Mondale’s running mate during the 1984 election. Hillary Clinton also wore white when she was nominated for president.

Recently, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continued the trend by wearing white, both on the cover of Vanity Fair and when she was sworn into Congress; she, too, acknowledged her outfit’s significance in a tweet, saying "I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come."

Harris herself also wore a white suit when she took an oath during former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. 

Harris' “pussy-bow” style blouse is also significant. Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the UK, laid the groundwork for this style; she wore it during the 1980s because it was similar to men's clothing at the time. Former First Lady Melania Trump also wore this style to a presidential debate in 2016. Harris’ choice to wear this outfit continues its legacy as a message of female empowerment. 

Harris eloquently addresses the struggle to be heard that both she and women before her have faced in this country; she also turns her attention to the future – her outfit represents both.  

"All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century...Tonight I reflect on their struggle, their determination, and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders,” Harris said during her first speech as the Vice President-elect. “And what a testament it is to Joe's character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his vice president.” 

Harris is usually seen wearing suits with darker colors like black and dark blue, which is why her white suit’s deviation from this pattern strongly represents a message of success. 

While fashion is often viewed as frivolous or boring, though it’s anything but. Harris’ fashion choice underscored her powerful words as a symbol of strength fighting for freedom and the future of female empowerment.