“New is not always better,” according to fashion designer Gabriela Hearst—and Dr. Jill Biden.
On Wednesday, the First Lady turned heads in a black dress embroidered with a floral motif and matching face mask while seated in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol building. However, some viewers noted the intricately detailed ensemble—worn to President Biden‘s first speech to a Congress joint session—bore some striking similarities to FLOTUS’s all-white Inaugural look.
Both dresses were crafted by Hearst, who took to Instagram after the address to spill some behind-the-scenes tea. “[Wednesday’s dress] was originally used to fit the Inauguration one,” the Uruguayan designer explained, noting that the “double repurposed” black sample might not have seen the light of day had the First Lady not requested that it be “salvaged for another occasion” down the line.
Dr. Biden may have had a symbolic reason to pull out the referential frock this week, as the president delivered his speech a day before his one hundredth day in office. Commanders in chief dating back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt have seized the milestone as an opportunity to reflect on early signs of progress, engaging not only legislators, but the American public.
The president’s Wednesday speech also marked a historic first, as he was flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “Madam speaker, madam vice president,” he greeted them. “No president has ever said those words from this podium…. and it’s about time.”
In notes published on her website, Hearst says Dr. Biden’s Inauguration Day look was crafted with a “message of unity” in mind. “The blooming symbol to represent this message are the federal flowers from every state and territory of the United States of America,” she wrote.
Constructed using a multi-ply wool cady fabric, the dress featured flower placements and color selections carefully studied for weeks, Hearst said. “The Delaware flower is positioned at the heart level of The First Lady—from there, all the other flowers branch out,” she wrote. “Each flower took approximately two to four hours to embroider.”
According to Hearst, the garments were made entirely of readily available fabrics that were sewn and embroidered in New York City’s garment district. “It was extremely important to showcase the ability of the knowledgeable and masterful handcraft available in our nation,” she wrote.
During last year’s race for the White House, Hearst contributed to the Biden campaign’s Believe in Better collection of designer merch alongside other creatives including Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Thom Browne, Tory Burch and Aurora James.