Subtle State Of The Union Fashion Statements That Meant Much More Than You Realized

President Joe Biden's first State of the Union address in 2022 was historic — not because of his words, but because of his company. For the first time in the nation's history, both the Vice President and Speaker of the House were women: Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi. The optics sent a silent message: The American government was starting to look more like true representatives of the American people. 

The president's second address, delivered on February 7, 2023, couldn't say the same — Kevin McCarthy took over as speaker after the Republicans were voted into the majority at November's midterm elections — but there were still plenty of quiet messages evident on both sides of the political fence.

As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words, and so pictures of what Congress was wearing spoke volumes. From colors to accessories, the guests in the hallowed chamber showed the causes that were most important to them. 

The first lady sent a message of unity

Fresh off her appearance at the 2023 Grammys, first lady Dr. Jill Biden's was a visible presence at the president's State of the Union address. Sitting between first second gentleman Douglas Emhoff and special guest, high schooler Kate Foley, she looked stunning in a classic belted satin dress. What really stood out, though, was its color: The distinctive jewel-toned purple shade couldn't be ignored. Nor, it seems, was it meant to be. Purple has been a popular shade at presidential addresses for years; not only is it a beautiful and dignified shade, but it also conveys a message of unity. 

Color expert Kate Smith once told the Seattle Times that purple represents the best qualities of the two colors that combine to create it. "You're communicating the trustworthiness from blue as well as some red, the power, the in-charge side of red," she said. By wearing this mash-up of the signature Democratic and Republican colors, the first lady echoed President Biden's call for unity within Congress.

Saying it with crayons

Lapel pins are always in fashion, and almost every attendee at the State of the Union address sported a pin of some sort over their hearts. Fittingly, President Biden and Vice President Harris wore American flag pins, but different members of Congress wore other types of pins to show where their allegiance lies. Just days earlier, New York Rep. George Santos and other Republicans were spotted wearing pins shaped like AR-15 assault rifles, in support of the Second Amendment (via New York Post). Santos opted not to wear the controversial symbol to the February 7 speech, but the one he wore instead — a Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flag — hinted at his opposition to government overreach.

Many Democrats, on the other hand, chose to sport a lapel pin shaped like a child's crayon. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, seen here, explained on Twitter that it was a message of support for affordable child care and better pay for childcare workers. "Investing in child care is a win-win-win," she tweeted.

The vice president wore her secret weapon

Vice President Kamala Harris also made a striking appearance at the 2023 State of the Union Address. She and President Biden took a unifying stance with their choice of wardrobe color; while the president wore a dark blue suit and tie, the vice president wore a maroon suit, suggesting that the two were representing both sides of the political fence. But Harris added a simple string of chunky black pearls that has become her signature accessory; they're sometimes called her "secret weapon." This, too, sent an unspoken announcement to the American people.

The vice president's history with pearls goes all the way back to her college days; her historically Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, uses pearls as its main symbol (via Town & Country). This in itself conveys a powerful image of a high-achieving woman of color. Christina Lang Assael, president of the Assael pearl brand, once also told Forbes, "Her classic strands convey a uniquely feminine aspect of power. She can be soft and beautiful while also maintaining incredible strength." 

Harris' "power pearls" seem to defy the critics who snark about her low-key profile, no?