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Monday, December 5, 2022

Jill Biden’s White House Christmas seems to be a rather… ordinary affair

The blood-red trees are no longer there. The vision of a lady lonely in a winter wonderland, as well as the frosty, shimmering boughs, are no longer present (or a horror story, depending on your point of view).

In their place: a pair of red-and-white striped knit stockings with bright green heels swinging brilliantly from a fireplace, family photographs, handmade thank-you messages, and an arch of gifts wrapped in bright red boxes, among other things.

Unlike the Trump-endorsed styles that came before it, the Biden White House Christmas décor, which was shown on Monday, isn’t as as stylized or weird as those that came before it. Certainly bright and glitzy, but when seen in the perspective of prior White House Christmas fashion, it’s delightfully… approachable.

This is completely consistent with the tactile, unpretentious image that the current first couple want to convey. The president and first lady: They’re exactly the same as us! Their house is similar to your home, if not somewhat more so. Even though it took 6,000 feet of ribbon, over 300 candles, over 10,000 ornaments and over 78,750 Christmas lights to deck the halls of the White House for the holidays, the first lady’s office estimates that it took approximately 6,000 feet of ribbon.

Christmas at the White House is thus such a welcome moment of spectacle, particularly at a time when the typical communicative rites of office — state dinners, White House tours — are put on freeze for the season. In fact, Dr. Biden’s office said that she had been working on the decorations since late May, according to the statement. Decking the halls is one of the few traditions that is generally shared, or at the very least widely recognised, among people all across the world. That’s quite helpful. The majority of individuals can relate.

Nonetheless, it’s a look that has come to define Dr. Biden’s personal style, which may be summed up in the dress she wore to fulfill her Christmas hostess duties: a short-sleeved, full-skirted forest green Oscar de la Renta gown adorned with white magnolias on the sleeves. As is well known, Oscar de la Renta is a New York-based luxury brand that was started by a Dominican and is presently designed by Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia; a similar style, but in pink and sleeveless, is available at Saks Fifth Avenue for $3,990. That’s a lot of money to spend on a dress, even if it’s for a special event that will be captured in photographs for posterity.

When she made her first overseas journey, she did so at the G7 summit in June, and when she represented the president at the Tokyo Olympics in August. Also with her Christmas outfit, which she had worn just a month before in Italy for a luncheon with spouses at the G20 summit, she managed to pull it off once again. However, it is likely that she will wear it again soon, maybe to read to a class of second graders and to express her gratitude to a group of volunteers who assisted with the decorations, which occurred this week.

The fact that someone would re-wear a costly garment, or that it would be considered anything other than regular conduct, may seem preposterous, but that is precisely the point. Why? Because for the last several administrations — and for many individuals in the public spotlight, even if it’s only via the lens of Instagram — the urge to promote new products was an acknowledged part of the job description. A celebrity wearing the same outfit twice is incredibly unusual (most of them don’t even want to wear a dress after it has appeared in shops); this was also the case for Michelle Obama and Melania Trump throughout their tenures as first lady of the United States.

Dr. Biden, like them, recognises that décor — of her home, of her person — is a weapon at her disposal; nevertheless, unlike them, she is using it to normalise what is by all accounts an aberrant function. The same manner she is adorning herself with tinsel and turtledoves. “Faith, family, and friendship” are secular forms of the “uniting us” that is described in the welcome letter of the commemorative 2021 White House Holiday Guide: daily instances of the things — often as basic as beloved shirt dresses and poinsettias — that “bring us together.”

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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