Inauguration fashion: What to wear and how to wear it

Keep it simple

Fashion in D.C. isn’t exactly known for being cuckoo and crazy, and some style experts suggest inauguration isn’t the time to buck that trend.

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Marlene Hu Aldaba, owner of Hu’s Wear in Georgetown, says, “I’m not discouraging anyone from being a little wild or impulsive, but I think it’s always probably better to keep it safe. I think a classic look always works in D.C. Keep it elegant.”

Naina Singla, the Washington-based fashion-forward attire pro behind the blog STYLE’N, agrees: “Have some fun with accessories and highlight your outfit with one statement piece. This can be a colorful clutch, bold cuff or sparkly earrings. But remember to keep the rest of the look simple and classic.”

What’s 'in'?

Wardrobe whizzes have a few tips for staying ahead of the fashion curve at inauguration balls.

Melissa Brown, owner of boutique personal styling service Lockstitch Style, says that this season, “Satin is making a comeback, but with very clean, simple lines in classic colors like black, deep red, but also in crisper, muted tons of beige and blue.” She says art deco-inspired looks from the 1920s are also proving popular.

“Burgundies and purples are really strong this season. We’ve been selling a lot of it. Prints also have been strong too. But I think if you’re going to do a print, definitely keep the silhouette simple,” advises Hu Aldaba.

But beauty doesn’t always come cheap. As Hu Aldaba sipped a glass of Dom Perignon champagne at her boutique’s first-ever “Inauguration Salon” earlier this month, she smiled, “We have a little something for everyone. We have everything from $495, up to $32,000 for a Christian Dior vintagealt couture.”

Singla says although, generally, rules about women only donning floor-length gowns to formal events no longer apply, it’s best to go long at an inauguration ball: “Dresses with sequins, silk, lace, embroidery, beads and velvet are great options. Also, women typically wear black dresses, so stand out in this season’s hot colors like navy, oxblood and mixed greens.”

Abby and Liddy Huntsman, the dressed-to-the-teeth 20-something daughters of former GOP White House hopeful Jon Huntsman, also had a few ideas when we caught up with them at a fashion show earlier this year. Abby recommended, matter-of-factly, “You’ve got to pull out the patriotic colors: the red, white and blue … with a nice warm coat.”

Liddy says fashion choices between Democrats and Republicans are very different, describing Michelle Obama as more “haute-couture, like very fashionista,” while former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, is “more Ann Taylor conservative-ish.”

The politician’s offspring, who put in a lot of time in the fashion industry, contend Democrats have the upper hand for inaugural events. Asked who has a better sense of style, Liddy replied, “I’m going to go with Democrats, because I worked with the fashion world and I’d say 99 percent of them that are successful are Democrats.”

Advice for the dudes

Fashion dos and don’ts aren’t reserved for the ladies.

Michael Andrews, owner of Georgetown’s high-end menswear and custom suit store Bespoke, says the inauguration is “one of the few things remaining in Washington that really is bipartisan.”

Traditional looks are the way to go, says Andrews, who takes his cues from the presidents-elect who traditionally opt for “classic menswear pieces” for the events and “sharp charcoal or dark navy suits with crisp white or light blue shirts — all underneath an overcoat, most of the time,” for the inauguration ceremony.

And no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, you can still add a hint of your partisan leanings to the festivities: “In recent years, to demonstrate a touch of party loyalty, Democrats have worn a blue tie and Republicans a red.”

Keeping comfy in the cold

If you’re one of the millions expected to brave the likely frigid temps on Jan. 21, it can be tough to look good while feeling like a human icicle.

While planning soirees at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is his job, even White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard is at a loss when it comes to whether to prep for rain or shine on Inauguration Day, explaining, “It’s too early to look at weather forecasts.”

But Abby Huntsman says one thing is certain: “It’s outside, so it’s going to be freezing, always.”

Melissa Brown, who has styled for a roster of high-profile clients, says the key is picking apparel that’s warm but not cumbersome, since “it’s hard to look chic if you have a grimace on your face.”

Her must-haves include: tall riding boots with a flat or solid heel (when paired with a thin cashmere sock, “your feet won’t know you are outside”), opaque tights or dark denim jeans, a cashmere sweater or turtleneck and hand warmers to put inside gloves.

Even though inauguration is a purely patriotic day, Brown suggests turning to a country with a far chillier climate for outerwear inspiration. ”A classic winter look that is timeless and chic is ‘Doctor Zhivago’! Think Russia — faux-fur-trimmed hats, hoods and gloves. It's a very chic over-the-top dramatic look that makes a statement while serving the dual-purpose of being fashionable and warm.”

Singla adds, “Think about layering with warm fabrics. A long wool coat is your best bet.”

Photos: Wikimedia/Flickr