Megan Doyle | Wednesday, January 23, 2013
WASHINGTON – A gathering of the Founding Fathers in 1776 would have looked a lot different than the gathering of state leaders and bystanders Monday when President Barack Obama swore his oath of office to begin his second term. Petticoats and doublets are out now, but the crowd took full advantage of its freedom of expression with its fashion choices and accessories. We’ve come a long way from the ruffles, corsets and high stockings of 1776 – I’ll never complain about that – but patriotic spirit was apparent both in the crowd’s energy and its attire.
President Barack Obama was technically the center of attention Monday as he began his second term as our commander-in-chief on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. And while news outlets reported the details of his inaugural address and the promises he made for his next four years, many eyes glanced over his dapper but dull suit for a look at his leading lady. First Lady Michelle Obama stepped out into the cold morning air clad with class in a long navy checked coat designed by Thom Browne, a 1988 Notre Dame graduate. Needless to say, the FLOTUS was looking fine.
The president and his wife chose the more understated route when they got dressed Monday morning – fine. But the real showstoppers were in the crowd, truly touting their patriotism with all manners of stars, stripes and Obama gear. Multimedia Editor Sarah O’Connor and I got our first taste of what we would see through the rest of the weekend when we walked into our hotel lobby Saturday afternoon. The gift shop steps from the front entrance boasted all manner of accessories and inauguration gear. Shoppers could pick up a t-shirt with the president on the front or a tote bag sporting the entire Obama family. And if that wasn’t enough, the shop sold water bottles with the First Family on the front for $2.50. The crowning glory would put a bit more of a dent in the national debt, though – a letterman jacket with Obama’s face on the back for $550.
Our hotel gift shop wasn’t the only vendor of Inauguration Day swag, however. On every corner, which was physically far away for most of the people standing on the Mall during the ceremony, vendors gave attendees the option to pin Obama swag on their coats and scarves. The cold, blustery day lent itself perfectly to buying a new beanie, whether it was bedazzled with an image of the president’s face or simply a knit version of the American flag. Personal favorite: a t-shirt bearing the images of Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with the caption “Dream Team.”
Even as we laughed at what we termed “Obama swag,” I couldn’t help but think about these idyllic images printed and reprinted on almost every surface imaginable across the capital. The crowd cheered and waved flags and shouted the president’s name. Everyone watched as Sasha and Malia Obama stepped out onto the Capitol steps to watch their father pledge himself to the presidency yet again. One woman sitting next to me cheered more loudly for Michelle Obama than anyone else, and she wondered out loud if bangs like the First Lady’s would look good on her own face. Inauguration Day is a day to put aside the normal routine of our lives, the Congressional catfights and the destructive bipartisanship. Inauguration Day is also a day to celebrate the successful transition of power in the United States, the structure of checks and balances in our government and the sacrifices one American makes to lead the country as commander-in-chief. Whether or not we agree with the president’s politics, Inauguration Day is a day to celebrate being American – and for all the laughing I did at bedazzled hats and flag pants, it was a day on which I felt more connected to my country than I ever have before. And American is a style that will never go out of fashion.