New US Vice President Kamala Harris has always worn pearls, and on Inauguration Day women across America wore them too to show support for the country’s first female vice president-elect.
Sandra Broome-Edwards, 67, has worn pearls every day since early January. She told The New York Times, “I’ve been sitting at home watching ‘Good Morning America’ with my pearls on. It’s my way of acknowledging the momentous occasion that is coming.”
More than 430,000 women, including Broome-Edwards, are members of a Facebook group called “Wear Pearls on Jan 20 2021.” The idea was simple: to honor Kamala Harris, who wore pearls when she graduated Howard University, was sworn into Congress, grilled Brett Kavanaugh, debated Vice President Mike Pence, received her COVID-19 vaccine and again on Inauguration Day when she was sworn into her new role as Madam Vice President.
“They represent sisterhood,” said Darnell-Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian, about pearls. They are also the symbol of Harris’ sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which she joined while at Howard.
On Inauguration Day, Broome-Edwards said she would wear a double strand pearl necklace that belonged to her grandmother. “My grandmother was a very avid poll worker,” she said. “She would be so proud of Kamala Harris.”
“I might run out to the grocery store that morning just so people can see me wearing them with a big smile on my face,” said Dr. Jan Thompson Gorniak, 53, a forensic pathologist in Las Vegas. Gwen Kelly, 56, a project administrator in Cincinnati, said as a little girl, “I used to try on my grandma and aunt’s pearls all the time, and finally they got me my own set when I was nine or 10. I always felt like wearing pearls elevated me.”
Other women bought their first set of pearls so they can be part of the community of women supporting Harris on Inauguration Day. Gorniak never had an interest in peals before and told The New York Times, “I am not a big accessorizer. I always looked at pearls as expensive and upscale.” But because of the Facebook group, on Jan. 2 she bought a long strand of pearls for her 53rd birthday. “Now I think they say, ‘I am dainty, but at the same time, I have strength,’” she said.
On Inauguration Day, Harris wore a pearl necklace by Wilfredo Rosado that features gold open links with 12 South Sea pearls separated by 11 diamonds.
“The necklace has a few unifying themes; the gold chain link symbolizes strength, the pearl is representative of both femininity and resilience, and the diamonds add a hint of glamour that I felt was perfect for the occasion,” Rosado tells BAZAAR.com.
According to Bazaar, “Throughout her career, from California state senator to the campaign trail for Joseph Biden’s presidential run, Harris has chosen nontraditional pearl necklaces. The piece she wore to the Democratic National Convention, for example, featured a double strand of pearls attached by delicate gold chain links.”
Harris helped “reinvent the idea of political pearls” over the last year, Vogue reported, “more often than not choosing a colorful or contemporary iteration to pair with her beloved Converse and jeans, or a beautifully tailored suit.”
“Yesterday, pearls transcended the traditional and became more political and stylish than ever,” the magazine added. “The inauguration was about optimism and hope, strength and relief. It was a moment where politics and fashion meshed together in a way that was bright, bold, and innovative. Everyone was overjoyed—no, elated—and the clothes and accessories reflected that. Pearls will always symbolize ladylike sophistication but now, in their most artful and meaningful designs as seen at the inauguration, they’ve come to symbolize a kind of forward-motion too.”
Others who wore pearls at the inauguration include California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who wore a pearl necklace that once belonged to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black woman to run for the Democratic presidential election. Meanwhile Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman paid tribute to Maya Angelou by wearing a piece of jewelry gifted to her by Oprah: a pearl ring that featured a bird inside a gilded, pearl adorned cage. The piece of pearl jewelry is a nod to Angelou’s poem “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” Jennifer Lopez also performed in a suffragette white ensemble and a pair of pearl earrings.