The new Congress looks more like America than any before it, with a historic number of women and increased representation for Muslim-Americans, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups. Make no mistake, it’s still largely dominated by older, white men — just check this calculator to see how much of Congress actually looks like you — but Thursday’s swearing-in ceremonies showed just how far we’ve come.
It’s not about checking some “identity” box, as some conservative commentators would have us believe. It’s about continuing the work of dismantling white supremacy in this country and giving a voice to those who have been historically overlooked by elected officials.
A new Congress begs for a new dress code, too. And while suits and pearls are still very much the standard, an increasing number of women — especially the new class in the U.S. House of Representatives — chose clothing that represented their culture or had a symbolic meaning. It’s a day on which they wanted to represent to the United States exactly who they are — they knew they would be photographed, after all.
Ahead, all of the best fashion moments from the swearing-in ceremonies of the U.S. House and Senate.
Deb Haaland, a representative from New Mexico and one of the first Indigenous women to be elected to Congress, wore a traditional outfit — and so did her mother.
Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, one of the first Muslim-American women to be elected to Congress, wore a traditional Palestinian robe and caused the hashtag #TweetYourThob to take off. Also, that’s her son dabbing on the floor of Congress!
Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia and is also one of the first Muslim-American women in Congress, is the first woman to wear a hijab in this setting. Both she and Tlaib were sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s personal Koran. (They are far from the first members to use something other than a Bible — for example, Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, the first person of the Hindu faith in Congress, used a Bhagavad Gita at her own swearing-in.) She, among with many other women in the House and Senate, wore white as a possible nod to the women’s suffrage movement.
The Bronx’s own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore white — and took selfies with her colleagues, including California’s Barbara Lee, who wore a jacket made of kente cloth. Black members of Congress have previously worn kente cloth, native to West Ghana, to protest Donald Trump’s statements about African countries.
Georgia’s Lucy McBath wore white, too.
Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona is the first out bisexual senator in U.S. history, and the second out LGBT senator. For her grand entrance to the Senate, she did a fantastic job channeling Elle Woods.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
Read more: refinery29.com