Meet the Designer Behind Dr. Jill Biden’s Inauguration Day Look

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In the past 24 hours, our new First Lady Dr. Jill Biden has worn not one, but two statement-making jewel-tone coats. What’s more noteworthy is that her coats were made by two on-the-rise New York designers: Jonathan Cohen, who was responsible for the violet ribbon-tied coat she wore to Tuesday’s COVID memorial, and Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill, who made the cerulean dress, sparkly tweed coat, and mask Dr. Biden wore to today’s Inauguration.

Markarian is undoubtedly a new name for most American viewers; it’s still an up-and-comer even to fashion folks. Founded in 2017, it’s a new gen New York label with an aesthetic and social media-driven success rate that reflects how fashion has changed in the past few years. “Wedding guest dresses” are O’Neill’s specialty, but if that sounds fussy, hers are fun, effervescent, and youthful—the kind of frocks you can wear with heels or flats, costume jewelry or fine. They’re often vintage-y, flowery, sequined, or puffed-sleeved—and sometimes all of the above. But with quite simple silhouettes (slips, corseted midis, A-lines, columns), the final results read bold, yet wearable.

Unsurprisingly, O’Neill’s dresses resonate most with women like her: Twenty- and thirty-somethings with a dozen weddings and parties on their calendars (before the pandemic, at least). If that makes Markarian seem an unlikely choice for a First Lady, O’Neill flexed her skills in fit, fabrication, and handwork today. Her team noted that O’Neill hand-finished the dress’s pearl and crystal neckline in her West Village studio before sending it off to D.C. Those bespoke capabilities may have been what attracted Dr. Biden’s team to Markarian in the first place: It functions much like an old-school New York atelier. O’Neill is committed to employing a small team of sewers in the Garment District, which has been shrinking for years as designers move their production overseas. She also takes private appointments in her Jane Street studio for clients who want to customize a look from her collection or commission an entirely new, made-to-measure ensemble, like Dr. Biden’s.

O’Neill will surely have requests pouring in after today. “It is an incredible honor to dress Dr. Biden,” she tells Vogue. “I am so humbled to be even a small part of American history.”

Looks from Markarian’s spring 2021 collectionPhoto: Courtesy of Markarian