Lady Gaga isn’t exactly known for subtlety. She’s been wowing audiences with wild and stunning outfits for years. So it’s no surprise that as she descended the steps of the Capitol, preparing to sing the national anthem for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, her gown was replete with style and symbolism.
The red, black and gold ensemble from Schiaparelli Haute Couture, custom designed by Daniel Roseberry, was a study in contrast and sophistication. The designer revealed in a statement:
“As an American living in Paris, this ensemble is a love letter to the country I miss so dearly and to a performer whose artistry I have so long admired.”
The flawless tailoring of the long sleeved bodice was nearly militaristic and contrasted sharply with the sumptuous femininity of the blazingly red ball gown skirt. Fashion consultant Lauren Rothman told the BBC:
“She brought the inaugural ball to the stage in a year where you’re not going to get all of the dress up, the ball gowns that we have come to look at and adore and criticise.”
The centerpiece of Gaga’s Inauguration-stopping performance was the enormous gold brooch of a bird in flight. As reported by Cosmopolitan, many were quick to point out the strong Hunger Games vibes of the ensemble as a whole, and the oversized brooch in particular, which strongly resembled the franchise’s main symbol, the mockingjay. Within the dystopian series, the mockingjay is a symbol of resistance to a fascist regime especially as worn over the heart by the story’s protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.
One user took to Twitter to write:
“Huge hunger games energy from Lady Gaga.”
Another use chimed in with:
“lady gaga serving some hunger games symbolism is exactly what i needed today.”
But despite their visual similarities, Gaga’s dress had nothing to do with the Hunger Games franchise. Gaga took to Twitter shortly after the inauguration to clear up any confusion. Showing a close-up of the bird, she wrote:
“A dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other.”
Traditionally symbolic of peace and mercy, the dove is a biblical reference to the story of Noah, who built an ark to preserve the animals of the earth during a world destroying flood. As the story goes, a dove was sent out when the rain stopped to see if dry land could be found, and returned with an olive branch, a symbol that life could begin once more.
The United States national anthem similarly references endurance through hardship. Taken from a poem by Francis Scott Key, the song references the siege of Ft. McHenry, which withstood a 24 hour onslaught from British forces during the War of 1812.
Many took to Twitter to praise the singer not for her head-turning dress, but her heartfelt performance. One user called it, quote, “the performance of her life,” while a second described the catharsis she felt as she heard Gaga sing:
“Wow, goosebumps and tears. I have been so worried. Now I can breath.”
Columnist Max Boot tweeted:
“The national anthem has seldom resonated as much as it did when Lady Gaga emphasized the words ‘our flag was still there’ and pointed to the flag on the Capitol, which had been attacked just a fortnight earlier.”
Of particular poignancy was the moment when Gaga turned towards the flag flying over the Capitol, singing “Oh say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave,” where exactly two weeks before, armed insurrectionists had attempted to stop Congress from certifying the electoral votes for Biden’s election.
A few also appreciated not just the song, but the fashion nod Gaga tried so hard to convey; one social media user posted:
“@ladygaga combined fashion and poetry: her inauguration dress is a remembrance poppy flower to commemorate fallen soldiers.”
From fashion to poetry to prayer, the theme of enduring through hardship was a common one at President Biden’s inauguration. Gaga’s simple statement with the symbol of the dove and olive branch echoed the calls for unity that characterized Biden’s most recent speeches, especially the inaugural address.
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