State of the Union: Color Me Purple

Michelle Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi All Adorned Purple

ByABC News
January 28, 2010, 1:36 PM

Jan. 28, 2010— -- President Obama's decisive tone at the State of the Union address may have grabbed much of the attention Wednesday night, but the attendees' fashion choices -- and the popularity of the color purple -- didn't go unnoticed.

Purple was the fashion highlight of the night. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wore a lavender suit. Vice President Biden, seated right next to her, wore a purple tie with stripes. First lady Michelle Obama paired a raisin-colored shirt with a plum skirt designed by Isaac Mizrahi.

Not since George W. Bush's State of the Union in February 2005 has there been such a burst of purple at this annual event. Back then, attendees wore purple ties or suits and stained their fingers with purple ink to celebrate the elections in Iraq, the first since Saddam Hussein was overthrown by U.S. forces.

The State of the Union wardrobe choices often tend to be shaded by party colors -- Democrats wear blue, Republicans add a dash of red -- which is why last night's purple trends set the Web world on fire.

"Apparently, purple is Obama's new team color. A little purple America, anyone?" conservative columnist Jillian Bandes wrote on the blog

Did the first lady, Biden and Pelosi really coordinate the colors? Was there any political symbolism behind the chosen color?

"Certainly, you had to wonder. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi looked so coordinated. ... We know the first lady has used her fashion and style to convey a message before," Mary Tomer, who runs a blog, Mrs., dedicated to the first lady's fashion, told ABC News. "I think there is a lot of merit in wondering if it wasn't symbolic."

Some suggested that the color purple represents bipartisanship: It's not red or blue but middle-of-the-road. In elections, swing states are often referred to as purple states.

And in keeping with the theme of the president's State of the Union address last night, some commentators said the fashion choices may very well have been deliberate. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos suggested that there was probably some level of calculation that went into the wardrobe choices.

"There is kind of a connotation in politics that comes through color," Tomer said. "I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think purple could've been chosen symbolically."

Others say it is unlikely the three deliberated beforehand on their color scheme. Michelle Obama has, after all, worn shades of purple plenty of times before. The sleeveless dress she wore -- and which caused much controversy -- at her husband's address to Congress last year was also deep purple.

"It seemed more like a coincidence to me. And the first lady has worn those sorts of complex colors before," Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan told ABC News.