Sunday, January 18
I left Connecticut for Washington DC in one of the biggest snowstorms I’ve seen. This is my second inauguration; the only other one I’ve been to was Bill Clinton’s in 1993, when I was thinking of becoming an American citizen. Now, even though I am one, I wasn’t going to go – but then I ran into my friend André Leon Talley, editor-at-large of Vogue, and he wasn’t going to go either – but then we decided to go together, and I also got Bennett Miller, director of Capote, to join us, so we are a group. It’s kind of perfect: André was my first African-American friend in New York so many years ago.
When the plane lands there is no snow at all; I think it’s a good sign. The mood in the airport and the streets is incredible – so festive, and I’ve never seen so much political paraphernalia! There are Obama cut-outs everywhere. I must admit I liked Obama ever since I read Dreams From My Father, and trusted him too, but I never thought this was going to happen.
I was in London on election night, on my way back from Asia, and I was overwhelmed. During the campaign I had made a tote bag to raise money for him for Anna Wintour’s Runway for Change, and it was the bestseller, so they asked me to make another for the inauguration.
We drop our bags at the Madison hotel, and go to Tina Brown’s Daily Beast party. I saw Richard Holbrooke, a former assistant secretary of state, and knew I should congratulate him for something, but wasn’t sure what – it’s such a crazy whirl here! David Axelrod, Obama’s senior political strategist, is here, too.
We go on to the Corcoran gallery and the Avedon exhibition, which is very appropriately called Power, and is full of black-and-white photographs, except for one colour portrait right at the end: Obama. It’s amazing.
Then it’s back to the hotel for a quick change – I brought a group of different things, and André thinks a black beaded cocktail dress with feathers at the bottom would be good, as we are going to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s party in Georgetown. It’s at her house, which is a typical Georgetown house, though it’s special because Jack Kennedy was a bachelor in it – Maureen is very proud of that.
She is wearing a very sexy little dress and standing there with Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who was sort of the guest of honour as he was one of the very first Obama supporters, and Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and George Lucas; it’s a real Hollywood/Washington power nexus. I see Jerry Brown, former California governor, whom I haven’t seen in years, and Frost/Nixon director Ron Howard. Afterwards I feel bad for Maureen: there were so many people, her house must be completely destroyed.
Next we drop in at the party for the NGO Vital Voices and I say a few words, before we go on to the newly restored Smithsonian for a ball, hosted by the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr, for Root, an online African-American magazine.
Although these events are called “balls”, half the time you never take your coat off: there are so many people, you worry that if you did, you’d never see it again. Still, both the venue and the people looked incredible.
There were all these beautiful girls and men with great bodies, impeccably dressed, and all these colours in their clothes – and we finally make our way to the third-floor VIP room where Oprah was, looking very regal in a grey dress.
On the way we pass an extraordinary exhibit on Abraham Lincoln and the star-spangled banner, which has been restored thanks to Ralph Lauren. People constantly stop André and me to take pictures with us. There is this incredibly good-looking group of six or so young girls at the Root Ball who want a snap, and when we left they say, “We love you at Harvard Law School!”
Monday, January 19
My big event of the day is a lunch hosted by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, which is mostly for big Democrat contributors and some congressmen. Nancy’s office called me on Friday and asked if I would introduce her; I’ve known her since 2004, when she came to see me in my office to talk about raising money for the Democrats.
We had to get to the André W Mellon auditorium at 11. I brought a few outfits but end up wearing a black dress and a very DVF black-and-white coat. Nancy is wearing a Ralph Rucci skirt and top and sling-back Manolos. The event kicks off with a performance by Sheryl Crow and a few words from Rahm Emmanuel; then I get up and say how proud I was to have become an American, and how struck I am by Nancy’s beauty, intelligence and determination.
One of the most exciting things is being given red tickets to the inauguration: the best colour! Before I had orange and André had yellow, but these are much better, with seats right behind the podium.
Later, more girls come up, wanting a picture with me – this trip is very good for my ego. After lunch we go to a tea party at Hickory Hill, Ethel Kennedy’s estate in Virginia, and almost every woman under 36 is in DVF. All these Kennedys (they come in every shape and size) are running around, and Harry Belafonte is here too. When I was 16, I had his album on my wall.
Back to the hotel to change into a black shiny dress for the evening, with a silver coat on top and a fur. Interestingly, no one seems to be afraid to wear furs anymore.
We go to the Kennedy Center for a jazz retrospective, and then on to the Huffington Ball, which is a huge party, with more than 2,000 people in the Newseum. It looks a bit like Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Sheryl Crow performs again, and we see Ed Norton, and somehow ended up adopting Scarlett Johnasson, who is now camped on our couch.
Tuesday, January 20
The big question is: how do you get dressed when you have to sit outside in the frigid weather for four hours? I am wearing leggings, multiple sweaters, my ski suit, a vest, and jacket, a fur hat and big boots.
We leave the hotel at 8am and thanks to our tickets we enter the inaugural area through the Capitol. We gather in the Speaker’s office and then are escorted to our seats. I have no idea how Michelle Obama and the rest of the administration are in normal clothes, it is so cold. Still, when you look around, everyone has these huge smiles on their faces (except for the African diplomats who look frozen under their blankets).
Afterwards we go to Blair House for lunch and see the parade go by. Then the Obamas get out of the car right in front of me to walk around, and that just completes the day for me. It is as if every dream you ever had about this kind of event has come to life, all the optimism and the energy and the hope, and it is perfect.
At home Scarlett and Ed talk about which balls they want to go to, but I say I will just curl up and watch them on TV. It couldn’t get any better.
Diane von Furstenberg is a fashion designer
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