Jill Biden Shines at the Grammys

Jill Biden got the dress code memo.

As the first lady walked onstage at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles toward the end of the 65th Grammy Awards — one of the few first ladies in modern memory to present at the show — she did so wearing an off-the-shoulder silver column gown made to sparkle all the way to the nosebleed seats, shining like the gleam of Lizzo’s smile.

Actually, shining just like the ruched silver minidress Lizzo herself was wearing (after she changed out of her orange Dolce & Gabbana rose cloak). Not to mention the tinsel-spangled silver Gucci jumpsuit Harry Styles wore to perform his number. Or the silver of Beyoncé’s ruffled Gucci corset gown — the one she wore when she made history as the winningest artist at the Grammys, before she changed into black Schiaparelli and, later, velvet Balmain.

Even though Dr. Biden’s dress was by Oscar de la Renta, one of the first lady’s go-to designers, and simply a more eye-catching version of the de la Renta navy lace column she had worn to the state dinner in December (the one with hand-embroidered cutouts), it was an unusual choice, given that she generally hews more to the floral and the understated.

But it was also a clever one — like the decision to be part of the Grammys. Michelle Obama appeared, in 2019, but her husband had left office by then; Hillary Clinton won, in 1997, for best spoken word or nonmusical album.

After all, if you are the soft-power face of an administration whose much-discussed Achilles’ heel is the age of its leader; if you are the partner of a president contemplating running again who was already the oldest person ever to assume the office; if the goal is to get out of establishment Washington and be seen in a different, more … energetic context, the Grammys is not a bad way to do it.

Especially a Grammys powered by the combined attention of the BeyHive, Swifties and Harries. Especially one recognizing the legacy of 50 years of hip-hop.

Especially one in which Dr. Biden was handing out the first Grammy in the category of song for social change, given to Shervin Hajipour, a young Iranian whose song “Baraye” has become an anthem for the women’s rights protests and a way for those around the world to demonstrate solidarity. (Haider Ackermann used it in his recent couture show for Jean Paul Gaultier.)

The first lady also gave Bonnie Raitt her surprise Grammy for song of the year, but it was the award to Mr. Hajipour, currently in Iran awaiting trial and charged with disseminating propaganda against the regime and inciting violence, that made the political point. Albeit one couched in the glitz and circumstance of an awards telecast.

If an administration wanted to underscore exactly what side it was on, that was a pretty slick way to do so.

The first lady knew the constituency she was speaking to, and she fit right in. How often do Dr. Biden and Machine Gun Kelly (in a reflective silver foil Dolce & Gabbana suit) look as if they are in the same universe? Being part of the most dominant fashion trend of the night is a very specific form of outreach, the planting of a visual earwig.

It’s like the yin to President Biden’s upcoming State of the Union yang; the pop culture version of the political theater scheduled to take place Tuesday, a mere two days after the Grammys, back in D.C. When it comes to curtain-raisers, you don’t get much better than that. And all the silver meant it was impossible to miss.

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