DESIGNING A GOWN FOR A HISTORIC INAUGURATION
At the 2023 inauguration of Maryland Governor Wes Moore, first lady Dawn Moore rocked a remarkable outfit by designer Jody Davis, Accessories Design ’92, Fashion Design ’91. The white cashmere cape and dress was the latest manifestation of a decade-long designer–client relationship between the two women. The wave of recognition, including congratulations from Oprah Winfrey, has backers lining up to help Davis grow her business. “Initially I was thinking I would recreate the look for others, but we’ve gotten some interest from a couple of museums,” Davis says. So, the dress must remain one of a kind.
“Right after the election, I got a call from the first lady’s team,” Davis says. “She wanted to come in for a consultation.” The duo came up with an abstract concept (color, comfort, and originality) chose one of the first lady’s favorite colors (off-white) and determined the design had to be comfortable, not too heavy and not too light. Davis is known for her expert draping—her ability to fit a woman’s body with elegance and grace. Moore often tells Davis that she gets many compliments when she wears “a Jody dress,” and that she “loves the way it fits and feels.”
The fittings were done using a sample fabric, and Moore ultimately requested very few alterations for the final ensemble. Davis would have preferred to source fabric from Paris or Italy, but had only five weeks to work, so there wasn’t time. On one of her weekly trips to New York City, she found what she was looking for: lightweight cashmere. She personally brought the completed look to Moore’s house in Baltimore. “When I took it out of the bag, her eyes lit up,” Davis says. “It fit almost perfectly.”
On the day of the historic ceremony—Wes Moore is the state’s first Black governor and only the third in the country’s history—it wasn’t until Davis watched the 11 p.m. news coverage that she finally felt the awe of the moment and the magic of the dress she had created. “As I turned the television on, the governor and the first lady were walking down the steps. That’s when it hit me: She looks beautiful. She looks amazing.” —Diana McClure