When Dr. Deborah Birx delivers indispensable information on the federal government's response to the pandemic, she does it in Hermès.
The doctor is one of two women on the White House task force trying to slow the spread of an outbreak that, at the time of publication, has claimed more than 17,800 American lives. And while the nation devours her updates during live White House briefings, viewers have also noted her flair for high-end foulards.
On April 6, she tied what appeared to be a navy and white Rocaille II Hermès scarf over a camel-toned blouse. Two days later, she delicately draped what looks like the brand's iconic "Le Jardin de la Maharani" around her shoulders. Yesterday, she wore a mosaic-printed piece in beautiful greens, blues, and reds.
Appreciation for her silky sartorial selects can be found using the hashtag #DrBirxScarves, which brings up dozens of tweets. Fashion critics have also praised her style, including The Washington Post's esteemed Robin Givhan, who described the aesthetic as "a perfectly calibrated vision of comfort and intelligence."
There are now several Instagram accounts dedicated entirely to the scarves, like @deborahbirxscarves, which has over 9,000 followers.
Victoria Strout, a marketing operations manager from Texas, runs the popular account. She tells ELLE.com the inspiration came to her the first time she saw Birx on television.
"I appreciated the straight forward way she communicated, and felt like she provided a sense of assurance in the midst of a lot of unknowns," Strout says. "After the first few daily press briefings, I started realizing, 'Oh, scarves are a thing. This is her thing.' I noticed her core outfits and how she diversified them with scarves. I thought it was brilliant, and I think that’s part of why so many people see her as this accessible woman. She’s not flashy, gaudy, or over the top with her fashion choices."
No, Birx isn't flashy. But she does bring a certain sophisticated swagger to the briefings that distinguishes her from the rest of the suits standing beside her at the podium.
Strout watches nearly every Birx briefings and has come to believe her fashion choices are intentional.
"I don't think she’s dressing the way she does to be recognized for her fashion choices," she says. "But I do believe she’s a wonderful example of how the sartorial choices we make can really reflect who we are and help communicate a message."
Every image Strout posts to @deborahbirxscarves is a screengrab from a live stream of the task force press conference. She keeps captions simple, usually just the date of the briefing. Her followers often help identify the scarves. Many of them are Hermès.
"Dr. Birx’s fashion choices have set her apart in this approachable way, but one that goes hand-in-hand with the calm and intelligent way she communicates each day in those press briefings," Strout says. "That’s not what she’s wearing, that’s who she is. I’ve come to admire her as a well-rounded woman, and appreciate that her fashion reflects that."
Rose Minutaglio Staff Writer Rose is a Staff Writer at ELLE.com covering culture, news, and women's issues.