Jen Ellis is the woman who designed Sen. Bernie Sanders mittens that stole the show at the inauguration this week.
She’s a 42-year-old second grade teacher and craft hobbyist who lives outside of Burlington, Vermont — where Sanders was mayor in the 1980s. Ellis, who identifies as a lesbian, resides in the town with her partner, Liz, and their 5-year-old daughter.
Sanders received the mittens in 2016. At the time, Ellis’ daughter was attending a preschool directed by Sanders’ daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll. Ellis made mittens for all the teachers and gave an extra pair to Driscoll to give to Sanders. They’re made from reclaimed wool from old sweaters and fleece lining made with recycled plastic.
“He must really like them if he chose to wear them,” Ellis told Jewish Insider.
Inauguration Day was cold, and Sanders dressed for the occasion.
Socially distanced from other guests at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, Sanders wore a blue surgical mask, gray Burton winter coat, and the oversized brown mittens. Shortly after Sanders was photographed in his mittens, the image went viral and memes were abundant.
Within 24 hours, Ellis said she received approximately 6,000 emails from people inquiring about purchasing mittens. Ellis, however, doesn’t make them anymore.
“I’m flattered that they want them, but there are lots of people on Etsy who sell them and hopefully people will get some business from them,” Ellis told Jewish Insider. “But I’m not going to quit my day job. I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy.”
Ellis also said she’s tried “not to let all of the mitten business overshadow the gloriousness of sitting with my 5-year-old daughter and my partner and watching the first woman be sworn in as vice president.”
For his part, Sanders said his fashion ensemble was a practical decision.
“In Vermont, we dress warm — we know something about the cold,” Sanders said during a CBS News interview after the inauguration. “We’re not so concerned about good fashion. We want to keep warm. And that’s what I did today.”
The image of Sanders at the inauguration can be a part of one’s wardrobe. Sanders’ campaign has sweatshirts for sale featuring the photo that inspired the hilarious memes, and all the proceeds are going to Meals on Wheels programs in Sanders’ home state of Vermont.
The $45 black crewneck sweatshirt is made in the USA and union printed, CNN reported.