Jill Biden says inauguration outfits ‘were a voice for me’ as she donates them to Smithsonian

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Jill Biden’s inaugural outfits have a new home at the Smithsonian, with the first lady saying she hopes the dresses will “continue speaking to generations to come.”

The community college professor and wife of President Biden was on hand Wednesday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for a ceremony marking the donation of the pair of gowns from the January 2021 presidential inauguration.

“These two ensembles were a voice for me on one of one of the most important days of my life,” Biden said, in what she called a “much more emotional” day than she expected.

“They will help me tell not only my story, but the story of what we as Americans experienced together: of hope, and of love, and unity that we held onto and how we let those values guide us forward,” she said.

The event marked Biden’s first public appearance since undergoing Mohs surgery earlier this month to remove a cancerous lesion above her right eye and on her chest. She said ahead of the Smithsonian ceremony that she was “glad to be back in action.”

The items were added to the museum’s First Ladies Collection exhibit, which houses nearly 30 dresses worn by everyone from Jacqueline Kennedy to Melania Trump.

“I look forward to adding some menswear to this gallery in the future,” Biden said to applause.

Biden’s inaugural fashions include a blue wool tweed dress and matching overcoat designed by Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill that she wore to the Jan. 20, 2021, swearing-in ceremony, and an ivory silk and wool dress with an embroidered cashmere coat by designer Gabriela Hearst from the evening inauguration events.

In a sign of the times, two matching face masks that Biden wore — as the inauguration was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic — were also donated to the museum.

The masks, Biden said, would “no doubt set them apart from other displays at the museum,” and “represent the enormity of what we all faced at the time: a pandemic that changed our world forever.”

The addition of the wardrobe marks the continuation of a more than 100-year tradition, according to the Smithsonian. Anthea Hartig, the National Museum of American History’s director, said in a statement that the gifts were “an important symbol of the continuing endurance of American democracy.”

Biden’s inaugural pieces, gifts of both fashion designers who created the looks, were immediately added to the first ladies exhibit on Wednesday for the public to view.

Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch called the popular display the “first Smithsonian exhibition made by and about women.”

“Make no doubt about it, being first lady is a job — not simply a marital status,” Bunch said to laughs from the crowd.

The Smithsonian noted that it was the first time in its history that both the day and evening attire were simultaneously donated.

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