In her first public appearance since having cancer removed from her face and breast on Jan. 11, Jill Biden came to the museum on Wednesday to present the navy blue tweed dress adorned with pearls and crystals and matching coat she wore to her husband’s inauguration at the Capitol on January 20, 2021.
The ivory silk dress with matching cashmere coat she changed into later in the day was also among the gifts. As a reflection of the time at Biden’s inauguration, the matching face masks for protection against the coronavirus will also become part of The first ladies collection at the national museum.
The corona restrictions in 2021 made major inroads into the tradition-laden program in connection with the installation of a new president. People were not allowed to gather on the National Mall to watch Biden take his oath. The traditional luncheon in the Capitol had to be scrapped and the customary parade along Pennsylvania Avenue was replaced by a virtual one.
— Since Helen Taft in 1912, every first lady has donated her inaugural dress, and we are very happy that in this case we can display two dresses, says Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator of American political history at the museum.
The First Ladies of America exhibit is one of the Smithsonian’s most popular attractions. The collection contains a total of around 1,000 items of personal belongings and other memorabilia from the White House, and about ten inauguration dresses are on display at the same time.