January 27, 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — First ladies typically donate their first ball gowns to the Smithsonian Institution for their collection. Jill Biden is giving up two clothing ensembles, and neither of them include a dress.

The first lady is donating the ocean blue tweed dress and matching coat she wore to her husband’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 at the Capitol, along with the ivory silk wool dress and cashmere coat ensemble she wore to the White House later that evening.

First ladies usually donate the dress they danced in after the oath-taking ceremony at ceremonial balls, but there were no inaugural balls for President Joe Biden. He took office at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when large indoor gatherings were discouraged.

In a nod to the historical nature of Joe Biden’s swearing-in, Jill Biden’s matching face masks will also become part of the First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History.

Her attire will be officially added to the collection of clothing worn by her predecessors, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Melania Trump and others, during a ceremony Wednesday with the first lady, her fashion designers and museum officials. The museum will reopen to the public on Thursday.

It will be Jill Biden’s first public appearance since Jan. 11, when doctors removed a cancerous lesion from her face and another from her chest.

“Since Helen Taft in 1912, every First Lady who has been approached and has an inaugural gown has donated it,” said Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator of American political history at the museum.

The museum is “always keen” to have both the day and evening displays whenever possible because “it allows us to show a different aspect of the day and the First Lady’s attendance at the inauguration,” she said Tuesday in a phone interview.

“We are very fortunate to have the space to be able to exhibit both in this particular instance,” said Graddy.

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