Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the Presentation of her 2021 Inauguration Day and Evening Ensembles to the Smithsonian Institution
Thank you, Alexandra and Gabi. Anthea, Lonnie, your commitment to preserving our nation’s legacy—and making it accessible for all—is remarkable. And I’m grateful to the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of American History for bringing us all together.
I also want to thank Congresswoman Doris Matsui for joining us. Like all of us, my heart is with the people of Doris’ home state of California as they try to heal from the pain and violence of the last few days.
Clothing is art and articulation. It’s a manifestation of a moment of time. It’s history.
And today, I’m deeply honored to play a small part in a big moment in our history, alongside two visionary designers.
When I first encountered Alexandra O’Neill, she was just getting started—the leader of a young, small team with big ideas. Her designs seemed both timeless and new. And that was exactly what I was hoping to find. Because young people showed up and voted for Joe in historic numbers. And I wanted to reflect their passion, creativity, and hope that day.
Alexandra, thank you for helping me meet that moment with beauty and boldness. I’m so proud that your work is now memorialized here at the Smithsonian, and I hope that your story inspires other young people to pursue their own design dreams.
I became friends with Gabriela Hearst after we met at an event for Save the Children when I was Chair of the board. Since then, I’ve had the chance to see her generosity, talent, and commitment to living out her values.
She always pushes me to try new things—to step out of my comfort zone. Time and time again, when I think that there’s no way I’m going to like her suggestion—she’s right, and I love it. But I didn’t need any convincing about the design of this dress.
My focus on Inauguration Day was being a First Lady for all Americans—doing my part to bring our country back together. Gabby understood that. So, she adorned this dress with the flowers of every American state and territory. And she placed Delaware, my home, just above my heart.
Gabby, thank you for making our vision of a truly united America come to life. I’m so grateful for your talent and your friendship.
Of course, both outfits feature something that will no doubt set them apart from the other displays here at this museum: matching masks.
They’re just small pieces of cloth—but they represent the enormity of what we faced at the time: A pandemic that changed our world forever. Months of closed schools and businesses. A virtual presidential campaign. So much time spent apart.
But these masks also represent the moments of courage and kindness that helped us through the worst of it, the strength and resilience we found to rebuild and move forward.
I want to thank the Smithsonian for memorializing the history that is sewn into every stitch of these ensembles. I’m also grateful for the team of people who helped me through this process in a time when we just couldn’t fly to New York or do in-person fittings.
And finally, I want to thank all of the designers with us. When I became First Lady, I knew that people would start to care a lot more about what I wore. There have been times when I’ve welcomed that spotlight because I knew that my clothes could help me say something important—like when I wore my “Vote” boots on Election Day, or my “Love” jacket during our first trip overseas. And then there were more mundane times, when I wore a scrunchie to the bakery and it ended up on the nightly news!
But in important moments and everyday ones, I’ve navigated it all with the help of designs by so many of you here today. So thank you.
These two ensembles were a voice for me on one of the most important days of my life. They spoke to the American people then—and now, they will continue speaking to generations to come. They will help tell not only my story, but the story of what Americans experienced together—of the hope, and love, and unity that we held onto, and how we let those values guide us forward.
In the future, when educators like me bring their classes through this exhibit, I hope that these dresses will help them teach their students about what started on that January day, about how we came together as a nation, rebuilding shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart. I hope they will inspire future generations to learn more about the women behind the dresses. And, I look forward to adding some menswear to this gallery in the future, as well!
This means so much to me. It’s an honor to serve as your First Lady.