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Jill Biden donates inaugural outfits in first public event since surgery

Jill Biden held her first public event since her Mohs surgery on Wednesday when she donated both her Inauguration Day outfits to the Smithsonian, following in the footsteps of past first ladies.

‘This day is so much more emotional than I imagined it to be,’ she said at the ceremony. 

She did not acknowledge her recent surgery in her remarks but, in a tweet ahead of the event, said she was ‘glad to be back in action’ and thanked the medical staff at Walter Reed National Military Hospital for their help.

‘Glad to be back in action today! Thank you to everyone for your prayers and well-wishes as I recovered from Mohs surgery,’ she wrote. ‘I’m especially grateful to the amazing nurses and doctors at Walter Reed, who took great care of me. A reminder for us all — make sure to get your recommended cancer screenings!’

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She showed no signs of the swelling and bruising the White House doctor said she suffered from the procedure, which was done on January 11th. 

Jill Biden donated both of her outfits from inauguration day to the Smithsonian

It was the first lady's first public event since her Mohs surgery on January 11th

It was the first lady’s first public event since her Mohs surgery on January 11th

Jill Biden donated the matching face masks she wore with each of her outfits

Jill Biden donated the matching face masks she wore with each of her outfits

Jill Biden wore a blue tweed dress to watch Biden take the oath of office

Jill Biden wore a white dress and coat embroidered with flowers to the evening celebration

Jill Biden donated the outfits she wore to both Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and the evening celebration – above, left, she wore a blue tweed dress to watch Biden take the oath of office and above, right, she wore a white dress and coat embroidered with flowers to the evening celebration

Typically first ladies donate just their inaugural gown. But, in an historic first, Biden donated two outfits – the ensemble she wore to Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol and then the white cocktail dress she wore to the evening celebration. 

In acknowledgement to the COVID pandemic, which was still at a high point at the start of the Biden administration, Biden also included her matching face masks in her donation.

Biden noted the inclusion, saying it ‘set them apart from the other displays here at the museum.’

‘As you know they’re just pieces of small cloth, but they represent the enormity of what we all faced at the time: a pandemic that has changed our world forever,’ she said.

Many members of her family were on hand to watch the dedication: her sisters Kim, Kelly, and Bonny; daughter Ashley Biden; granddaughters Finnegan and Naomi Biden; sister-in-law Valerie Biden Owens; and her nieces Missy and Casey.

The first lady, who doesn’t like the focus on her to be her fashion, acknowledged the role it plays in her duties.  

‘When I became first lady, I knew that people would start to care a lot more about what I wore. And there have been times when I 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, and my “Love” jacket during our first trip overseas. And then the more mundane times when I wore a scrunchy to the bakery and it ended up on the nightly news,’ she said as the audience laughed.

As she acknowledged the exhibit of first lady ensembles, she noted, to great aplause: ‘I look forward to adding some men’s wear to this gallery in the future as well.’

On Inauguration Day – January 20, 2021 – Biden donned an Ocean blue wool tapered tweed dress, hand embellished with pearls and crystals in a delicate floral pattern, with its matching overcoat accented by a dark blue velvet collar and cuffs by Colorado-born designer Markarian to watch her husband take the oath of office.

For the evening celebration, which included fireworks over the National Mall and a performance by singer Katy Perry, Biden wore ivory silk wool cady dress and an ivory double-breasted cashmere coat embroidered with flowers by Gabriela Hearst. The outfits incorporated the flowers from every state and territory of the U.S. as a symbol of unity. The Delaware flower was prominent in the design pattern.

Both Hearst and Alexandra O’Neill, the founder of Markarian, attended Wednesday’s ceremony at the Smithsonian.

‘As a designer I could not think of a better muse,’ Hearst said. 

It’s a tradition for first ladies to donate their inaugural gown to the National Museum of American History, going back to Helen Taft in 1912.

Jill Biden doesn’t have a formal gown to donate given that indoor celebrations were discouraged at the time due to COVID. She wore the white cocktail dress to view the fireworks from the South Portico balcony at the White House. The Biden family also gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for the Celebrating America concert.

Biden’s attire will immediately be installed in The First Ladies Collection and available for the public to view beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. when the museum opens.

It will form the centerpiece of the exhibit, which features 27 dresses, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump. 

Jill Biden was seen in public on Monday for the first time since her Mohs surgery, sporting sunglasses to cover her eyes after having lesions removed from each lid.

White House Dr. Kevin O’Connor said last week the first lady was cancer free but still experiencing ‘mild bruising and swelling’ after the procedure.

The first lady returned to the White House with President Joe Biden, walking hand-in-hand from Marine One, after the couple spent the weekend at their beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware. 

Fashion designer Gabriela Hearst, First Lady Jill Biden, and fashion designer Alexandra O'Neill as the presentation of the first lady's inauguration outfits to the Smithsonian

Fashion designer Gabriela Hearst, First Lady Jill Biden, and fashion designer Alexandra O’Neill as the presentation of the first lady’s inauguration outfits to the Smithsonian

Jill Biden with designers Gabriela Hearst and Alexandra O'Neill

Jill Biden with designers Gabriela Hearst and Alexandra O’Neill

Jill Biden wore a white dress embroidered with flowers by Gabriela Hearst for Joe Biden's inauguration -  the design used the flowers from every state and territory of the U.S. as a symbol of unity

Jill Biden wore a white dress embroidered with flowers by Gabriela Hearst for Joe Biden’s inauguration –  the design used the flowers from every state and territory of the U.S. as a symbol of unity

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo with family members at the Celebrating America concert at the Lincoln Memorial in on Jan. 20, 2021

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo with family members at the Celebrating America concert at the Lincoln Memorial in on Jan. 20, 2021

Jill Biden and President Joe Biden watch the fireworks display on the night of his inauguration

Jill Biden and President Joe Biden watch the fireworks display on the night of his inauguration

Biden had her Mohs surgery on January 11th, where she spent around five hours under anesthesia.

The first lady had lesions removed from her face and chest at Walter Reed National Military Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. At least two of them – one from above her right eye and one of the left side of her chest – were determined to be cancerous but had all the cancerous tissue successfully removed.

The one from her left eyelid was sent out for a traditional biopsy but the results came back cancer free, Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter released by the East Wing last Wednesday.

‘Results are consistent with a seborrheic keratosis,’ O’Connor wrote. ‘Seborrheic keratosis is a very common, totally harmless non-cancerous growth. No further treatment is required.’

Seborrheic keratosis is a common noncancerous skin growth that people tend to get as they get older. Seborrheic keratoses are usually brown, black or light tan. 

‘Dr. Biden is recovering very nicely from her procedures,’ O’Connor said. ‘She experienced some anticipated mild bruising and swelling but feels very well.’ 

Jill Biden wore sunglasses for her first post-surgery public appearance on Monday

Jill Biden wore sunglasses for her first post-surgery public appearance on Monday

President Joe Biden and Jill Biden walk into the White House on Monday

President Joe Biden and Jill Biden walk into the White House on Monday

‘All cancerous tissue was successfully removed,’ O’Connor said. 

Mohs Surgery is an outpatient procedure where thin layers of skin are cut away and tested for cancer. 

President Biden spent eight hours at the hospital to be with his wife during her procedure. 

Jill Biden, 71, is the oldest first lady in modern American history.

President Biden has accompanied her for two other medical procedures. 

Prior to Wednesday’s procedure, Dr. Biden had a ‘common medical procedure’ done at an outpatient center near the George Washington University campus in April 2021, with the White House not disclosing additional details.  

And, in July 2021, she traveled to Walter Reed to have debris removed from her foot after she stepped on an unnamed object while walking on a beach in Hawaii during a pit stop made in the state as she returned from the Tokyo Olympics. 

It is not the Biden family’s first brush with cancer.

Beau Biden was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma in 2013. He died in 2015.


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