Jackie Kennedy: The pink suit.
In early November, 1963, John and Jackie Kennedy were at the White House enjoying a private dinner with newspaper columnist Joe Alsop and his wife, Susan.
After dinner, John Kennedy asked his wife to show their guests the pink suit that she intended to wear during their forthcoming trip to Texas. Jackie was reluctant at first but went to her room and fetched the plain, pink suit.
Yes, that one.
Looking back,it’s hard to understand that the boxy, rather shapeless, bouclé suit was considered chic in those days, but like it or loathe it, it was to become one of the most famous garments in history.
Usually described as by Chanel, the suit, according to CNN, was an American-made copy. It had a dark blue lining which was revealed at the lapels and curiously-placed pockets of the boxy, double breasted jacket. The skirt was straight and didn’t show the knees.
The trip was an important one for the president.He personally chose his wife’s wardrobe of two days dresses, three suits and an evening dress. On November 20th, Jackie’s maid, Providencia, carefully folded them in tissue paper.The next morning,the couple were due to leave for Texas.
The presidential helicopter waited on the White House lawn as Jackie fussed with her hair. The president asked an aide about the Texan weather. When he heard, he dashed inside and called Providencia on the house phone.’Pack lightweight clothes’ he said.But it was too late, the luggage was already aboard the helicopter and because the weather was warmer than expected, her clothes were out of sync.
The helicopter took the pair to the airport when they took Air Force One to Texas. Jackie smoked a full pack of cigarettes during the flight. The following day was taken up by public appearances then an evening dinner. She returned exhausted to her hotel room. (She and the president had separate rooms.) Tired though she was she laid out her clothes for the following day – a blue blouse, navy low-heeled shoes, a Chanel bag, a pink pillbox hat and the pink suit.
The following morning, the president waited for twenty minutes whilst she finalised her outfit – the delay evidently being the selection of the exactly correct length of white gloves.
At 12.55 p.m. she was in the limousine in the presidential motorcade. She was hot in the suit thanks to the unusually warm weather.
We know what happened next.
We also know that Jackie famously refused to change her clothes saying ‘I want them to see what they’ve done’. She was still wearing the pink suit when someone photographed her aboard Air Force One on the return journey to Washington – when Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president.
It wasn’t until the early hours back in Washington that Jackie removed the outfit. Her maid, Providencia, immediately scooped it into a bag where it would be out of sight.
Jackie’s mother, who had a keen eye for posterity, had a cardboard box in her attic containing Jackie’s wedding dress. The box was marked ‘September 12th, 1953’. Soon, another box was stored alongside it bearing the legend ‘November 22nd, 1963’.
Where is Jackie Kennedy’s pink suit today?
In 2003 Caroline Kennedy handed over the box to the National Archives building in Maryland. Caroline gave it to the American people on the understanding that it won’t be on public display until 2103.
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