By Steve Brawley
Over the years, I have humbly become a "go-to" regarding the history of Jackie's pink suit. A lot of my research has been used by authors and journalists, which makes me very proud.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination and that dark day in Dallas, the pink suit is once again a major part of our collective discussion.
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More historic pink suit NEWS is on the way. Stay tuned...
Pink Suit Feature Stories:
"Ravishing in Pink" Updated Nov. 22, 2013
Jackie's famous pink suit will forever be embedded in America's historical conscience. However, the history of the outfit did not begin in Dallas. It also holds many happy memories from the Kennedy administration. It truly took a village to create the suit.
The suit was designed and the materials to construct it were all provided by Chanel. The pink suit is CHANEL.
In her 2010 authorized biography of Coco Chanel, Justine Picardie states that the fabric, buttons and trim for the jacket came from Chanel in Paris, and that the suit was
fitted for Kennedy at Chez Ninon, using what was called
the "line for line" system put in place by Chanel.
Picardie insists that this system had nothing to do with forgery or pirating, as is obvious from the fact that Chanel supplied the design and materials to Chez Ninon for fitting.
The purpose of buying the garment from Chez Ninon was not to save money – the costs were the same – but to appear patriotic to the American electorate by buying her garments from the United States rather than France.
The suit was a Chanel strawberry pink boucle wool (Linton Tweeds) suit trimmed with a navy blue collar. Estimated cost was $800 to $1,000. Jackie's friend and "secret shopper in Paris" Letizia Mowinckel worked with Jackie on the details of the pink suit.
The family of Mowinckel has confirmed that Letizia said the suit was for her "cousin" and that Jackie made some revisions to the original suit design that Coco Chanel herself had to approve. Several sketches and fabric swatches went back and forth from Paris to the White House. We know the final suit was ready to wear by Nov. 1961. (More on this story to come).
We also know that her father-in-law Joe Kennedy preferred for her to buy "American" made outfits, and by using Chez Ninon as a front in New York, she could claim that she was buying "American-made" clothes.
During her White House years, she would wear several Chez Ninon originals, along with her Oleg Cassini outifts, and would be a lifelong Chanel shopper.
The famous pink suit ironically made its debut in a photo essay about Chanel in the Sept. 1, 1961 issue of LIFE magazine that featured Jackie on the cover wearing another designer - Oleg Cassini.
According to LIFE, the new fall 1961 Chanel line of wool suits had “a more crisply tailored figure-fitting shape with
small shoulders and narrow set-in sleeves compared to the soft-shoulder,
boxier version that was introduced the previous season."
Jackie wore her pink suit several times from 1961-63. She sometimes wore a matching blouse underneath the jacket, or just open with her famous pearls.
It was at President Kennedy's request that she wear the outfit in Dallas. He said she looked "ravishing in it." (Susan Mary Alsop, 1963)
See pink suit timeline photo gallery with links below:
Other Jackie Fashion Files
Suit design (worn by model) was part of the
Chanel 1961 fall collection (Paul Schutzer-
Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
St. Stephen's Church (Nov. 12, 1961)
White House (Nov. 14, 1961)
Washington DC (Sept. 26,1962)
She also chose this particular suit because she thought it was going to be cool in Dallas. It, of course, wasn't. At 12:30 on November 22, 1963, Dallas was enjoying an unseasonably warm day.
That morning, JFK was beaming with pride in his wife, announcing that "nobody wonders what Lyndon and I wear." The trip was an unofficial kick off to the 1964 campaign with the Kennedy's and Johnson's touring Texas. They had planned to spend the weekend together at the LBJ ranch.
After the assassination and aboard Air Force One, LBJ awaited the arrival of Judge Hughes to swear him in. Jackie's secretary (Mary Gallagher) in Jackie's cabin had laid out a fresh dress for her to wear. She refused to put it on.
"Let them see what they've done," she insisted.
Jackie continued to wear the outfit when the plane landed in Washington and the President's coffin was removed. She returned to the White House shortly before 5 am on the 23rd. It was then that she changed clothes.
Jackie's maid (Provi) folded the suit and placed it in a box. A few days later, the maid passed the box on to Jackie's mother, who wrote "November 22, 1963" on the top of the box, and stored it in the attic of her O Street home in Georgetown - beside Jackie's ivory silk taffeta wedding dress. Jackie would never touch or see the blood-stained pink suit again.
Jackie's pink wool suit was subsequently given to the National Archives - where it remains today. Out of public view.
Many of Jackie's other dresses have been seen. Jackie's White House Year's Dress Tour was a big hit in 2002-2004. Thousands flocked to see her dresses and other personal items. People were often heard commenting on the vibrant colors of her dresses - which were often only seen in black and white photos in the early 1960s.
Janet Auchincloss' former house on O Street in Georgetown. Jackie's pink suit, navy blouse, purse, shoes, stockings, (minus the pillbox hat) was stored in a simple box in the attic of this house prior to being donated to the National Archives in 1964.