In November 1963, shortly before the Kennedys were to head for Dallas and a tragedy that left Americans in horror and disbelief, the president and his wife would have also discussed what they were to wear for the occasion. For Dallas, the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, had opted for a woolen pink suit and a matching pink pillbox hat.
For quite a long period, this dress posed a question about whether it was an authentic Chanel design or perhaps a good-quality copy bought from Chez Ninon in New York. The issue was reportedly resolved in 2010, when Justine Picardie, a noted British novelist, and writer on fashion, concluded that the fabric and the rest of the assets needed to create the dress were made available from Chanel, after which the combination was sewn for Mrs. Kennedy in New York. By that, the dress passed as part of Chanel’s line.
But why have people obsessed over this dress for such a long time? Or written about it decades later? Because Jacqueline Kennedy wore it on that dreadful day in 1963 when her pink suit was spattered with her husband’s blood.
Jackie Kennedy was sitting next to her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in the presidential limousine that was open on the top. As they progressed through Dallas, the unthinkable occurred: the President was shot.
In the moment after the assassination, the First Lady was seen lying over the body of the President of the United States. Her pink dress had been stained with blood, and she didn’t change out of it for the entire day.
Even later at the Parkland Hospital, when Mrs. Kennedy was asked to take off her pink Chanel suit, the former First Lady, obviously still in shock and in the first raw stage of grieving, assertively refused, saying: “Oh, no … I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” It was just the matching hat that was missing, lost in the turbulence of the events and the chaotic moments after the assassination.
Many people around Jackie that day tried to convince her to take off the blood-stained suit, but Mrs. Kennedy continued to wear the Chanel suit, which is now cited as “the most legendary garment in American history.”
Mrs. Kennedy wore the dress when Vice President Johnson was being sworn as the next United States President. The sight would not soon be forgotten, and Lady Bird Johnson would also describe it later, saying that Jackie was “exquisitely dressed” yet “caked in blood.” Blood could be spotted on different parts of the outfit, included on her legs, as well as the right glove, which had been entirely soaked in blood.
In later statements, Mrs. Kennedy would reportedly regret she had not cleaned her face of blood stains, before the swearing in of Vice President Johnson. Jacqueline Kennedy got rid of the suit the next morning, without cleaning any of the stains on it.
The suit was named and stored in a separate box, which was later sent to Jacqueline’s mother, who wrote a note that remembered the day: November 22, 1963. The dress was initially placed in an attic, but it later became the possession of Maryland’s National Archives and it is reportedly still there, kept under special conditions.
Jackie Kennedy, in that pink Chanel suit, must have been President Kennedy’s last sight before he was fatally shot.