Whatever Happened to Jackie Kennedy's Pink Suit?
The image of Jacqueline Kennedy in that pink suit, stained with the blood of her husband, is still seared into the nation's collective memory over fifty years later.
Dealey Plaza and its Texas Schoolbook Depository remain virtually frozen in time, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year. Artifacts from that day have been displayed throughout the decades including the presidential limo, Governor Connally's blood-soaked shirt and suit, and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's wallet and jacket. However, there is one item that has never been on display and won't be anytime soon, Jackie's iconic pink suit.
Shrouded in mystery through and through, the pink suit and matching pillbox hat captured the public's imagination ever since Jackie first wore it a year before the assassination. Some say it was made by Chanel, others insist it was a thread by thread replica of one Chanel made. Regardless, it represented that Camelot image so carefully crafted by Jackie. Dallas was not the first time Jackie wore the suit. It happened to be one of the President's favorites, hence why she wore it to Dallas on that fateful day. It would be the very last time she would ever wear it.
Assasination. November 22, 1963.
12:30pm. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots into the President's limousine. Three bullets that changed history. The Zapuder Film, the only record of the assassination caught on tape, immortalized the moment of the bullets striking the president in the back of the limo. It's final few seconds show a terrified Jackie attempting to climb out of the limo as it sped off.
The suit's journey into the American Lexicon began in those dark hours after the assassination. After the president was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital, Jackie refused to change out of the blood-soaked garment and it became the most lasting image of the tragedy. She would walk in full view from the hospital to the motorcade which returned her and the president's body to Air Force One where Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office. Standing beside Johnson was Jackie in that pink blood-stained suit. After the return flight to Washington, Jackie's suit disappeared from public view.
A few days after the assassination, Jackie's pink suit arrived at the National Archives in a bag with a handwritten note. Scribbled on her mother's official stationary was the simple phrase; "Jackie's suit and bag-worn November 22, 1963. " Even in her grief, Jackie saw the need to have the suit preserved. The suit came in a plain box along with the blue blouse she wore underneath the suit, her stockings, shoes, and jewelry. They have not seen sunlight since.
Two things went missing. In the chaotic twenty-four hours following the tragedy, Jackie's white gloves and the matching pink pillbox hat were inadvertently separated from the rest of the suit and mysteriously disappeared. They were last seen by her personal secretary who refused to discuss their whereabouts.
Despite its storage in the National Archives, the suit remained the personal property of Jackie Kennedy. When Jackie died in 1994, the suit's ownership was passed to Caroline Kennedy who kept it from public view.
In 2003, Caroline signed a deed of gift, officially donating the pink suit to the People of the United States of America. The stipulation included in the donation; the suit would not be publicly displayed in any form until the year 2103 and only after the Kennedy family grants permission to do so. Assurance, essentially, that no attempt would be made to sensationalize the assassination.
The suit has never been cleaned, its condition remains exactly has it was on November 22, 1963. Stored in a custom built acid-free box in a climate controlled vault, less than a handful people have ever seen it since 1963.
Other items in the National Archives that will not be publicly displayed any time soon.
- Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle
- Bullet fragments removed from President Kennedy's body during autopsy.
- President Kennedy's blood soaked clothing, including his jacket, shirt and back brace.
- The original windshield of the presidential limousine, still sprayed with the president's blood.
Have you ever visited the site of the Kennedy Assassination?
© 2017 Jason Ponic