We know the suit is pink.
Even when we see it in black and
white, we know Jackie Kennedy's boucle suit is pink. When we see it in
color, the grainy images remind us how long ago Nov. 22, 1963, was, and
the suit's vivid, feminine flame saddens us: We know the young woman
wearing it will never again smile so brightly. A collective heart will
break. An unsuspecting nation will never be the same.
Kennedy's pink suit hangs in our memories - in the mind's closets
reserved for history's moments that create a "before" and an "after."
And on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, the
first lady's delicate suit, stained with her husband's blood, is a
presence heavy in its absence, shielded from view until 2103.
"Even those of us who were not born when Kennedy was president are
not immune to the horrific image of that perfect woman in that perfectly
beautiful suit covered in blood," says Nicole Mary Kelby, author of the
novel The Pink Suit, which will be released by Little &
Brown in April. "In Dallas, our dreams died. Our hopes followed. We are
still in mourning for Jackie's America."
For all of the various
relics and records that tell the story of Dallas' darkest day, the
mystery of the pink suit still captures our imaginations, mostly because
of the woman who wore it and wore it so well.
"Jackie was a
professional photographer. She painted. She designed clothes," Kelby
says. "She had an artist's eye, and used the media to craft a vision of
American perfection that we'd never seen before and have rarely seen
The suit's origin has been debated over the decades. It is
sometimes referred as "Jackie's Chanel suit," but Kelby explains the
suit was actually an authorized line-by-line replica made in 1961 by
Chez Ninon, a New York couture house. Kelby says the first lady wore it
"During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mrs. Kennedy was
forced to take over the president's diplomatic duties, something she
never did," Kelby says, "and (she) wore it twice in a week - which was
quite telling of the stress she was under. The next time she wore it was
Deeds from the Kennedy family restrict access to the suit, as well as
the clothes that President Kennedy was wearing that day. Requests to
view the president's clothing and the autopsy report and X-rays go
through a Kennedy family representative.
The suit is stored in a
secure, climate-controlled area of the National Archives building in
College Park, Md., the same building as assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's
clothing. Oswald's rifle and pistol, bullets and bullet fragments from
the assassination, the windshield of President Kennedy's limousine and
Oswald's diary and other writings are also stored at the Archives.
much has changed since the grim end of Camelot, the Kennedys will
always intrigue the public - as will places and objects associated with
the assassination. Some pieces from that day in Dallas are in museums.
Some are locked in vaults. Some occasionally show up in auction houses.
The fedora worn by Jack Ruby when he shot Oswald was sold in November
2009 at auction to an anonymous buyer for $45,000.
like the pink suit, hold more of a mystique: the casket that held
Kennedy's body on the flight to Washington, for example. On Feb, 18,
1966, the casket was weighted and dropped by an Air Force plane into the
Atlantic Ocean in an area where test weapons firing left the sea bottom
littered with munitions, making it dangerous for anyone to try to
Steve Tilley, a senior archivist at the National Archives and Records
Administration who was in charge of its Kennedy collection from 1993 to
2004, described the casket's disposal to USA TODAY in 2009. He said he
believes people are fascinated by the assassination because "there was
something about Jack Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy that people just took to."
The Kennedys' saga, Tilley said, "never ceases to amaze, to be
Where other items related to the assassination are located:
• Parkland Memorial Hospital Trauma Room No. 1.
The contents of the Dallas hospital room where President Kennedy died,
including equipment and a gurney, were sold to the federal government
for $1,000 in 1973 and stored at the Regional Archives Branch in Fort
Worth. The boxed items were moved in 2007 to a caged area in underground
Archives facility in Lenexa, Kan., called "The Caves."
• The 1956 Cadillac used by the Secret Service in Kennedy's motorcade.
It's at Historic Auto Attractions, a museum in Roscoe, Ill., 90 miles
northwest of Chicago. The museum showcases other related artifacts,
including the shoes Jack Ruby wore when he shot Oswald and the ambulance
that transported Oswald
• Kennedy's limo. The 1961 Lincoln Continental is at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. The car was modified after Kennedy's death and remained in service until 1977.