One of the most memorable looks the fashionable First Lady Jackie Kennedy ever wore is sadly deeply entrenched in tragedy. We’re referring to the pink suit, which she wore on November 22, 1963.
On the day her husband, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, Jackie wore a bubblegum pink tweed skirt suit with navy lapels and detailing, embellished with gold buttons, and teamed with a matching pillbox hat above her perfectly coifed brunette tresses and a pair of white gloves.
The president was shot in a convertible motorcade in Dallas, Texas while sitting alongside his wife, who emerged from the vehicle covered in his blood. Refusing to change out of the ensemble or clean herself off, the First Lady famously uttered the words, “Let them see what they’ve done.”
Always thought to be a Chanel ensemble, First Ladies are often expected to represent home-grown American fashion labels. To avoid scrutiny without sacrificing the look, Kennedy had a replica of the French fashion house’s design from its Fall/Winter 1961 collection, remade by Park Avenue salon Chez Ninon, known for customizing quite a bit of clothing for Mrs. Kennedy.
Baring an uncanny resemblance, the outfit (which she wore numerous times before that fateful day) was expertly recreated by costume designer Madeline Fontaine for the 2016 Pablo Larraín film Jackie. Natalie Portman portrayed the title role and told USA Today, “It’s crazy when clothes become symbols, and when you see something so recognizable and iconic. It tells a whole story, just the dress, itself. And then, of course, with the blood on it … (it) has the sort of history of America in it.”
At the time, Fontaine told Entertainment Weekly, “For the pink dress we made it as a copy of the one everybody knows. We had first to settle with Pablo and Stéphane Fontaine, the [director of photography], on the right color according to the choices of the different cameras (for the shooting and the continuity of the footage). Then I made film tests of different colors to get the pink. And then made five of them … Impressive to see Natalie in it for the first time on set. We had to be convinced!” She continued, “We had to be sure to have this be as close as possible [to] the original one. We needed this to be as historically correct as possible.”
Preserved by the National Archives in a climate-controlled vault outside of Washington in 1964, the outfit will not be seen by the public until 2103 per the Kennedy family’s request. According to the New York Times, the suit has been in the National Archives’ possession since 1964, but legally belonged to Jackie’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy after Jackie’s death in 1994. In 2003, a deed of gift was made with the condition that it wouldn’t be shown to the public for another 100 years.
Interestingly enough, the Chief of Special Access of the National Archives told the New York Times, that these are the only artifacts that fall under that specific stipulation. Still stained with the President’s blood, the family has decided to hold the items for that amount of time to avoid rubbernecking and sensationalizing the assassination. The only missing pieces from their possession is the pillbox hat and white gloves, which the outlet reports were “lost in the chaos of that day.”