Skip to comments.Jacqueline Kennedy’s bloody suit
Posted on 11/21/2003 4:54:38 PM PST by Pedantic_Lady
WASHINGTON Not long after that terrible day in Dallas no one knows exactly when a brown paper box arrived at the National Archives. The return address was on O Street, the Georgetown home of Jacqueline Kennedys mother. Packed inside was the pink Chanel suit first glimpsed Nov. 22, 1963, when the first lady joined JFK at a Fort Worth breakfast, and which, covered in his blood, she still wore the next morning to escort the slain presidents casket into the White House.
THERE IN THE Archives, the suit remains. Stored in a custom-designed corrugated board box, it rests on a gray steel shelf in a secured area of a suburban warehouse. It has never been cleaned. The wool skirt and jacket lie flat, with a suggestion of human form created by acid-free tissue paper folded inside the sleeves.
Only recently was a deed of gift obtained from the Kennedys sole surviving child, Caroline. But one hundred years will have to pass before the suit can again come before the American public. This condition is consistent with Mrs. Kennedys determination to balance her obligations to history with her familys privacy. Archivists interests, moreover, are not only the past and present, but the future.
Once it can be displayed it will really bring the 60s to the present whatever that present is, said Steven Tilley, who oversees the Archives JFK Assassination Records Collection.
The Archives also has JFKs jacket, shirt and tie exhibits in the Warren Commission investigation of the shooting. But aside from the Brooks Brothers overcoat Abraham Lincoln wore to Fords Theater on April 14, 1865 the lining embroidered with an American eagle and the words One Country/One Destiny perhaps no clothing in American history carries the iconic power of that pink suit.
Even out of sight, it is an indelible image in public memory. The first lady made sure of that. She purposefully bore the horror and brutality of the presidents murder for a shattered nation to see. Had she changed or shielded her appearance, Americans experience of the assassination would have been fundamentally altered.
Everybody remembers the pink suit, Tilley said. Mrs. Kennedy brought nothing new to Texas, her press secretary, Pamela Turnure, recalled in Carl Sferrazza Anthonys book, As We Remember Her. She took two suits, a cocktail dress and a day dress already in her wardrobe. Her clothes stole the show on foreign trips; on a domestic political trip, Turnure said, she didnt want to deflect attention from the president.
A VISION IN PINK
The morning of Nov. 22, a crowd gathered at the presidents Fort Worth hotel. Wheres Jackie? admirers shouted when JFK appeared. Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself, the president replied. It takes longer. But of course she looks better than we do after she does it.
Two-thousand Texans roared their approval when a vision in pink JFK had picked the suit finally walked into the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Then it was on to Dallas. At 12:30 p.m., shots were fired at the motorcade, which then sped to Parkland Hospital. The Secret Service hurried Lady Bird Johnson out of her limousine, but not before she glanced over her shoulder. She described the scene to the Warren Commission: I ... saw, in the presidents car, a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms, lying on the back seat. I think it was Mrs. Kennedy lying over the Presidents body.
In her autobiography, Lady Bird recalled the scene aboard Air Force One while accompanying the casket to Washington: Mrs. Kennedys dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood her husbands blood. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.
FIRST LADY UNWAVERING
Mrs. Kennedy repeatedly rebuffed suggestions, beginning in the chaos outside Parklands trauma room, that she change clothes. In The Death of a President, William Manchester chronicled how tensions on Air Force One grew with the feeling that something must be done about her appearance. Mrs. Johnson tried; so, later, did Mrs. Kennedys own mother, Janet Auchincloss.
But she didnt waver. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith had admired the first ladys excellent sense of theater during a triumphant 1962 visit to India. What the fashion industry dubbed the Jackie look, the first lady saw as her state wardrobe. Through elegantly simple lines and a dazzling rainbow of strong solid colors ice blue, leaf green, lemon yellow she conveyed the youth, grace and style of President Kennedys New Frontier. Pink ran throughout, from a shell pink sequined chiffon evening gown to what Galbraith called a radioactive pink rajah-style coat.
With the president dead, that sense of theater turned to a new and determined purpose. Keeping that clothing on was completely consistent with her realization that clothing is a medium of expression, and she wanted to say something to the world, said Wake Forest University art Professor David Lubin, author of Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images.
WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO JACK
Mrs. Johnson never forgot the essence of that message, or the fierceness in the 34-year-old widows voice as she refused all entreaties to change her clothes. I want them to see what they have done to Jack, she said.
In that suit she stood at Lyndon B. Johnsons side as he took the oath of office on Air Force One, a silhouette from another world, as Manchester put it. At Andrews Air Force Base, a proposal was made to exit the plane on the starboard side to avoid news photographers. She rejected it. One of the last pictures of her in the suit is in the East Room. Her shoulders hang heavily. Smeared blood covers a leg, and her gaze is fixed on the casket being lowered onto the catafalque.
At every sight of her, the nations grief deepened. In the private quarters of the White House, sometime around dawn on Nov. 23, she finally shed her bloodied clothing.
Its hard to imagine, with her acute appreciation of history, that Mrs. Kennedy made no provision for the pink suit. Her maid later told Manchester that, while Mrs. Kennedy bathed, she packed the clothes and hid the bag. But there is no known record in the Archives explaining who later sent the box or why. There is only the return address, and in it, one small clue: an old postal zone used before zip codes, which began that July. So archivists speculate that it came to them not long after Nov. 22, 1963.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.com ...
I was alive that day and I remember it quite well.
I was 6-years-old. My school was two blocks away from my home. I arrived home that day to find my mother sobbing while glued to the TV screen. I inquired as to what was wrong and she told me the president had been killed. I knew who JFK was as his picture was hanging on the wall in our living room.
My mother passed away on Sept. 30th of this year. At a gathering after her funeral my siblings and I went through boxes of her belongings. Among them were front page LA Times stories of both JFK and RFK's deaths. I have them now.
I don't know about that...when I took my husband to Dallas, Southfork was empty but Dealey Plaza was full of tourists; it is really what people go to see. It's to be avoided on the 22nd of November, though; it's full of weird conspiracy theorists who actually comb the knoll, looking for shell casings or some such nonsense. There's a JFK "Limo Tour" in Dallas, too; it's a restored Lincoln convertible limo similar to the one JFK used that day; they follow the parade route as accurately as possible (it can't be followed exactly because the direction of Houston street is one-way in the wrong direction) and when they get to a certain spot on Elm street, the car comes to a complete stop, plays tape of gunfire and screaming, then speeds off. It's so TACKY.
I remember hearing a quote. When asked if she wanted to change clothes she said no...let them see what they have done.
Who was "they"?
My dad was 18 at the time; he saved the morning paper from that day, the one with the "wanted for treason" bits in it, plus the later editions discussing the assassination itself. He kept the paper from when RFK was shot, too.
'They' would be the person or people who were against her husband and caused his death. Kennedy stood in the way of power for a whole bunch of folks.
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I was 13 when JFK was assassinated. After hearing the news over the radio, I jumped on my bike and rode to the nearest newspaper racks where I purchased both the LA Times and the Herald Express with the JFK story on the front cover. I still have both copies.
I meant...more specifically. Who are the "folks"?
Probably not, but she was still far classier than some of the trash that passes for a celebrity these days.
If you believe Sam Giancana's brother's book, the mob did it, one of the reasons being they helped put him in office with the understanding that Bobby would get the FBI off Giancana's back. Instead the hassling of Giancana and Friends increased, and you know the rest of the story.
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