Heritage

Why You Won't See Jackie Kennedy's Iconic Pink Suit On Display in a Museum

The bloodstained boucle suit is still hidden away, more than 50 years after JFK's assassination.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Images of John F. Kennedy's assassination and the events that followed have been seared into our collective memory: The convertible crossing in front of the grassy knoll, JFK Jr.'s funeral salute, Jackie's pillbox hat and pink suit, stained with her husband's blood.


While some historic artifacts from the event have been displayed in the years following President Kennedy's death, Jackie's iconic boucle ensemble with navy blue lapels still remains hidden from public eye, stored in a "custom made acid-free box" in the climate-controlled National Archives building in College Park, Maryland along with Oswald's rifle, bullets and bullet fragments from the shooting, the original windshield of the limousine, and more than five million pages of assassination-related records.

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A "line for line" replica of Chanel (as first lady, she needed to be seen in American-made clothing), the vibrant outfit was one of President Kennedy's favorites. Jackie wore it several times before that tragic day in November, and President Kennedy thought she looked "smashing" in it. He reportedly asked her to wear the suit in Dallas.

And after he was shot, she refused to take it off, not at the hospital and not on the flight back to Washington, even though it was caked with his blood.

"Let them see what they've done," she said, refusing any suggestion that she clean herself up.


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But even in her grief she knew it needed to be preserved. At the White House the garments were put into a bag, presumably by her personal maid, Providencia Paredes. The only thing missing? Her hat and gloves. In the frenzy of the days following the assassination, they were misplaced.

The suit, along with her accessories and stockings, was later sent to the National Archives with a handwritten note from Kennedy's mother that read simply, "Jackie's suit and bag — worn November 22, 1963."

And it's all been hidden away ever since. Steven Tilley, a senior archivist, told the Washington Post in 2011 that "It looks like it's brand new, except for the blood."

But don't expect it to come out of storage anytime soon.

While the items were sent to the National Archives, they technically belonged to Caroline Kennedy following her mother's death. In 2003, she signed a deed of gift, with the provision that the suit is preserved but not displayed publicly until at least 2103, so as not to "in any way to dishonor the memory of the late President or cause unnecessary grief or suffering to members of his family."

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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