The image of Jacqueline Kennedy in her blood-stained pink suit is forever etched into Americans’ minds.
The Coco Chanel knockoff was one of John F. Kennedy‘s favorites, but who could have predicted that the suit, which she had worn at least six times before, would be what she was wearing the day her husband was assassinated.
The first lady famously refused to take off the bloodied suit at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, telling presidential aides, “No, I’m going to leave these clothes on. I want them to see what they have done to Jack.”
She wore it on the flight back to Washington and during the emergency swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson as President. It is said that her only regret was that she had washed the blood off her face before Johnson was sworn in.
Lady Bird” Johnson “Lady Bird” Johnson later described that very moment, saying: “Her hair [was] falling in her face but [she was] very composed … I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s 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 husband’s blood. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman, exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.”
In an interview with historian William Manchester after the event, Kennedy said that her husband had asked her what she planned to wear during their trip to Dallas, telling her: “There are going to be all these rich, Republican women at that lunch … wearing mink coats and diamond bracelets. And you’ve got to look as marvelous as any of them. Be simple – show these Texans what good taste really is.”
After Mrs. Kennedy returned to the White House on Nov. 23, her suit and accessories were put into a bag, presumably by her personal assistant, Providencia Paredes.
Today, the suit is held in the National Archives building in College Park, Maryland in a secure, climate-controlled windowless vault.
It arrived in a box, accompanied by a handwritten note from Jackie’s mother that read: “Jackie’s suit and bag – worn November 22nd, 1963.”
The suit was never cleaned, and the public hasn’t seen it since the assassination. In 2003, Caroline Kennedy gave the suit as a gift to the public with the notion that it would not be put on display until 2103 (90 years from now),” CNN reported.
The blue blouse she wore beneath the pink suit, her stockings, blue shoes and blue purse are also housed in the National Archives building. But the whereabouts of the now-famous pink pillbox hat and white gloves are still a mystery.
“The hat apparently goes to the Secret Service initially and the Secret Service turns it over to Mrs. Kennedy’s private secretary, and then it disappears. It has not been seen since,” author Phillip Shenon, who wrote A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, told CNN.
In a 2011 Parade cover story, Caroline Kennedy opened up about her then new book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. During the interview, she shared intimate details about the glamorous woman the world calls Jackie O but whom Caroline still calls “Mummy.”
Parade: Your mother faced terrible tragedy and bore it with grace. How was she able to do this?
Caroline Kennedy: It’s amazing to remember how young she was—she was just 34. I think a lot of her courage, strength, and dignity came from within. She had a very strong moral code, self-discipline, and commitment to me and John and to my father’s memory that made her able to continue. I think my mother was not as overtly or devoutly religious as my grandmother and some other relatives were. But she had a very deep inner spirituality that allowed her to rebuild her life. It’s extraordinary that she had such a strong sense of self and such a commitment to the future and such a strong creative sense that she could build new worlds for herself and for us out of the total devastation in her life. And then once John and I were grown up, she went back to work as an editor. She really appreciated the value of work. She loved the life she had with my father and thought that was her most rewarding time, but she had a real respect for work and the intellectual engagement it offered her.