Jackie’ pink suit inspires a novel

The pink Chanel suit worn by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the day her husband was killed is a Shakespearan icon of the tragedy of November 22: a woman’s beautiful garment soaked in her husband’s blood.

“I didn’t want to pander, to become part of the cottage industry of Kennedy books,” says novelist Nicole Mary  Kelby about her new book, The Pink Suit. .”This book is not about cute clothes. It’s about how Jackie Kennedy set out to redefine how Americans defined themselves. Mamie and Ike Eisenhower (the Kennedys’ predecessors in the White House) were Grandma and Grandpa.”

This book isn’t even a book about Jackie Kennedy (she only appears once and is referred to throughout only as “the Wife”). Rather, it is a book about something that is now almost equally important: How November 22 shaped  the way Americans understand themselves.

As Carol Memmot wrote in her review for the Washington Post.

Jackie’s pink suit on November 22, 1963

“Few items of clothing provoke as much emotion as the outfit Jackie was wearing on that fall afternoon. The confection of pink bouclé wool is tucked away in a National Archives storage facility, the blood stains never removed. The mystique surrounding it is locked in our memory.”

The first Lady loved the pink suit and so did her husband, who said she looked “ravishing” in it, although Mary Ann Grossman of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes, “It wasn’t, in fact, pink. Coco Chanel called it raspberry, but it was various subtle shades. The handmade boucle tweed fabric from the famous Linton Tweeds in England was so soft it wasn’t practical, and the silk lining was fragile. But Jackie wore it often.”

The book tells the story of pretty Irish immigrant Kate, who sews the pink suit with near-reverence from patterns sent by Chanel. She works for Nona Park and Sophie Shonnard, real-life owners of Chez Ninon, a small couture house on New York’s Park Avenue that catered to society women such as Jackie Kennedy and her  mother, Janet Auchincloss.

“Kate loves working on beautiful fabrics that will be worn by glamorous women,” writes Grossman. ” She also loves a poetry-reciting butcher but isn’t sure she wants to marry and give up her job. Her hours at Chez Ninon, surrounded by beauty, are a stark contrast to her home life in Inwood, the northernmost neighborhood on Manhattan Island that was a Catholic Irish-American community in the 1960s:Kate’s world was that of the hot dog vendors, with their torn peacoats, the carriage drivers, in their fraying top hats, and the police, in their rough wool and scuffed shoes.”

When the suit becomes famous for the wrong reasons, Kate realizes she has to make changes in her life.

The Pink Suit, in short, is about a turning point.

———-

See also:

Jackie Kennedy’s ‘particular brand of silence’ ” (May 1, 2014)

6 Washington insiders who suspected a JFK plot,”(Oct. 2, 2013)

 

 

5 comments

  1. The last few paragraphs of Manchester’s The Death of a President focus on the pink suit in an emotionally stunning ending in a way that personalizes the Unspeakable for the reader.

    I have never forgotten that ending. I even photocopied the last two pages to read them over and over again. Book too heavy to leisure through a day. Her wedding gown and the pink suit were wrapped in two long paper cartons thrust between roof rafters in an attic not far from 3017 N. Street Bethesda….And if a trespasser came upon the pink suit….

    “There are ugly splotches along the front and hem of the skirt. The handbag’s leather and the inside of each shoe are caked dark red. And the stockings are quite odd. Once the substance streaked them in mad scribbly patterns, but time and the sheerness of the fabric have altered it. The rusty clots have flaked off, they lie in tiny little grains on the nap of the towel. Examining them closely the intruder would see his error. The clothing he perceived had not been kept out of sentiment. He would realize that it had been worn by a slender young woman who had met with some dreadful accident. He might ponder whether she had survived. He might even wonder who had been to blame.”
    -William Manchester p. 647

    And that’s why we need to find out who.

    The Girl on the Stairs and Enemy of the Truth get us closer.

  2. Jonathan says:

    If you are a truth-seeker, I say compare the Z-film and the Nix film as to Jackie in her pink suit on the limo trunk.

    The evil-doers would have us focus on the awful depictions of the films, not what they reveal.

    The films reveal Nix conflicts with Zapruder.

    Jackie’s climbing on the trunk of the limo and being forced back into the limo are central to the assassination. She climbed onto the trunk to recover a piece of her husband’s skull. Who here denies that?

  3. leslie sharp says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to say, but my wedding trousseau in 1966 included a hand made suit along similar lines and certainly in a color close to that raspberry of Jacqueline Kennedy’s suit. It must have been a subconscious effort on my part, and possibly that of my mother’s – one who actively campaigned in the highly contentious Texas Panhandle political dynamic – to emulate the hope and intrigue of the Kennedy legacy. We were simple people then. We were not cynical.

    For the most part now, those that I know from my generation are Highly Cynical. That should be of some concern to any interested in the future of democracy.

    • Mike says:

      I agree with your comments about the cynicism of the boomer generation. The 60’s were born with hope, courage and true patriotism. No president has inspired a generation more than JFK did my generation. We still mourn with Jackie. Our cynicism is rooted in the lies that we have been spoon fed for fifty years, the lies about his murder and why it happened. The lies, the disinformation, the manipulation continue today. To root out the cynicism we first have to search for the truth and reveal the lies.

  4. Kennedy63 says:

    I agree with both Mike and Leslie;Jonathan and Marty also add cogent discourse to the discussion. Our generation’s cynicism is firmly rooted in our being able to see the slow undoing of constitutional liberties and in its stead, the rise of militarism and corporatism. Our generation witnessed the murders of JFK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, RFK, and MLK, concurrent with the escalation of wanton violence against a people who should have been left to decide their own destiny, in Vietnam. Yes, our cynicism is justified even today, as we absorbed the reality that our government can not protect us, but instead clamps down on Americans at airports and all manner of long distance travel. We, like sheep, watch as powers are given to police and super-police forces in this country, much like in a fascist state. Our government is innocent until proven guilty, yet the guilt is hidden behind national security and bureaucratic obfuscations, wrapped in official pronouncement that numb the mind after 50 years. Yes, we are entitled to our cynicism because we were the generation baptized in the blood of our martyrs for peace, despite their human flaws. Collectively, they stood for what was good and hopeful and just in America. The opposing forces of greed, injustice, prejudice, and the status quo – powerful forces/factions acting within our government, determined these progressive leaders were dangerous to “their” America, that of power, profit, and greed. The boomer generation still can have social impact and leave a legacy of social activism for younger generations who don’t see the relevance of settling the JFK coup. We demand the Truth because Truth sets our spirits free and brings hope where, now, there is a generation’s abiding psychic pain, yet unhealed.

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