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Jackie Kennedy wears the famous pink suit in this 1962 photo. She is looking at plans for Lafayette Square.

President John F. Kennedy looked out the window of his Fort Worth, Texas, hotel suite. The November sky was dark and threatening. It looked like rain. Forecasters predicted cool weather. The president advised his wife Jackie to dress warmly for the long and demanding day and personally selected her oufit. He chose a pink wool suit with three-quarter-length sleeves and a blue underblouse. To it, Jackie added a pink pillbox hat and white gloves.   

Jackie, 34,  had worn the suit before – she called its color “raspberry” – and it was one of the president’s favorites.  He had told mutual friend Susan Mary Alsop that Jackie, his wife of ten years, looked “ravishing in it.” (1)   

President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House, October 1962. Jackie Kennedy is wearing the pink wool Chez Ninon she wore in Dallas, November 22, 1963

Jacqueline Kennedy‘s pink suit was made in 1961 by the New York dress salon, Chez Ninon. It was a copy of a Chanel pink boucle wool suit trimmed with a navy blue collar. (1)   

   

Jackie Kennedy was a style icon. People noticed what she wore. Kennedy critics were quick to pounce when Jackie wore Paris fashions. Jack urged his wife to buy American and she did. Such a move was both financially and politically savvy. The Chez Ninon knockoff cost between $800 and $1,000 compared to over $10,000 for a custom-made Chanel suit.  Plus, he and Jackie were in Texas with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and wife Lady Bird to officially kick off their 1964 presidential campaign. They had to minimize the fallout from Jackie’s expensive French taste.   

Jackie’s pink suit was a hit at the Fort Worth breakfast that morning. The president beamed at the attention she drew, noting that “nobody notices what Lyndon and I wear.” A short plane ride later, they were disembarking at Dallas Love Field to a promising reception. Jackie was presented red roses.   

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy arrive at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.

The sun had come out and the day had become unseasonably warm. The Kennedys climbed into the back seat of the presidential limousine to begin the winding 11-mile route through downtown Dallas where the president was to speak at a Trade Mart luncheon. Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie got into the jumpseat in front of the Kennedys and behind the driver and two Secret Service agents.   

The presidential limo was a midnight blue 1961 Lincoln that had been flown in from Washington, D.C. Because the weather was so nice, the plastic bubble top had been removed and the bullet-proof side windows were rolled down. This is how President Kennedy preferred to ride. At 11:50 a.m., the 12-car motorcade with its motorcycle escort and Secret Service attendants left the airport “on its rendevous with fate.” It was November 22, 1963. (2)   

The crowds lined the parade route so thickly that the motorcade moved at a crawl of only 6-7 miles an hour. The president clearly loved the warm Texas welcome, smiling and waving at all the friendly faces.   

JFK and Jackie ride in the presidential limo through the streets of Dallas, November 22, 1963. Texas Governor John Connally sits up front.

The temperature was 76 degrees. The sun was blindingly hot. Jackie was wearing wool.  She shielded her eyes from the big Texas sun with her trademark sunglasses.   

The people shouted, “Jack, Jackie!” recalled Nellie Connally. “They seemed to want her as much as they wanted him.” She could hear Jack say to Jackie,” Take your glasses off….When you’re riding in a car like this, in a parade, if you have your dark glasses on, you might as well have stayed at home.”

November 22, 1963: Up front, Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie ride with the President and Mrs. Kennedy through downtown Dallas.

Nellie Connally smiled to know that Texans were treating their president with such courtesy. She turned to him and said,   

Mr. President, you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.” (3)

Thirty seconds later, at 12:30 p.m., three shots rang out. The 35th President of the United States was shot. As the car sped toward Parkland Hospital, Kennedy slumped in his wife’s lap, his blood and brain fragments staining her pink wool suit, gloves, stockings.  Jackie crawled out the back of the limo for help from the Secret Service riding in the car behind them.

In an image from the Zapruder film, a fatally-wounded President Kennedy slumps over as Secret Service agent Clint Hill leaps onto the president’s car and pushes Jacqueline Kennedy back.

At the hospital, the doctors worked feverishly to save the president but it was futile. President Kennedy was declared dead, his once vital body loaded limply into a coffin. Jackie accompanied his body to Dallas Love Field where it was loaded onto Air Force One to be flown to Washington.

In her bedroom on board the plane, Jackie’s personal assistant had laid out a fresh outfit for the First Lady. Despite urging from staffers and handlers to “clean up her appearance,” Jackie  refused to get out of her bloodied clothes. She shook her head hard:

No, let them see what they’ve done.”  

Just hours after her husband's assassination, widow Jackie Kennedy stands next to Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One as he is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States. Although her personal assistant laid out a fresh change of clothes on her bed aboard the plane, Jackie refused to change out of her blood-spattered clothing. Also aboard Air Force One was the casket carrying the body of President John F. Kennedy, age 46.

Somehow, that was one of the most poignant sights,” Mrs. Johnson later wrote, “that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.”  

At Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., JFK's brother Attorney General Bobby Kennedy meets Jackie Kennedy when she arrives on Air Force One with the coffin carrying her slain husband's body. Note Jackie's bloodstained suit. Her left leg is caked in blood.

It was not until 5 a.m. the next morning at the White House that Jackie took off the bloodied suit, bathed, and changed outfits. Her mother put the suit in a plastic bag and stored it in her house for many years.   

The suit was never cleaned and never will be. It sits today, unfolded and shielded from light, in an acid-free container in a windowless room somewhere inside the National Archives and Records Administration’s complex in Maryland; the precise location is kept secret. The temperature hovers between 65 and 68 degrees; the humidity is 40 percent; the air is changed six times an hour. (4)  

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the pink pillbox hat remain a mystery. It has never been found.  Somewhere inside Parkland Hospital, the hat came off.  Jackie’s personal secretary, Mary Gallagher recalls:

While standing there I was handed Jackie’s pillbox hat and couldn’t help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin. I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head.”

What happened to the hat after that is unknown. Mary Gallagher lost track of it.

(1) Source   

(2) Source   

(3) Source   

(4) Source: The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 30, 2011. 

Readers: For more on Jackie Kennedy, click here.

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Wallis Warfield marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France. The day before the wedding, the Prince's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent him a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the Prince, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted. (J.Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy,

Wallis Warfield (Simpson) marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France, after he gave up the British throne to be with her. Wallis Warfield Simpson was an American divorcee. For the King to have married her and tried to install her as his Queen would have precipitated a constitutional crisis in Great Britain....The wedding day dawned bright and sunny. It was Wallis' third wedding; her dress was not white but blue. Blue was also the mood. The day before the wedding, the former king's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent Edward a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the former king, now titled the Duke, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' At her entrance, no women had to curtsey, no men to bow. She would not be referred to as "Her Highness" but with the lower form of "Her Grace." "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted upon reading the King's letter. (Bryan III, J. and Murphy, Charles J.V., The Windsor Story. New York: Dell, 1979.)

In 1937, after King Edward VIII had given up the British throne to marry his American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson, the two tiny, trim party animals were exiled to France, where they were doomed to live a life of idle nothingness. They were given the new but hollow titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Accustomed to a lifetime of adulation and privilege yet denied a kingdom, the Duke (and the Duchess), set about creating an imaginary realm of their own that would given them the validation they craved as royals. This new kingdom:

“…was a region whose borders were outlined in society pages, peopled mostly by glamorous nobodies lucky enough to have been born into wealth. It was an ornamental place, whose citizens, according to Andrew Bolton, the curator of ”Blithe Spirit” [a past costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum], were unsurpassed ”in the beauty, elegance and craftsmanship” of their dress. For self-indulgence, they were also hard to beat.”

The people who congregated around the Duke and Duchess were dubbed the “Windsor set.” They were all-consumed with the photographic image.

“They arranged those lives to suit the lens. Voluntarily estranged from the real aristocracy, the Duke of Windsor, with the aid of his wife, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, set up a parallel court composed of people like Elsie de Wolfe, the interior decorator and social arbiter; Mona Bismarck, a gorgeous adventuress who was the daughter of a stableman on a Kentucky horse farm; and Daisy Fellowes, whose fortune derived from sewing machines and who had the distinction of being one of the first people on record to alter her nose surgically.”

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

Granted, the Windsors were despicable people, dining with Adolf Hitler in 1937 and hobnobbing with fellow Nazi sympathizers and British ex-pats Oswald Mosley and wife Diana Mitford. Nevertheless, the Duke and Duchess – and their fancy friends – obsessed with clothing,  had tremendous style.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of ARt, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcemen from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcement from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

The Windsors were famous for their elegant Paris dinner parties, creating a demand for expensive clothes and jewels for them and their guests. Thus, the prewar years in France from 1935-1940 were rich in the decorative arts, putting trendy fashion designers front and center. It was a time when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was “rethinking the suit” to allow for the way women really move and Elsa Schiaparelli* was designing lobster dresses with surrealist Salvador Dali.*

Then Hitler invaded Poland and World War II shattered the fantasy world of endless cocktail parties and silk and organza gowns made to order. The Germans invaded and occupied France.

Shockingly, Coco Chanel spent the war years living at the Ritz in Paris with a Nazi officer. After the war was over, Chanel was arrested by the free French for suspicion of collaborating with the Nazis. She purportedly offered this explanation for sleeping with the enemy:

 “Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover.”

It is generally believed that Winston Churchill  intervened with the French government, convincing them to let his old friend Coco Chanel escape to Switzerland rather than be paraded through the streets of Paris with her head shaved like other female Nazi collaborators.

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

Fast forward 19 years. It's November 22, 1963. Jackie Kennedy,* in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, is riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

*For more on the Kennedys on this blog, please see right sidebar – Categories – People  – the Kennedys.
See “Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor,” which follows this blog post.

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Michael Jackson unveiled his moonwalk dance on March 25, 1983, when he performed his hit song, "Billie Jean," on the TV special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever

Michael Jackson unveiled his moonwalk dance on March 25, 1983, when he performed his hit song, "Billie Jean," on the TV special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever

I was 29 years old when Michael Jackson and his brothers blew through Texas with their 1984 summer Victory Tour. It was July. I was a fifth-grade school teacher during the regular year. During the summer I was waiting tables at the Night Hawk Steakhouse. Michael Jackson’s record-setting album and video, “Thriller,” was a huge hit.

On Fridays during the school year, I gave my students a treat. At lunchtime, I ordered out for pizza. Then I rolled a TV on a tall stand into my classroom, turned out the lights, shut the blinds, and showed my students the “Thriller” video. We got up out of our chairs and danced. Michael Jackson gave us the chills. We just couldn’t get enough of his energy.

Back to the Victory Tour. It was July 15, 1984 – a Sunday – and I’d just finished my wait shift at the Night Hawk. I clocked out then jumped into my un-air-conditioned Honda and headed South to my apartment. I turned on the radio. The announcer was talking about how exciting the Victory Tour was. Michael Jackson was in Dallas! He had performed Friday and Saturday nights. He was to perform just one more night at Texas Stadium before continuing on his tour. Hasting’s on the Drag across from U.T. still had tickets.

I exited IH 35 and headed straight to Hastings, bought a ticket, raced home, changed clothes, and hit IH 35 for Dallas. When I got there, I realized what a crummy seat I had. The concert started and the lights went down real low, low enough, I discovered, for me to jump over a concrete wall, hunker down, and slither all the way down to the wheelchair section at the front of the stage undetected. A mother sitting in a front row seat gestured to me to come over. She was holding a child in her arms and offered me the empty seat to her right. I took it. I watched the show from a front row seat.

The show was great.  Michael Jackson performed all the songs from the tour, but what I most remember was watching him moondance to “Billie Jean.” Wow. He didn’t sing “Thriller,” which confused me at the time. Now I understand that he didn’t think the choreography translated well into a stage song.

Curtis Jerome Haynes

Curtis Jerome Haynes

On a previous post, I’ve written about Marcel Marceau‘s influence on Michael Jackson’s moonwalk (“Michael Jackson and the Moonwalk“). Here’s a video sent to me via an old friend, musician Curtis Jerome Haynes, showing the origins of the moonwalk. Some of the “Origins of the Moonwalk” dancers featured in the video are Cab Calloway, Fred Astaire, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

In reference to the youtube clip shown below, Curtis Haynes writes that, 

Missing from the montage are James Brown, the Nicholas Brothers, and Marcel Marceau.”

Thanks, Curtis!

Readers, for more on this blog on Michael Jackson, click here.

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