The Major Secret About Jackie Kennedy’s Pink “Chanel” Suit
The legendary outfit is about to become infamous.
As Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in aboard Air Force One following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, flanking the newly-minted president was a recently-widowed Jackie Kennedy, clad in a blood-spattered pink tweed suit and a look of shock and horror. Nearly all of the photos from the moment are in black and white, so the pink ensemble doesn’t pop—and yet, the former first lady’s storied suit has still become part of national lore.
Of course, that pink Chanel suit—sometimes referred to as “watermelon” or “strawberry” pink, though it’s actually more of a refined Pepto-Bismol hue—has become iconic, both in terms of JFK’s assassination and the former first lady’s subsequent raw reaction to his public death. However, there’s a secret about that famous pink Chanel suit that most people don’t know: It wasn’t actually Chanel.
Before, during, and after her time in the White House, Kennedy was admired by the American public for her glamorous yet classy style. But some criticized her extravagant taste in foreign fashion during JFK’s presidential campaign.
This public pushback was enough to make her husband’s political team uncomfortable, so they advised Kennedy to appear at the president-to-be’s side in American-made clothing only. NPR notes that her father-in-law, Joseph Kennedy, even stepped in at one point, pairing her with American designer Oleg Cassini.
Ever quick-witted, though, Kennedy found a way to circumvent her circumstances. She acquiesced to employing American designers, but continued to copy international styles and designs with the permission of her favorite foreign designers.
And this is how she wound up with her renowned pink suit—which looks, down to its very buttons, identical to Chanel’s coveted pink suit from the same season. As The Washington Post explains, although the suit did appear to be Chanel, it was actually crafted by a New York-based custom fashion house, Chez Ninon. The Vintage Fashion Guild confirms that Chez Ninon specialized in creating approved, identical “line-for-line custom copies of French couture,” and their replicas matched each original garment down to the button.
So, though the suit was basically Chanel, it technically wasn’t sewn and put together by the famed French fashion house. And given how similar it is to the original, it’s no surprise that the public continues to be misinformed about the origins of the first lady’s most famous outfit.
In fact, the 2003 official document detailing the Kennedy family’s gift of the suit to the National Archives and Records Administrations even lists the ensemble from that fateful day as a “Pink Chanel Suit,” so if you were convinced that it was an original Coco, don’t beat yourself up. And for more surprising celebrity secrets, don’t miss these 23 Met Gala Secrets Only Insiders Know.
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