Jackie Kennedy famously wore her blood-stained pink suit while President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in almost immediately after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and the public hasn’t seen it since — but that doesn’t mean they won’t.
CNN reports that Jackie’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, gave the clothing to the People of the United States in 2003 with the caveat that it would not be publicly displayed for 100 years. Even then, the Kennedy family must approve of how the piece of American history is displayed in an effort to make sure the exhibit in no way sensationalizes the tragic moment in American history.
The suit — a Coco Chanel knockoff — is hidden away in a Maryland archive along with the stockings, blue blouse, matching blue shoes and blue purse she wore on Nov. 22, 1963. The only missing piece from the First Lady’s ensemble that day is the pink pillbox hat.
“The hat is a mystery,” Philip Shenon, author of JFK assassination book “A Cruel and Shocking Act,” says. “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.”
In order to preserve the cultural artifact as effectively as possible, the carefully-monitored clothing is stored in a windowless vault in an acid-free container, and the 65 to 68 degree Fahrenheit air is changed about every 20 minutes.
According to the story, the First Lady returned to the White House after the traumatic loss, and her maid placed the outfit in a bag so that Kennedy would never have to look at it again.
Still, Kennedy made sure to keep the outfit on long enough to make a powerful statement. Shenon recounted: “Her remark, and I think she made it more than once, is ‘No, I’m going to leave these clothes on. I want them to see what they have done.'”