Now I’m not a fashion maven at all. I could care less about designers or dresses or fabrics or any of that stuff. These entertainment magazines that have pages and pages documenting Hollywood fashion I zone out flipping through them. At all these award shows the stupidest question to me is when these celebrities are asked “Who are you wearing?”. I could care less.
It’s kind of an odd sounding question when you think about it. Almost something like you would ask a deranged serial killer who skins people. Too bad Jodie Foster never got around to asking Buffalo Bill who he was wearing in Silence of the Lambs.
However, one recent fashion-related article caught my attention. Well, it’s kind of fashion-related, but more history-related. A question regarding the location on one of the most famous fashion accessories ever – where is Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat?
On November 22nd 1963 President John F. Kennedy was visiting Dallas, Texas. Riding along the streets in an open-topped limousine with his wife Jackie alongside him he was shot and killed by an assassin.
His sudden and violent death became one of the most remembered events in the 20th century. The world mourned and everyone gathered around television sets to watch the historic news unfold.
For the first time television provided live coverage of a shocking, major news event and the country stopped to watch. From the first breaking news reports of the President being shot, to his funeral in DC three days later the country followed all the news coverage.
Even today, generations later, everyone knows about the Kennedy assassination and the images that were left by it in that day in November of 1963. One of the most famous ones was of the glamorous first lady Jackie. Photos of her wearing that pink dress and pillbox hat in Dallas became a representation of the event and the change that had hit the country.
When you watch the color footage recounting that day, Jackie in her pink suit stands out in every frame. It’s hard not to have your eyes drawn to her, even without that bright outfit.
The contrast between the elegant, beautiful, smiling Jackie from early in the day sitting beside her husband to the shocked, expressionless woman with her husband’s blood covering her as she accompanied his coffin back to Washington DC a few hours later, became a photographic time capsule that would tell the story simply and directly.
So I was surprised to read that the whereabouts of Jackie’s pillbox hat are unknown.
The suit itself is being stored in a climate-controlled vault in the National Archives and is banned from public view for 100 years. It’s still stained with the President’s blood and will never be cleaned.
It was suggested to the First Lady to change clothes after Kennedy’s death, but she refused saying “let them see what they’ve done”. From there Jackie wore the blood-stained suit accompanying her husband’s coffin back to Washington and standing alongside Vice President Lyndon Johnson as he took the oath of office.
Jackie Kennedy had a class and style that naturally affected fashion trends at the time. The pillbox hat became popular during that period mainly due to her. However, leaving aside the famous fashion aspect to it and looking at that piece of clothing as a significant piece of American history, which it is, I was pretty surprised that it has become lost.
I won’t recount the entire article. It recounts all the details and traces the known whereabouts of the hat better than I could. Look it up though. It’s a pretty interesting story of how such a famous and enduring item from that historical event is likely gone forever.