Four pieces of paper surfaced last week that have fashion historians and the rest-of-us-just-plain-curious examining their every detail. The papers are Jackie Kennedy's hand written notes of what to pack for that ill-fated trip to Texas in November, 1963. The lists were written on White House stationery and intended for Jackie's personal assistant, Providencia Paredes. Funny how a few small sheets of paper can tell so much about a person, a time and a place.
Jackie was a meticulous organizer. That much we know. How else could she have accomplished all she did as First Lady—arranging the many cultural events and restoring the White House itself along with orchestrating life as a wife and mother of two small children? In addition she loved fashion and used it to carefully construct her persona.
President and Mrs. Kennedy's trip to Texas was intended to shore up Democratic support in a state where it seemed to be slipping. Although Vice President and Texan Lyndon Johnson was a Democrat, as was the state's governor, John Connally, Texas was creeping towards its present Republican majority. None of that was apparent as crowds gathered to greet the Kennedys, stars in the firmament no matter what your political convictions.
Their short trip over a weekend was scheduled thus:
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
> San Antonio: Dedication speech at Brooks Air Force Base for the School of Aerospace Medicine
> Houston: Testamonial dinner honoring Congressman Albert Thomas
> Fort Worth: Arrive at Hotel Texas
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
> Fort Worth: Chamber of Commerce breakfast
> Dallas: Luncheon at Dallas Trade Mart
> Austin: Fundraising dinner at Municipal Audirorium
> Johnson City: Weekend of relaxation at Lyndon Johnson's ranch
It's a touchstone for those of us old enough to remember the day Kennedy died to never forget where we were when we heard the news. I was in the photography department at the Cleveland Institute of Art. A senior, I had fiddled away most of lunch in the studio and was getting ready to return to the afternoon's classes. I instinctively know reading the list today that Jackie never made it to a weekend of relaxation and horseback riding at Johnson's ranch (though she packed for it).
While making notes of what to pack is not a surprise, the fact that these survived certainly is. The notes were found in 2015 in the possessions of the late Shirley Conover, who had once worked in the Department of Veteran Affairs. It was her wish to donate them to the Kennedy Presidential Library, but they were overlooked for some time.
Jackie's notes for that trip specified she wanted to wear a pink and navy Chanel suit, navy shoes, navy bag, and white kid gloves on Friday. Although originally designed by Chanel, Jackie's version was created by one of her dressmakers, Chez Ninon. Though she loved European fashion, Jackie was very careful to wear American. There is then some question whether the white outfit seen below is in fact by Chanel.
Although the museum has 95 of her dresses available for display, including the white outfit she wore the day before Kennedy's assassination, shown below, that pink suit will not go on display until 2103.
|The day before the fateful day|