It reads like any other travel itinerary: “8:45 Breakfast,” “10:45 Leave for airport,” “11:35 Arrive Dallas….” When Gil Wells uncovered these notes in his grandmother’s possession in 2015, it was one detail, an outfit planned for the morning of Friday, November 22, 1963 that left him in shock: “Pink + Navy Chanel Suit.”
There’s no denying the intrigue of the Jackie Kennedy-penned packing list, one of the few surviving documents conceived in the final days in the life of her then-husband President John F. Kennedy. But when one looks beyond the tragic narrative lurking therein, the notes offer another, quieter insight: a glimpse into the elegance and presence of the former First Lady, whose position as a style icon had by this time forged her an identity independent of her husband’s position.
The list, the discovery of which was first reported by The New York Times, is in Jackie’s handwriting and includes other staples of her iconic “Jackie” look: “White Chanel coat,” “Pearls,” and “White kid gloves.” The list would have been composed for her personal assistant, Providencia Paredes. She was known for her love of European designers, like Chanel. But that interest was always a lightning rod for critics who believed that as First Lady, she should have been wearing exclusively American designs.
Thus, her iconic pink Chanel suit with matching hat and gloves would become Jackie’s trademark. It had previously been adopted as a symbol of feminine sophistication and independence, especially with the still-recent rise of the color pink in 1950s fashion. It was apparently at the behest of her husband that Jackie chose it. “There are going to be all these rich, Republican women [in Dallas],” the President had reportedly said to her. “Be simple—show these Texans what good taste really is.” As it was the one she was wearing when her husband was assassinated, the pink suit she selected, in response, would go down in history.
The packing list that draws reference to it, which Wills donated to the United States Government in March 2016, has been with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston since then. There are no plans in place to display it to the public, though without opposition from Jackie’s daughter, Caroline, it may only be a matter of time. The Connecticut-based collectibles dealer John Reznikoff estimated that the list would fetch $75,000 if it had been brought to auction. “It’s a really sexy document,” he told The New York Times. “It has everything: her poise, her planning, her status as a fashion icon and, of course, the dark side.”