The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby
The dedication reads ‘For those of us who fell under her spell’.
Judging this book by it’s cover, it’s not too tricky to figure out ‘her’ is Jacqueline Kennedy. And under her spell I firmly am. I love her…..There is just something about Jackie.
Also, I would just about die to have her hair and have tried to fashion mine in a similar way but end up looking more Alice from The Brady Bunch than the First Lady. But enough about me and my coiffe – let’s talk Jackie.
We all know the pink suit right? Jacqueline Kennedy was wearing it the day her husband, President Kennedy was shot and killed. Images of those terrible moments and the pink suit splattered with blood are haunting.
This tale is all about that suit and how it came to be.
It’s a novel based on fact. The folk in the story are embellished or built by the author’s imagination starting with the main character Kate – an Irish-born seamstress – who hand-stitches the pink suit for ‘Her Elegance’ or the ‘Wife’ as Jackie is referred to by all. Apparently ‘Kate’ existed and did some finishing work on the actual suit but that is all that is known of her in real life. The author however crafts her and her voice as delicately as the seams on the pink suit itself. We follow her as she finds love but the suit remains always, her obsession.
As books go, it is not Wuthering Heights but it is a lovely read if you love stories about fashion, the 60s and Jackie. And, it is a compelling read if you know anything about That.Horrible.Day. Reading it, you feel like you have taken a seat in the quiet corner of the seamstress’s studio and you listen to the backroom natter and watch as the pink suit comes to life. You can’t help but feel sad with each tiny stitch because, well, let’s face it, you know how this story ends.
The Wife is never directly in this tale. She is seen from afar or heard from behind doors and fitting-room curtains. She remains an enigma from beginning to end.
It is not all sad, don’t worry. There are some lovely things in the book and Coco Chanel even makes an appearance puffing away like a proverbial chimney (as does the First Lady ! Apparently much of the repair and darning of the First Lady’s clothes involved sorting out ciggie burns…Who knew?). Chanel actually designed the suit but Jackie was forbidden to wear European labels, only American, so European designs were purchased by the US fashion houses, re-created perfectly and the original designers paid handsomely.
The storytelling about the suit is beautiful- the weave, the texture, the lining, buttons and the colour – it’s all lovely, detailed stuff. This particular colour pink was meant to be the happiest pink in the world but, in the end, it was was the last colour the President saw as he died. And so the suit became a symbol of strength to Americans, and the world, as Jacqueline Kennedy showed extraordinary grace and dignity wearing it that horrible day.
So it deserves it’s own story – it was a beautiful suit, after all.
And that is my two cents worth.