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Here’s the story behind Natalie Portman’s pink Chanel suit in “Jackie”

Stephanie Hallett
Here’s the story behind Natalie Portman’s pink Chanel suit in “Jackie”

After John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22nd, 1962 in Dallas, Jacqueline Kennedy refused to take off her pale pink suit even though it was stained with her husband’s blood. “Let them see what they’ve done,” she told those around her when asked if she’d like to change clothes. Now, in Jackie, a biopic about Jackie Kennedy’s life, Natalie Portman wears a replica of that pink suit — and it was crafted to perfection with a little help from the artisans at Chanel.

While fashion historians have long debated whether or not Jackie’s iconic skirt suit was indeed a Chanel original — some say it was a line-by-line replica made by a New York design house, Chez Ninon, designed to look exactly like a Chanel suit that Jackie loved but crafted stateside — it’s clear that the suit was at least meant to look like one from Chanel’s 1961 fall/winter collection. So when Jackie costume designer Madeline Fontaine was putting together Portman’s ensemble, she asked the famed French design house for input.

“When [Chanel] saw the fabric, the color, and the way we made it, they agreed to give us the buttons, so it was a real achievement,” Fontaine told New York magazine’s The Cut. “And now they would like one for their archives.”

Jackie Kennedy had publicly  worn the suit at least six times before that fateful day and donned it in Dallas at the special request of her husband, who thought she looked “smashing” in it. “There are going to be all these rich, Republican women at that lunch…wearing mink coats and diamond bracelets,” JFK reportedly told Jackie. “And you’ve got to look as marvelous as any of them. Be simple — show these Texans what good taste really is.”

After his assassination, Jackie wore the suit until she was back at home in the White House. It’s now stored in a windowless, temperature- and oxygen-controlled room at the National Archives and has never been cleaned or displayed publicly; it will remain in storage there until at least 2103, at the request of the Kennedys.

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“It’s really impressive that somebody who was going through something so personally awful and traumatic and terrifying had the presence of mind to understand that it was not only her grief, but also the whole nation’s,”  Portman told USA Today of Jackie’s decision to remain in the suit. “Symbolically, she had to represent something to them and present an image that would make an impact. It seems that the natural instinct would be to get out of that immediately — to get clean, to wipe your husband’s blood off of you. But for her to insist that it stayed on showed this real awareness of public image.”

So haunting.

You can catch Jackie in theaters nationwide in January.

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