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November 22, 1963 by Adam Braver

The following is an excerpt from November 22, 1963 (Tin House Books, 2008) by Adam Braver.

 

Some facts.

When she moved into the White House, Jackie was a size 12. When she left she was a size 8.

Coco Chanel used jersey wool for her suits, a fabric that previously had been reserved for men's underwear. She said it was the perfect material for creating both comfort and understatement.

Jackie demanded that her outfits have clean and compact lines. The material should be firm in body, always holding its shape.

Jackie also popularized the bouffant hairdo, the pillbox hat, and large buttons that resembled gold coins.

Historically, the pillbox hat was a military headdress. In 1962 Halston designed the pillbox hat for Jackie. Halston became a household name; he no longer was Roy Frowich from Des Moines.

The New York Times once asked Jackie if she really spent $30,000 in couture shops on a single trip to Paris. "I couldn't spend that much," she answered, "unless I wore sable underwear." Always the partisan, Pat Nixon responded by saying she preferred American designers, that they are the best in the world. Nixon added, "I buy most of my clothes off the racks in different stores around Washington."

 

Pink.

Traditionally, white is a symbol of purity, while red connotes passion. When they're combined into pink, the color then indicates gentleness. It also tends to symbolize new birth.

 

The Suite in the Hotel Texas.

Wanting to make Jack and Jackie's stay as memorable as possible, a group of Fort Worth patrons arranged to have a mini art exhibit hung in the presidential suite at the Hotel Texas. Van Gogh. Monet. Picasso. The patrons even went so far as to create an exhibit catalog. Because they didn't arrive until nearly midnight, neither Jack nor Jackie even noticed it. It didn't get their full attention until morning.

 

Readying for Dallas.

The staff told her it would be cool that day, but a Texan's presumption of cold is still hot by any other standard. From the window of the suite at the Hotel Texas, the weather over Fort Worth seemed unassuming, with just a little bit of rain. Still, it was November, and the area was prone to tornadoes and other meteoroligical oddities. It occurred to her that maybe she should have packed something lighter. A fabric that breathes. Already hers looked too heavy for the climate. Dallas might be colder, which would make the outfit seem a little more practical. Glancing out at the shifting Texas sky, she found it hard to imagine that the weather could be predicted with such confidence. Yet there was no choice but to take them at their word. She only had the wool suit.

 

Simple.

She had kept a low profile over the past few months, since Patrick's death. The grief had overwhelmed her in a way that she had never known before, consuming her to the point where the insides of her bones ached, and her thoughts, usually sharp and aware, were deadened, as though each neuron had been stepped on and flattened.

Nobody had pressured her to take this trip, but the Party people were thrilled—tickets and donations for the Texas events skyrocketed when word leaked that the first lady would be coming out west too. The thought of returning to a normal life sounded good. She would work hard on the reelection. Focus her energies on the camaign. And she would travel lightly. Simply. Try to reduce the attention on her. No new clothes. Maybe one dress for cocktail parties, and a day dress and a coat. No maids. Only her secretary, Mary Gallagher, to help with the packing after each stop. And Jackie would even do her own hair.

It was meant to be simple. A gradual reentry into the living.

 

From November 22, 1963 by Adam Braver. Copyright © 2008 by Adam Braver. Published by Tin House Books.

 

 

 

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