The reason First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s wardrobe appears to have been curated with laser-like precision is simple: because it was.
Mrs. Kennedy hand-selected every last earring, belt, shoe, and safety pin, making it obvious that the former FLOTUS was acutely aware of the power and influence of her fashion choices.
We know all of this thanks to a newly resurfaced packing list she handwrote for her November 1963 trip to Texas—the same trip during which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. According to The New York Times, Jackie jotted down her itinerary for her personal assistant, Providencia Paredes, that included a detailed list of every item she planned to wear for each event on schedule, down to the jewelry.
To kick off her trip on November 21, she wore head-to-toe Chanel, departing D.C. and arriving at Houston in a white skirt suit with a black bow belt, kitten heels, and a black hat, all styled with white gloves and gold and navy bracelets. In the note, you can also see that Kennedy first planned for a different set of jewels, but must have changed her mind at some point, crossing out the accessories.
Later that day, she planned to wear an all-black look with white kid gloves, pearls, and diamond earrings with a diamond bracelet. As the Times points out, the notes also include mention of Gustave Tassell and Oleg Cassini, two of her favorite designers. But what’s most eerie about her note is the plan for November 22, the day of her husband’s assassination. The note reveals Kennedy’s plan to wear her now-instantly recognizable pink and navy Chanel suit, which she paired with navy shoes, a navy bag, and white kid gloves. The suit was famously stained with his blood.
Kennedy closely guarded her privacy, and now, the notes are part of a long and complicated debate over who gets the privilege of keeping and potentially exhibiting them. Valued at $75,000 each, the notes were donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston by Gil Wells (a man whose family connection to them is unclear) and they are under the close watch of Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy, who oversees her copyrights.
Described as a “meticulous planner,” it's obvious that Kennedy obsessed over her image and was keenly aware of the subtle messages her outfits would convey. The ownership she apparently had over her fashion draws a sharp contrast to First Lady Melania Trump’s recent controversial “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” jacket, which sent a message of indifference, and inspired a thousand think-pieces about whether or not the First Lady has the ultimate say in what she gets to wear.
If Kennedy’s notes tell us anything it’s that every single item of clothing worn by a first lady—especially one with a shouting memo drawn in graffiti-like text—is intentional.