N.M. Kelby, “The Pink Suit”

largeA secret history of the outfit Jackie Kennedy wore that day in Dallas.

(from VQR, Winter 2013)

There was that odd thing where he seemed to tilt to one side as if to whisper something to her, as lovers often do. Her head turned, the perfect hat still in place, and she, out of instinct, leaned in as if for a kiss.

His face softened.

It took a moment for her to understand.

It was then that something—gray, dark—tumbled down the back of the limo and she followed after it. Held it in her hands as if it were a broken wing.

The first bit is the history homework, a quick, straightforward explanation of the publicly known facts: why she wore the pink suit that day, why she didn’t take it off after it was spotted with blood, how it mysteriously turned up in the National Archives. The rest of N.M. Kelby’s story concerns the secret egos and bureaucracies of the fashion industry, with fabric gathering, dressmaking, fitting, dealing with Chanel’s fickle genius. It gets a little tough to follow sometimes, but “The Pink Suit” is weirdly fun and unpredictable, just not entirely satisfying when it comes to the central mystery. A complaint applicable to all JFK conspiracies.

Read it here. More on N.M. Kelby here. Virginia Quarterly Review, by the way, is one of the best in the biz. Photos, fiction, creative non-fiction — they do so many things right.

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