Did Jackie Kennedy Wear Knockoff Chanel?

The second issue of Style.com’s print magazine hits newsstands on April 2, and while we can’t wait to see which shoes ruled the fashion week runways, we were most intrigued by an interview featuring Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld, in which the pair discuss the iconic pink suit worn by Jackie Kennedy on the day of her husband’s assassination. While Roitfeld credits it as the first Chanel jacket she ever saw, Lagerfeld says it was a copy.

Carine Roitfeld: “The first Chanel jacket that I saw – that I knew was Chanel – was on TV. It was on Mrs. Kennedy – the pink one.”
Karl Lagerfeld: “In 1963. It was a fake, a line-by-line copy by Cassini. She did have real Chanels, [but] her sister ordered them. We have all the proof.”

As it turns out, the authenticity of Kennedy’s Chanel suit has been hotly debated. The Wikipedia page for the suit itself (yes, it has one) says, “A number of sources claimed it was more than likely a copy of Chanel; some asserted it was made by Chez Ninon in a New York dress salon in 1961, copying a Chanel pink bouclé wool suit trimmed with a navy blue collar.”

In Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, author Justine Picardie writes that the materials (fabric, buttons, trim) for the jacket came directly from Chanel in Paris, but that the suit was fitted and made for Kennedy at Chez Ninon, using what was called the “line for line” system put in place by Chanel. Picardie’s biography was authorized by Chanel, which makes us think she’s got the truth of things.

So why would Kennedy go to such lengths to have an official Chanel suit made by a company that wasn’t Chanel? Well, in a story all too familiar to today’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, Kennedy apparently hoped to appear “more patriotic” to the American public by having her clothes manufactured in New York and not abroad.

Sadly, the suit will have a place in fashion’s history regardless of its provenance — it’s currently being stored out of sight in the National Archives, and will remain there until 2103, according to a deed of Caroline Kennedy, Jackie’s sole surviving heir and daughter.

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