Robert Everett-Green Examines the Menswear of the JFK Assassination

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Everyone remembers Jackie Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit, that looked so chic and fresh when she arrived in Dallas, so gory and awful when she left three hours later. But who knows anything about the clothes worn by the two men shot that sunny day in November, 1963?

The two, of course, were Texas Governor John Connally, who survived, and President John F. Kennedy, who did not. Like most politicians, neither dressed to draw attention to their clothes, yet what they wore that day was intensely scrutinized later. What happened to the clothes during the shooting helped explain what happened to the men, and even exactly when it occurred. The garments were part of the crime scene, and part of the collateral damage, sustaining injuries that mirrored those of the victims.

The president disembarked from Air Force One in a grey two-button sack suit, pin-striped white shirt, blue and grey grid-patterned tie, dark socks and black oxfords. It was a typical outfit for Kennedy, who helped popularize a relaxed variation of the Ivy League look associated with the Eastern establishment. Veteran style writer G. Bruce Boyer describes Kennedy’s preferred style of coat as a single-breasted, unvented cut with “small, soft shoulders, shallow chest and little waist suppression.” Minimal waist contour went along with the sack or sacque coat, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a loose-fitting coat the back of which is not shaped to the figure, but hangs more or less straight from the shoulders.” Boyer says Kennedy liked “plain-fronted, slim-leg, cuffed trousers,” though the ones he wore in Dallas look full by current standards. The tailor was either Sam Harris, who dressed Kennedy until 1961, or Sidney Winston (“Chipp”), another New York tailor who took over after Harris, in a Life magazine interview, spoke about the presidential wardrobe too freely for Kennedy’s liking.

Connally met the president on the tarmac at Love Field in a more conservative black wool three-button suit, tailored by Oxford Clothes for the John L. Ashe clothing store in Forth Worth. He wore a plain white Arrow shirt with French cuffs, a black and gold striped tie, and an off-white western-style hat that he held in his lap during the motorcade, and kept holding even after a bullet had damaged nerves in his wrist.

The Warren Commission examined these clothes while trying to determine the path of the first bullet to strike Kennedy, which passed through his back and neck and then (according to the Commission) inflicted several wounds on Connally. In the process, it ripped through 19 layers of cloth, as the report details with tailorly precision. The bullet, it says, “entered the back of [Kennedy's] clothing in the vicinity of his lower neck and exited through the front of his shirt immediately behind his tie, nicking the knot of his tie in its forward flight.” The Commission found holes “on the rear of the coat, 5 3/8 inches below the top of the collar and 1 3/4 inches to the right of the centre back seam,” and in the shirt “5 3/4 inches below the top of the collar and 1 1/8 inches to the right of the middle of the back of the shirt,” with corresponding holes on the shirt front below the top collar button. The report also mentions that after the wounded president arrived at Parkland Hospital, “his tie was cut off by severing the loop immediately to the wearer’s left of the knot… The tie had a nick on the left side of the knot.” The obsessive concern with exactly what happened to shirt, jacket, and tie gives you the fleeting impression that part of the crime was the damage inflicted on the clothes.

The report offers the same level of detail about the bullet’s passage through Connally’s coat, shirt, sleeve, French cuff, and pant leg, though omits the data (supplied by Connally’s wife Nellie) that the slug also shattered one of his Mexican-peso cufflinks. The Commission’s examinations of the bullet holes—jagged tears, mostly—was hampered slightly by the fact that the blood-spattered shirt had been laundered before it was given to investigators. I like to think that this washing had less to do with evidence-tampering than with someone in the Connally household finding it unseemly to hand a bloody rag over to a panel of US government officials.

The holes in Kennedy’s clothes didn’t quite match up with each other, which seemed suspicious until photos were produced that showed the president rode with the back of his jacket slightly bunched up below the neck. A detail of Connally’s clothing actually helped pinpoint the exact moment at which he and Kennedy were hit. Close examination of the famous video made of the event by Abraham Zapruder—a Dallas womenswear maker—revealed that the right lapel of the governor’s jacket swells out slightly in the film’s 223rd frame. Computer animator Dale Myers, who spotted the lapel movement in 1993, concluded that it was caused by the bullet bursting through Connally’s chest.

Like Jackie’s pink suit, the clothes Kennedy wore in Dallas have never been shown in public. (By the way, Jackie’s suit was not actually made by Chanel; it was an authorized copy made by Chez Ninon of New York, commissioned to show that the First Lady supported American clothiers). Connally’s outfit, however, went on display recently at the Texas State Archive and Library in Austin. The black suit, as shown in this slideshow, looks suitably funereal. The white laundered shirt is still speckled with rust-coloured blood stains. These are the clothes not just of a man, but of a memory that still haunts the American people and their politics.

text // Robert Everett-Green

Keeping Don Draper in Business: Vintage Advertising

A few months ago, my print-obsessed self saved some old copies of New York Magazine from a trash can. The ads I found inside were either too gorgeous or amusing to keep to myself, so I thought, who better to share them with than the WORN audience?

February 15, 1971
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Shopping Fever

I sit staring at a room filled with white Chanel bags for the seventh time, wondering if I am getting any closer to meaning. Watching Karl Lagerfeld unveil the Fall-Winter 2010/2011 Ready to Wear Pre Collection in a Godard-esque short has left me in a somewhat bemused. However, once you get over the initial sting of thinking ‘Why aren’t I drinking expensive champagne after a Chanel binge?’, the film opens itself up for a more critical interpretation.

‘Shopping Fever’ is at a very basic level, a portrait of excess and indulgence. Many of these design house shorts (which I too often find myself watching), seem to promote this type of lavishness without economic concern or consequence. Women lie on beds of goose feathers while Swarovski diamonds shower down upon them, and we jump out of our itchy one hundred thread count sheets, and into whatever trendy item it is that we can’t afford. In most cases, these design house shorts promote a lifestyle behind their brand that remains unobtainable to the masses. In Shopping Fever though, what Lagerfeld is doing is a bit different, perhaps even subversive.

Overall, the short comes across as comical, and not just because of my critical, excess-is-silly eye. It is this comedic quality that allows Lagerfeld’s short to be viewed as more progressive, and ‘not just another design house ad’. The sequencing and soundtrack alludes to that of a 1960s suspense trailer; the juxtaposition of this and Dree Hemingway ‘angrily’ clutching her head in her hand, next to overflowing Chanel bags, parodies both the genres of suspense and fashion advertising. A typical suspense trailer offers its audience excitement, dramatics, lies and scheming, normally for some sort of high stakes situation (e.g the world ending). Here, the dramatics are all moulded around whatever could be in that bag (this seasons must-have jeggings, perhaps?). Whatever the bags contain, the viewer knows it is most likely not earth shattering (or even remotely feverish), and the dramatics of the rest of the short come off as comical. Instead of being in a state of frenzied awe and running to our nearest credit card, as most fashion advertisements encourage us to do, Lagerfeld’s piece allows the common viewer to sit back and chuckle at the ‘problems’ of the wealthy. Like a comedy of manners, Lagerfeld is satirizing the behaviours of his top consumers. After my now eighth survey of ’Shopping Fever’, I still am enamoured by a room filled with Chanel goodies, but can do so without jealousy or wanting to break the bank. I relax and begin to feel like good old uncle Karl is giving a wink to the proletariat.

- Casie Brown

Book Review: Perfumes: A Guide

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a good smell. Whether damp soil, lilies, new shoe leather, inland water, church incense, a clean shirt or old books, almost nothing produces as visceral a reaction as scent. It conjures memory, desire, and potential; a lovely fragrance makes everything nicer, an unpleasant odor makes everything worse. So it’s no surprise I was curious to read Perfumes: A Guide.

At first glance, the book has an encouraging heft, with perfume reviews from page 51 to 366. I was slightly put off by the lack of images, but after reading a few random reviews I discovered this volume had something much better: A sense of humour. Within the first fifteen minutes of leafing through this book, I laughed out loud no less than five times. The authors are clever, imaginative, and in possession of a biting wit. Whether I recognized (or cared about) a particular subject or not, I found myself devouring every review as though I was reading a collection of short stories.

I was also pleased to find the ratings economically democratic. The book includes everything from the cheapest drugstore colognes to the most exclusive high-end fragrances, and it was nice to discover they were equally exposed to praise or censure. In a favourable review of David Beckham’s Instinct, Sanchez declares that “snobbery in perfumery is pointless,” and Turin gives Cacharel’s LouLou (a high school favourite) five stars; “Do not be misled by the fact that LouLou, when found, is likely to be cheap. This is one of the greats.” Lady Stetson also gets top marks. On the opposite side, Chanel’s Allure Homme Sport is described as “being stuck in an elevator for twelve hours with a tax accountant,” and their Gardenia as a “loud, airport-toilet floral.” Ha.
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