If you’re looking for the story of couture sewing, this is the novel for you. The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby follows an Irish dressmaker, Kate, who receives the commission of a lifetime – to create Jackie Kennedy’s iconic pink suit. Of course, no one knows how emblematic this suit will become when it’s worn on a fateful day in Dallas.
The sewing detail in this novel is extraordinary and beautiful. Below, Kate considers the work she’s about to embark on:
The jacket would take more than seventy hours to make. The lining must first be quilted to the fabric before it was cut. Then there were the buttonholes. To be Chanel, they had to be sewn twice. Each one must be embroidered on the boucle side and then bound on the lining side. Then the two must be basted together. It was insanely difficult to do properly because each side must be sewn with a very fine silk thread. The thread was so fine, and so fragile, that you couldn’t pull it through the eye of a needle unless you dipped it in beeswax for strength … And finally, the fabrics were always difficult, at best. The blouse was to be made of a very particular silk charmeuse that was too delicate to be made into a shirt, and impossible to sew without damaging, but would feel wonderful next to the skin. For the suit itself, the boucle was so loosely woven and very fragile – too fragile to wear often. But the softness of the cloth was incomparable, so it must be stitched together with magic and hope. When photographed, Kate knew the suit would appear practical and durable. It would appear conservative. But in reality, it was incredibly fragile and decadent. Everything about it was luxurious and sensuous – and that was its secret.
The details behind the suit are fascinating. Jackie Kennedy couldn’t wear Chanel, because it would appear unpatriotic and excessive in the wife of an American president. So, she had a copy made in New York couture house, Chez Ninon. I love that Jackie presented the face of safe conservatism to the world, whilst secretly enjoying the luxurious whisper of decadent fabrics against her skin. Francis in House of Cards, anyone?!