Made Up Quotes – Nicole Mary Kelby


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?!

The Pink Suit

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14 Responses to Made Up Quotes – Nicole Mary Kelby

  1. Cherry says:

    This book sounds intriguing so I am off to find it, thanks!
    Have you read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd? A wonderful book about Handful, a slave in the Grimke household in which the abolitionist sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke are growing up. Expert seamstress Charlotte passes down her sewing skills to her daughter, Handful, and she sews a story quilt of her own life. The deep meaning of sewing is one of the key themes that I loved about this book.
    Very different to The Pink Suit but another turning point in the history of America.

  2. norma says:

    I’m going to find this and The Invention of WIngs. Both sound really interesting. Just reading the description of the fabrics brightens up the day.

  3. ooobop! says:

    This was indeed such a wonderful read, Karen. And my mum called last week to say she had finished reading her copy and totally loved it, too!

  4. fabrickated says:

    I saw the review on Ooobop’s blog, read it, reviewed it, tweeted it, and the lovely author Ms Kelby got in touch. I asked her if she had any experience with sewing and she said no, although she does knit.

  5. Jon says:

    I’ve worked in Couture all my life, 22 years at Hardy Amies in London and for the last 12 years on my own, I have always believed that Couture is not about showy extravagant clothes but personal, private luxury, exactly as described in your extract. Most of the clothes I now make are very conservation, even plain on the outside but the insides are always beautiful. Lined in pure silk and all the details of the closings are finely detailed, hand embroidered hooks and eyes for one! Only the wearer really ever sees or experiences these details but I like to think that there is a secret smile of personal, private, pleasure each time she slips into one of my outfits!

  6. Julie S. says:

    If you can, listen to the audio version of this book. I often have them on while sewing but The Pink Suit was another experience entirely. The narration is transporting and having grown up during the Kennedy era made it all the more poignant. Even better if you happen to be working on a French jacket at the time ( I was!)

  7. KW says:

    Jon’s comment has given me a light bulb moment. I don’t have any ambition to make absolutely everything I wear so where to go next with my sewing? I now think it will be to focus on the ‘inside luxury’ of some garments – I love the idea of glamour that only the wearer knows about.

  8. owllaughing says:

    I wonder if anyone has ever compiled a list of good fictional books featuring sewing and sewists. I think there totally should be one 🙂
    I was adding ‘The Pink Suit’ to my to-read list on Goodreads, and GR suggested these: ‘Til the Well Runs Dry’, ‘The Dress Thief’, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’. And then there is also this list: Oh, and also this:

  9. ellegeemakes says:

    I will definitely political this my ‘to read’ list. last year, Marci tilting posted a link to a video shot in a Chanel workroom while they made a jacket. Watching the process was fascinating, you could see that the person who made that jacket loved giving exquisite attention to detail .

  10. Nita says:

    Oh, oh, oh! I am putting that book on my list! Love the passage you quoted. Those last lines…that it would appear conservative but in reality, was fragile & decadent. Gave me shivers. Thanks for the recommend!

  11. Cathrine says:

    To understand how powerful sewing is: THE DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA (Gayle Lemmon & Kamila Sidiqi). She made a living – and taught girls to sew – under the noses of the Taliban in Afganistan.

  12. Pingback: #30for30 – Day 3 | Suga Puddin'

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