When Jackie Kennedy Dressed As a Black Ghost For Halloween

Jean Kennedy Smith, Steve Smith, Jr., Caroline Kennedy, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy pose in Halloween costumes with President John F. Kennedy at the White House, 1962

It was while doing research for yesterday’s post about White House Halloween decorations throughout history that I came upon what has got to be the strangest Halloween costume ever worn by a First Lady. Make that the strangest Halloween costume ever worn by any inhabitant of the White House.

Jackie Kennedy Halloween Costume

Jackie Kennedy Halloween Costume
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s Halloween Costume in 1962

No First Lady in U.S. history is better known for her fashion sense and style than Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was. She put pill box hats and oversize sunglasses on the map, introduced women to Chanel suits and shift dresses and remains the most influential fashion icon in America. Which is what makes her Halloween costume worn as FLOTUS in 1962 appear that much more baffling.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith, and Steve Smith, Jr. (partially hidden) in costumes on Halloween. Second-floor Center Hall, White House

On October 31, 1962 (less than a month before President Kennedy was assassinated) First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister-in-law, Jean Kennedy Smith (who later became the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland) along with Caroline Kennedy and Steve Smith, Jr. all dressed up for Halloween and allowed then-White House photographer Robert Knudsen to photograph them. You’ve probably seen the famous photograph of John Kennedy in the oval office with Caroline and John Jr dressed for Halloween from the same night.

Jean Kennedy Smith, Steve Smith, Jr., Caroline Kennedy, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (far right) pose in their Halloween costumes. Lincoln Bedroom, White House, 1963

The children are wearing witch and skeleton costumes with vacuum-formed masks which were all the rage in the early 60s. But what are so odd are the costumes donned by Jackie and Jean which look like a black and red ghost, respectively.

Jean Kennedy Smith, Caroline Kennedy, Steve Smith, Jr., and the First Lady (far right) walk in their Halloween costumes along the West Wing Colonnade of the White House.

The tarp-like material worn over their heads had eyeholes out of which to see and were paired with, in Jackie’s case, black leggings, black long sleeves, black leather boots and black leather gloves. The profile view kind of looks like McDonald’s Grimace doesn’t it?

It turns out that the costumes were handmade by Jackie herself. Wanting to give her children a “typical American Halloween” she volunteered to make costumes for she and Jean that would conceal their identity in order to trick or treat around Georgetown, the D.C. neighborhood where Jackie and her family lived before moving into the White House. According to Jean Kennedy Smith’s memoirs, Jackie said “We made it through several houses anonymously until someone spotted the Secret Service and our cover was blown. Still we and, most importantly the children, had a marvelous time.”

Jean Kennedy Smith, Steve Smith, Jr., Caroline Kennedy, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (far right) pose in their Halloween costumes. Lincoln Bedroom, White House, 1962

all photos by Robert Knudsen, White House Photographs, courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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