Style Icon: Jacqueline Kennedy
(Photo by Art Rickerby/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
When it comes to style, Jacqueline Kennedy remains the gold standard against which all other U.S. first ladies will be measured.
Her acute fashion sense, her beauty and her young age truly signalled to the American public and the world at large that there was a breath of fresh air and optimism being ushered into the White House during the Kennedy era.
“She used the modernity of fashion to imply that her husband’s administration was young, modern and forward-thinking,” once said the noted fashion historian, Valerie Steele.
In the aftermath of her husband’s assassination 50 years ago this week, Jackie shrewdly coined their White House years Camelot, after the mythical castle of the King Arthur legend, and it’s a moniker that is still used today.
While the early 1960s was a period where fashion was viewed as elitist, she made it look accessible.
“What she did was give a totally positive spin to fashion,” said Steele.
Her signature looks were simple strands of pearls – hers were by the costume jeweller Kenneth Jay Lane – white gloves, pillbox hats, demure pumps, understated sheath dresses in sorbet colours and, of course, classic skirt suits that were copies of Chanel.
One of her favourite American designers was Oleg Cassini, and she frequently bought her accessories from Bergdorf Goodman, as noted by a series of letters released this week for auction.
The letters, which detail a correspondence between Jackie and one of the store’s personal shoppers, Marita O’Connor, showed that she both loved and hated her famous hats.
Bridal portrait of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929 – 1994) shows her in an Anne Lowe-designed wedding dress, a bouquet of flowers in her hands in New York, New York. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images). January 1953.
Frank Sinatra escorting Jacqueline Kennedy to her box at a gala, held at the National Guard Armory in Washington DC, the night before the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, 19th January 1961. The gala was staged by Sinatra to help pay off the campaign debts of Kennedy and the Democratic Party (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns).
Pres. cand./Sen. Jack Kennedy being greeted by his wife Jacqueline who is wearing silk-linen sheath dress and her signature pillbox hat as he deplanes at the airport upon returning from the LA Democratic convention. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images). July 1960.
First Lady Jackie Kennedy, in red wool suit and beret on trip to Canada. (Photo by Leonard McCombe/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images).
Prince Philip, Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, and President John F. Kennedy chat after dinner at Buckingham Palace.
June 1961. Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS.
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy enjoys herself at a picnic circa the 1960s. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images).
Three men wait while Jackie Kennedy is seated at a dinner for the America’s Cup Race, at the Breakers estate. September 1962. Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS.
American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at the opening of the Philharmonic Hall (later known as the Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center, New York, New York, September 1962. (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images).
Portrait of American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as she sits on a chair swing during a State Visit to Delhi, India March 1962. (Photo by Art Rickerby/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images). March 1962.
The President of the United States John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline walking in the snowy garden of the White House. Washington, 1962 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images).
President and Mrs. Kennedy stand at attention as the national anthems of Mexico and the United States are played at a formal reception, Mexico City, Mexico, June 30, 1962. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images).
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and NBC News’ Sander Vanocur discussing plans for the new National Culture Center (later renamed The Kennedy Center) in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on November 5, 1962 (Photo by Art Selby/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images).
A full length portrait of U.S. president John F. Kennedy with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and their children, Caroline and John Jr, standing outside in front of a door at his father Joseph P. Kennedy’s estate, Palm Beach, Florida. Easter Sunday, April 14, 1963.
US President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy arriving at San Antonio airport during a campaign tour of Texas, 21st November 1963. The President was assassinated in Dallas the following day. (Photo by Art Rickerby/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).
US President John F Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy arriving at San Antonio airport during a campaign tour of Texas, 21st November 1963. The President was assassinated in Dallas the following day. (Photo by Art Rickerby/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).