“Once you can express yourself, you can tell the world what you want from it…” - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
These descriptions fly around so frequently when describing a ‘stylish person’ that sometimes it can lose all its meaning. However, no truer are these words to describe the inimitable Jackie Kennedy Onassis. A woman who used her wardrobe as a powerful tool of communication.
She rewrote the First Lady fashion rulebook (more on that later), in the late ‘50s and early ’60s, inspiring millions to mimic what was later to become the ‘Jackie O Look’.
It makes perfect sense, then, to learn that she was in fact awarded a 12-month Junior Editor job at US Vogue, shortly before her marriage to J.F Kennedy in 1953. Her curated outfit choices – a sophisticated mix of pillbox hats, bold power suits and those signature specs (and lest we forget her bouffant ‘do) - were always considered, polished and, more than anything, aspirational.
And now, the iconic figure will have the spotlight shined on her once more.
As Natalie Portman portrays the former First Lady in hotly-tipped biopic Jackie [released 20th January], we’ve decoded the longstanding appeal of Jackie O’s sartorial splendour, almost six decades later…
The pink ‘Chanel’ suit
Much like Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy LBD and Diane Keaton’s high-waisted trousers, Jackie Kennedy’s trademark look will always be that pink bouclé suit - which she was spotted wearing in public at least six times prior to her husband’s assassination in 1963. To this day, her most famous outfit remains one of America’s greatest fashion mysteries. The design authentication has never been revealed, but it is believed to be an exact replica of a Chanel suit design. The French fashion house reportedly supplied the materials to New York dress shop Chez Ninon, to avoid any political backlash over wearing a non-American label. Kennedy’s navy trim collared twinset, still bloodstained, was then sent to the National Archives with a handwritten note from Kennedy's mother which read, “Jackie’s suit and bag — worn November 22, 1963.” It will not be publicly displayed until 2103.
From L-R: Jacqueline Kennedy (then Jacqueline Bouvier) at a society ball in New York in the early '50s; on her wedding day in 1953 to JFK
Ann Lowe, the first widely recognised African American fashion designer created one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, which Jackie wore to her wedding to John F. Kennedy in 1953. It was by no means an easy commission. Disaster struck just 10 days before the wedding, after a water pipe broke and flooded her studio, destroying the bride’s gown she had spent two months creating. She started from scratch. Ordering more ivory French taffeta and a pastel pink silk skirt with three petticoats. ‘I like for my dresses to be admired,’ Lowe told the Evening Post in 1964. ‘I like to hear about it—the oohs and ahs…’ Job done.
Bright colours played a key part in Jackie Kennedy Onassis' wardrobe - from daffodil yellow and apricots to siren red and pinks. A marigold yellow ball skirt, with a black square-neck top and opera gloves? Bold ‘60s trapeze swing coats to match her dress? No colour was off-limits.
The power of the pillbox hat
During her time in the White House, Mrs. Kennedy became a trend-setter. Case in point: popularising the pillbox hat - invariably her favourite headpiece. For modern interpretations of this look see Kate Middleton and co channelling the ‘60s Pan Am-style.
The ‘70s era
While her look was still glamorous as ever, Jackie O’s image in her later years appeared more relaxed - with a capsule collection full of tailored trousers, culottes, polo-necks and classic trench coats. Gone are the pillbox hats in favour of Hermès silk scarves, oversized shades (apparently, she liked the fact she could people watch inconspicuously in them) and gypsy tops. FYI: A look you will definitely be channelling come Spring 2017.
Watch Natalie Portman talking about how she got into the role below.