Today is the 86th birthday of the woman who once said, “You have to have been a Republican to know how good it is to be a Democrat.” Our eternal FLOTUS and the yardstick upon which all others that have held that position are measured: Jackie O. The absolute style icon, redefining women’s fashion and still influencing how women dress fifty years later. The highs and lows of her life are of the sort that almost all of us will never experience. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
NAME: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
OCCUPATION: U.S. First Lady
BIRTH DATE: July 28, 1929
DEATH DATE: May 19, 1994
EDUCATION: Vassar College, Paris-Sorbonne University, George Washington University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Southampton, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
BEST KNOWN FOR: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, noted for her style and elegance, was the wife of President John F. Kennedy and later married Aristotle Onassis.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis (July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis; they remained married until his death in 1975. For the final two decades of her life, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a successful career as a book editor. She is remembered for her contributions to the arts and preservation of historic architecture, her style, elegance, and grace. A fashion icon, her famous pink Chanel suit has become a symbol of her husband’s assassination and one of the lasting images of the 1960s. A book containing the transcripts of interviews with Kennedy from 1964 was released in September, 2011.
During her husband’s presidency, Jacqueline Kennedy became a symbol of fashion for women all over the world. She retained French-born American fashion designer and Kennedy family friend Oleg Cassini in the fall of 1960 to create an original wardrobe for her as First Lady. From 1961 to late 1963, Cassini dressed her in many of her most iconic ensembles, including her Inauguration Day fawn coat and Inaugural gala gown as well as many outfits for her visits to Europe, India and Pakistan. In her first year in the White House, Kennedy spent $45,446 more on fashion than the $100,000 annual salary her husband earned as president. Her clean suits with a skirt hem down to middle of the knee, three-quarter sleeves on notch-collar jackets, sleeveless A-line dresses, above-the-elbow gloves, low-heel pumps, and famous pillbox hats were an overnight success around the world that quickly became known as the “Jackie” look. Although Cassini was her primary designer, she also wore ensembles by French fashion legends such as Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior. More than any other First Lady her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and a large segment of young women.
In the years after the White House, her style changed dramatically. Gone were the modest “campaign wife” clothes. Wide-leg pantsuits, large lapel jackets, gypsy skirts, silk Hermès head scarves and large, round, dark sunglasses were her new look. She often chose to wear brighter colors and patterns and even began wearing jeans in public. Beltless, white jeans with a black turtleneck, never tucked in, but pulled down over the hips, also was a fashion trend that she set.
Throughout her lifetime, Kennedy acquired a large collection of exquisite and priceless jewelry. Her triple-strand pearl necklace designed by American jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane became her signature piece of jewelry during her time as First Lady in the White House. Often referred to as the “berry brooch,” the two fruit cluster brooch of strawberries made of rubies with stems and leaves of diamonds, designed by French jeweler Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., was personally selected and given to her by her husband several days prior to his inauguration in January 1961. Schlumberger’s gold and enamel bracelets were worn by Kennedy so frequently in the early and mid-1960s that the press called them “Jackie bracelets”. His white enamel and gold “banana” earrings were also favored by her. Kennedy wore jewelry designed by Van Cleef & Arpels throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Her sentimental favorite was the wedding ring given to her by President Kennedy, also from Van Cleef & Arpels.