Jacqueline Kennedy was only thirty-one years old when she became America’s First Lady. In about a thousand days of the Kennedy presidency, she dazzled the world with her elegant carriage, exotic looks and beautiful clothes.
I’ve categorized her clothes accordingly: Daytime Functions, Evening Functions, Family and Vacation. There has never been another First Lady like Jackie – not even Michelle Obama comes close. Jackie was the quintessential fashionista; Mrs. Obama, the recessionista.
Jackie selected a wool coat, trimmed in sable for Inauguration day. The oversize buttons are a great detail to it. It was a – politically safe choice: what first-term First Lady wears luxurious mink on Inauguration day? (Remember how Laura Bush chose a Texan designer to do her 2001 Inaugural ballgown then opted for Oscar dela Renta for her 2005 dress?) Jackie had a reason to don a warmer coat – a blizzard had blanketed Washington in snow only the night before and in fact, several women on the Inaugural platform wore fur. I always thought that even at that age, Jackie knew how to stand out. Her slim coat definitely made her easily identifiable and it accentuated her youthful looks. She also must have realized that other women had better mink coats and did not want to draw up unfavorable comparisons. Jackie topped the look with a rather big pillbox hat (which Oleg Cassini and Halston argued artistic rights to). I absolutely love the touch of the sable muff – it definitely had an air of romantic, hopeful youth. It was not Jackie who thought of holding a muff, aparently: it was fashion doyenne and editor, Diana Vreeland who suggested it.
A full-length shot of the outfit. The boots complete the sable-trimmed look. JFK’s top hat is a joke here, sorry.
I am still a fan of oversize collars (this is a heavy, personal bias) and I love how it wraps around her neck beautifully. Her pearl earrings here are lovely accessories though she looks like she’s on an amphetamine high in this picture.
Jackie, pictured here with Dorothy McMillan after tea in April 1961. I think Jackie forgot to remove the tea towel from her collar! The scalloped edge of her blouse would have been an interesting detail enough but that unnecessary piece of cloth is distracting and downright unattractive. She also looks very tired here, despite her smile.
Jackie’s mink coat here adds a luxurious touch but am afraid her sister Lee trumped her here with a exquisitely detailed silk dress and fur stole. Even the little sister’s handbag is more interesting. And what is wrong with Jackie’s hair?
Jackie’s shift is rather plain vanilla here but she touched it up with her signature pearl necklace and Schlumberger bracelets. I love those bracelets but even in the 1960’s those go for a hefty thousand or two thousand dollars each. I absolutely hate Grace Kelly’s hairpiece here – it looks like she’s channeling Medusa. The Grimaldis pale in comparison to the Kennedys. Rainier just looks ill at ease and Grace looks like a flirt.
Jackie is more in her element when she is abroad. This is one of my favorite Jackie looks – the beret and the mountie-style collars. I suppose she did enough research to know that Canadians just might turn up in their pillbox-style military caps. I like the touch of the brooch on her lapel. She looks very refined and relaxed here.
This jonquil yellow suit and pillbox hat is probably one of her most recognizable day suits. Jackie chose this silk ensemble for a State Visit to France. Her hair is arranged impeccably, her pearls tucked in place. But there is an uptight feel to this scenario, sort of like a hard-edged look has come over Jackie. She has become a world-renowned figure – and she is aware of it.
Jackie, with her sister Lee, in London, 1961. Once again Mrs. Kennedy looks rather self-conscious and her clothes pale in comparison to Princess Radziwill’s relaxed elegance.
In June that year, Lee and Jackie go on a Greek vacation. Once again, Lee does Jackie better with a cool green sheath. Jackie’s plain vanilla dress is quite blah and those bangs! She ought to have followed her little sister’s lead and just pulled her hair back. Both sisters opted for a bow tie but Lee’s came off as daintier.
Jackie in Acropolis. Now, this blue dress shimmers and gave her a sleek overall look with the usual accessories – pearls and a brooch. But I am tiring of her look at this point.
Jackie dons a scarf here but it merely emphasizes her huge head. Once again, those bangs should be outlawed.
Jackie in a silk suit. Interesting material and pattern for a handbag and it does add some pizzazz to an otherwise safe silk choice.
Little Caroline tags along with her mother as Jackie heads for a morning reception. I am a huge fan of those cute pillbox hats and I think it is one of Jackie’s main contribution to the fashion of the sixties.
I like the lace mantilla and the little handbag here. Jackie’s church attire varied little and she usually used kid gloves to complement the solemn look.
Jackie in Easter, 1963. The A-line sheath, lace mantilla, gloves and pumps look really good on her but it hardly signaled originality, in my opinion. After all, the Kennedy sisters also sported the same look but Jackie just pulled it off better.
Jackie christens a ship. She does have an eye for color and was not afraid to wear bold hues such as this. She really has that aura where she still looks elegant despite wine drops spattering in front of her.
Jackie in India. The green trim really blares out color here in a beautiful way. The next photo is also of Jackie in India:
With Nehru. Am not a fan of her hat as it flattens her head like a pancake but I like the shimmery blue color of her dress. In a colorful garden such as this, Jackie blends and stands out at the same time.
Still in India. The dress leaves me cold; the lei was certainly given by her host and… those white shoes? She could have chosen a more interesting printed dress.
Now this features Jackie’s sense of culture. I love the print of the dress and the headband she chose. This makes her look radiant.
Jackie in the Taj Mahal. The green printed dress offset in white accessories with the marble monument rising behind her – one of the more underrated iconic Jackie images.
Jackie in an apricot silk dress in India. This is one of my favorite looks as apart from the elegance of the dress and accessories, Jackie looks radiant. Her sister Lee can be seen, seated, in pink dress and scarf.
The official White House portrait of the First Lady. Whenever people requested for a picture of Jackie, this was the one usually distributed. This is one of Jackie’s best haircuts but the dress is rather bland and the pose is more Hollywood than White House. It is such a corny pose, the hand-under-chin, the chintz sofa, the come-hither gaze. Jackie has other candid shots that are more dignified, most notably:
Now, this is the Jackie elegance personified.
Jackie’s 1962 White House tour. I love the touch of the bangles and the red hue of the dress but the collar seems to make her look puffy. This is one of the iconic images of Jackie as First Lady.
Jackie with LBJ in San Antonio Texas, November 21, 1963. This was to be her last full day as First Lady. I think this boucle suit is one of the underrated ensembles of Jackie, probably because the pink suit she wore the next day would be of staggeringly historical proportions. The cream color, trimmed in black, looks really fresh and pretty, with her pink lipstick providing a touch of color.
The pink wool suit Jackie wore on the day of her husband’s assassination was actually a tried-and-tested piece of clothing. It was one of the few pieces Jackie actually used at least three times:
With Lee in London, 1962. Lee’s suit and hair are also notables in this picture. Her profile alone looks ravishing!
Jackie looking at plans for Lafayette Square in 1962.
With John, Jr. in 1963.
And she wore it for the final time here:
Jackie Kennedy’s daytime suits reinvented the role of the First Lady. She was not just the spouse of the President but a personality in her own right. It also meant that after Jackie, the clothes of succeeding First Ladies would be scrutinized and analyzed. To Jackie’s credit, she started her role as First Lady in an elegant coat and when it all came to an end, she was still impeccably dressed. And this final pink suit became her most famous daytime ensemble of all.
UP NEXT: Jackie Style (Volume IV – the Kennedy Years – Evening Wear)