Historical Perspective


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The sixties kicked off with such high hopes for the Kennedy family and Jackie Kennedy was right at the center of it. The euphoric hustle-and-bustle was such none of them could have imagined that the decade was going to end in tragedy and scandal.

The American public’s antennae picked up on Jackie because of her sense of style and self. She was quiet, reserved with a touch of wit and glamor.

Jackie wore this red coat when Jack announced his candidacy on January 2, 1960. It’s a bit matronly looking on her and she was not even pregnant here. She definitely went for a safe, warm look – perhaps to not antagonize middle-class America?

In July, the Kennedys attend the Democratic National Convention but Jackie did not stay for the final victory. This is one of my favorite Jackie Looks of the ’60’s (and I must have about ten of those because the ’60’s was really the Jackie decade). It’s an alpaca coat which she matched with kid gloves. It’s warm and luxe.

Every time I see this picture, it’s always in color and justifiably so. Jackie pairs an orange turtleneck with pink capris (a veritable prismatic look). This picture was taken after Jack secured the Democratic Presidential Nomination and right before campaign started. I do note Jackie’s pink lips and Jack’s obviously new hair cut. The couple already have that patina of celebrity.

Jackie looks through campaign mail. I’m a sucker for oversized collars, which Mrs. Kennedy used to balance out her head size and bouffant.

Jackie types up her weekly column “Campaign Wife”, which is really such a dull title it leaves nothing to the imagination. Once again, the oversize collars take center stage and this time, with a brooch. Actually, this is a pretty good take on Jackie’s hair – it’s not as crazy pouffy as it would become later on. The bangle on her arms looks too small and tight though.

Jackie with Lady Bird Johnson. I do not like the cream, buttoned-up dress any better than her too-dark lipstick (unless, this is merely the lighting). I’d poke at Jackie’s hair which looks like it’s on pre-fizz stage but Lady Bird looks like she’s had her hair set for dreadlocks.

Jackie wears a chic cape and her hair appears to be behaving itself. I like this photo as it shows her standing next to her mother and one can compare the mother-and-daughter style file. Mrs. Auchincloss looks very tasteful and refined: the prints work even with the mid-section bow. Maybe it’s the background of trees and the French poodle sitting between them but this really came off as an elegant picture.

Jackie played up – played down- her pregnancy beautifully here, with the soft cloth, the brooch and empire-cut waist. I wish she had maintained this hairstyle as First Lady.

Election Day, 1960. Jackie wears a comfortably chic (oxymoronic as it sounds) cowl-neck coat. It’s very understated and unfussy – her basic signature look.

For victory day, Jackie chose a cloth coat similar to the one she wore when Jack announced his candidacy over ten months ago. I like how she paired it with leather gloves. JFK’s memorable statement that day, “So my wife and I prepare for a new administration… and a new baby.” That baby, of course, was John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Later that day, photographers descended on the Kennedy compound and took pictures of the family. I opted for this Jack-and-Jackie snap as it offers a closer look on Jackie’s dress and accessories. It looks like wool and sets off the flower brooch and triple strand of pearls she’s wearing. Three weeks later, she gives birth to young John and then he is baptized two weeks later.

This is the first time Jackie wore the closest rendering of a pillbox hat; usually, she works with berets that are perched at the back of her head. Apparently, the pillbox hat has its roots in military headgear and was used by the Royal Military College of Canada:

The material of Jackie’s pillbox hat here appears to be trimmed with wool and looks really snappy. Afterwards, she was given a tour of the White House by Mamie Eisenhower (and she supposedly hated the place, according to sources). Jackie seemed to be more talkative as First-Lady elect; only later, did she realize that she had to be more careful with what she said and to whom she said it to). Following the rather miserable White House tour, she flew to Palm Beach to rest and recuperate from the C-section. And to pose for this January 1960 pictorial with the baby:

In her 1974 autobiography, Rose Kennedy revealed that the dress Jackie is wearing here was apparently unfinished; her daughter-in-law, who was only weeks short of becoming First Lady at the tender age of 31), seems quite serene here in her fringed dress and with her son snuggled up to her.

In January 18, 1960, Jackie returned to Washington (seen here with her press secretary Pamela Turnure, also rumored to be a lover of JFK). Jackie looks ready to take on her upcoming role – with a beret, a tweed twinset and a healthy wave for the reporters. Barbara Leaming’s “Mrs. Kennedy” biography notes that Jackie was weary and depressed at this point. If that were to be taken as a kind of gospel truth but Jackie is a trouper and a strong one at that. Such strength and bravado would come in handy as she assumes the role of John F. Kennedy’s First Lady.

UP NEXT: Jackie Style Volume III (The 1960’s – the Kennedy Years)

I am a frustrated Jackie Kennedy Onassis biographer. The problem is, all the Jackie biographies have become a rehash of her life and times. For the next few posts, I’m going to study Jackie through the evolution of her clothing choices – and come up with my own thesis as to whether she is a fashion muse or a mere celebrity who carries the clothes better.

In the late 1940’s, Jackie Bouvier was already a budding legend. The academic star of Miss Porter’s as well as a champion equestrienne had become Queen Debutante of the Year. For some reason, I cannot find a picture of Jackie as a debutante in that off-the-shoulder gown.

She already had a marked preference for clean lines as seen here in a photograph with her father in 1947 (most probably in her high school graduation from Ms. Porter’s):

I like how the belt pulls everything together and while there is so much one can do with such thick, curly hair, I like Jackie’s hair here. Most obviously, you can see where Jackie got those incredible cheek bones, snub nose and full lips. Father and daughter are just freakishly two peas in a pod when it comes to looks.

I stumbled upon this picture of Jackie, hot off the 1940’s. The flamenco dress complements her dark hair and brows:

The story continues in the 1950’s, with Jackie Bouvier as a career girl-turned-Kennedy-wife:

Jackie is a few weeks short of her twenty-fourth birthday here but she looks rather old. Her hair is a frightful mess and not just because of the wind-blown effect. Later on, in the succeeding years (and pictures), she would opt for sleeker looks. The two scenarios I have here is, a) Jackie Bouvier is in the middle of growing her hair out of a bad cut or b) Jackie Bouvier did not have the money for the salon. She may have all these wealthy relatives and came from exclusive schools but it is common knowledge now that she only had her salary as the Inquiring Photographer at her disposal.

(Digression: It is rather heartening to consider that there is a bit of Jackie in us at some point in her life: that we all live on a budget.)

In 1953, this was the dress suit of the day:

Jackie’s suit dress seems better put together and is more similar to the 1955 version of the suit dress:

I suppose, even then, Jackie had a fashion-forward sense.

Now I have never been a fan of Jackie’s 1953 wedding dress; her cocktail dress of a nuptial gown in 1968 was far nicer. But this picture captures more than the tragedy of the dress but features the sorrow Jackie had to hide (her father was too drunk to give her away so that’s her step-dad):

Jackie’s wedding ‘do is pretty bad as she used that rose point veil (which is actually quite pretty except it emphasizes how disproportionate her head size is to the rest of her body). Objectively speaking, it could be the disappointment of Black Jack’s absence, but Jackie was not a beautiful bride. Her face already has the features which would make her face appealing and distinctive but at this point, she’s not pretty.

I really like how Jackie (here with Jack in 1954) handles texture here – leather gloves, a (cotton?) cardigan and fur stole with the silk dress as the canvas. The bag, brooch and pearls are picture-perfect accessories. Maybe those shoes were fashionable then but I find them too heavy, too clunky.

Jackie, seen here with Michael Canfield, her sister Lee’s first husband, in 1955. Her hair just drives me nuts – it looks like a bird’s nest after the eggs have hatched. Her accessories are of interest here as they have an ethnic feel in its beaded glory. Even the pattern of her sunglasses complements the theme. Jackie struck me as rather uptight for the most part but here she appears completely relaxed.

Jackie with her sister Lee in 1954. The gowns are quite 1950’s in terms of style but where Lee opted for the full skirt, Jackie opted for the straight cut (which speaks of the sisters’ physiques, Jackie was leaner and Lee more voluptuous).  I am not a fan of Lee’s printed dress and while Jackie’s lace dress  looks better, her necklace looks rather heavy, it’s distracting. Jackie also sports a pixie cut here, which is way better than her nuptial hairstyle.

Another sister act – this time, the Bouvier sisters posed for Vogue in 1955, modeling sweaters. One can see just how doe-eyed Jackie (left) is and while Lee is conventionally more attractive, there is something appealing about Mrs. Kennedy. Jackie plays with stripes and this time Lee pulls the clean look.

Jackie, seen here with Jack in the 1956 engagement party for Jean Kennedy, sports a nicer hairstyle (she must have started with the stylist Kenneth Batelle). Her pearls are more refined but I have never been a fan of brocade so am not feeling her dress here.

I love the pattern of Jackie’s lace-and-velvet top or dress. It looks so sleek and elegant (with the candlelit dinner as the background). Her coiffure adds to the polished look – but then, this is after all a dinner party. And even back then… was there a flicker of attraction between Jackie and Bobby?

Jackie and Ethel in early 1957. While Ethel looks like an average American marm here (complete with her dinner napkin still safely tucked onto her blouse), Jackie’s Mediterranean looks complement that Mountie tie of her top. This is one of her best haircuts as well.

This is my favorite Jackie look of the 1950’s – the sleek hair, triple strand of pearls, dainty drop pearl earrings, the studded clutch and strapless dress with the cute bow detail. This was in April 1957, during the April Paris Ball at the Waldorf. (I must say, Eunice is rocking serious ear and brooch bling here). The shawl Jackie carries is a rich pink shade, which I discerned from this picture:

One of the joys of being flat-chested – the dress looks absolutely fabulous on her. I also like how Jackie stayed away from red, mature-looking lipstick and opted for pinks. Almost four years after marrying JFK, I think this is the point where Jackie enters a whole new plane. And she’s already about three months pregnant with Caroline here.

With baby Caroline in April 1958. Jackie scores an interesting look here – clean lines in a vibrant color, actually a green shade, lined with gold (and well and good as the Kennedys landed a LIFE cover). I like the detail of the dress – though am not sure if those are flowered patterns.

She looks a little bit like Geena Davis in this picture. Odd that this family has already been singled out for a LIFE cover but I must say that early on, the attractive wife and adorable baby formula (not a pun) has worked for JFK.

In 1959, Jackie Kennedy landed another LIFE cover – as the front-runner’s wife.

The previous year, JFK had just been re-elected to the Senate by a landslide victory and by now they were planning to campaign for the U.S. Presidency.

The road seemed paved for victory – politically and sartorially.

UP NEXT: The Evolution of Jackie Style : Volume II (1960’s)

Am surprised that we’re not referred to as Filipino Catholics, the way they use Roman Catholic or even Irish Catholic. My country is the most Catholic nation in Asia (which does not mean that we have zero crime rate – save when the Pope visits – or that our politicians do not go to Church then promptly bash their opponents).

But we do have some of the most beautiful and rustic churches. All in honor of our Catholic faith.

It was on a cool July night in 1918 when the Bolsheviks executed the Romanovs, Russia’s last Imperial Family. And I dedicate this post to them – in pictures:

Tsar Nicholas II with his wife (right) Empress Alexandra and her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Tragically, all three would perish in July 1918 at the brutal hands of the Bolsheviks.

The Imperial Family in 1899. Alexandra holds baby Marie, with Nicholas propping up tiny Tatiana and little Olga in the foreground.

The Imperial Family after the birth of Alexis in 1904. Olga, aged nearly nine, holds her father’s arm. Tatiana snuggles to her mother while Marie sits in front of her. Nicholas holds Anastasia by the hand.

Their Imperial Highnesses the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia in a formal sitting in 1906.

The Imperial Children in 1906 (l-r) Olga, Alexei, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia

The Imperial Family eating a meal like any other family.

Empress Alexandra and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Marie in 1913, during the Romanov tercentenary

The Grand Duchesses Marie, Anastasia, Tatiana and Olga in 1914

The Romanovs in 1915

Tsar Nicholas with Tatiana, Olga, Marie, Anastasia and Alexei in 1916; in the foreground and at the back are some of his nephews

The Imperial Family

In 1971, the film “Nicholas and Alexandra” premiered in London. The cast (Michael Jayston as Nicholas, Janet Suzman as Alexandra, Roderic Noble as Alexis, Ania Marson as Olga, Lynne Frederick as Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Marie and Fiona Fullerton as Anastasia) also posed for pictures, similar to the royal family’s formal sittings:

The real McCoy

from the film

And another match-up:

I wish Hollywood would make another film based on the Romanovs. Casting the four daughters is actually tricky but if I had my way, I’d cast the following:

Olga


Apart from the blond hair and squarish face, Julia has the strong-willed, intelligent, well-read aura of the eldest of the Grand Duchesses:

A runner-up to play Olga would be Kirsten Dunst, who actually resembles Fiona Fullerton, who played Anastasia in 1971. But I think with the proper hairstyling, she’d be a credible Grand Duchess Olga. She is also talented enough to convey the complexities of Olga’s character.

Tatiana:

Emily Blunt can capture the figure of authority and elegance in Grand Duchess Tatiana. She already has one royal role – that of Tatiana’s maternal great-grandma, Queen Victoria. Her eyes are also slanted in a manner similar to that of the grey-eyed stunner:

One runner-up can be Keira Knightley:

My take on Keira is that I never really found her to be elegant; she seems more skittish than anything else, really. One reason why she was perfect to play Lizzy Bennet is because she has that rather playful manner.

Marie

I’ve never seen how Selena acts but am sure she can pull off the more docile role of Grand Duchess Marie. Properly styled and costumes, she would be a dead ringer for the prettiest (albeit chubbiest) of the Grand Duchesses:

A distant runner-up (who would also need to gains something like twenty pounds) would be Leighton Meester:

It would be a far cry from her days as Queen Bee as she will assume the title Her Imperial Highness but wear rather dowdy clothes. Marie has been described as flirt of sorts so Meester can assume the same stance.

Anastasia

Saoirse Ronan would play the tomboyish, mischievous Russian Grand Duchess; her work in “The Lovely Bones” just might prepare her for the bloody night of July 16-17, 1918.

Another contender would be Mia Wasikowska (who played Alice in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” – which is a throw-back to Fiona Fullerton as she played Alice after playing Anastasia)

I think these casting choice could do justice to the girls after the 1971 version:

left to right – Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and Olga

Hopefully their deaths will be properly commemorated in 2018.

Today, Jackie Kennedy Onassis would have been 81 years old. While I’d be the first to readily admit that the lady strikes me as rather self-involved, she does camouflage it with her own brand of charm and style. I love how she always looks so put-together in pictures (even the candid ones). She is not a great beauty – I’d select Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Charlotte Casiraghi as my favorite beauties of all time. Jackie, meanwhile, has incredible appeal to me and there is something about her that makes people want to watch her every move. Other people are fascinated by Elvis or Princess Diana; my idolatry is reserved for the Romanovs and for Jackie O.

As a birthday tribute, I’ve chosen my favorite colored pictures of Jackie. These do not include her official portrait as First Lady or Ron Gallela’s windblown New York photo. I chose the relatively uncirculated ones and here they are, in no particular order:

Jackie looks so relaxed here in full ’70’s attire. I like how she’s free from ceremonial rigors here.

Jackie glows as she hangs out with some children during her Mayan trek; it shows that she enjoys the company of the young.

Jackie takes a dip into the Aegean sea after her marriage to Onassis. It strikes me that a woman who is described as greedy takes great pleasure in the simplest joys like the sea (of course, it helps that she’s some feet away from one of the largest private yachts in the world).

Jackie is famous for her love of horses and she looks plenty regal here as she trots off in Ireland, 1967.

Jackie is described as a solitary person who enjoys taking quiet walks, whether around Central Park or by the shores of the Cape. Here she is snapped up in 1978, in Israel.

Jackie with President Kennedy at Hammersmith Farm in 1962. They both look like they are in their element – high style by Cape.

A private moment for the one of the most photographed families in history

A tender Yuletide moment for Jackie with her children Caroline and John, Jr.

JFK’s body arrives at the White House, November 22, 1963. It is amazing how the camera angle obscures Jackie’s bloodied skirt.

A winning sartorial moment: this gown of Jackie’s is not as featured as her pink gown during the Malraux dinner or as the celadon green jersey dress worn for the dinner in honor of Nobel laureates. She was actually pregnant with Patrick at this point. I love how the gold blends well with the yellow and of course, the bow detail finishes the look.

Motherhood was a role Jackie took seriously and I love how she’s focused on Caroline and John here, despite the hordes of photographers.

Despite all the tragedies, Jackie continues to smile and to bounce back. She seems to be as memorable as the New York skyline here.

The icon is normally upheld as the paragon of the period but this notion is made in hindsight. For in the time a personality’s legend develops, he or she is perceived as the product of her circumstances. This generally holds some truth for three generations of beauty, royalty and overexposure in the House of Grimaldi – from Philadelphia-belle-turned-Hollywood-star Grace Kelly to Monegasque Princess Caroline to millenium it-girl Charlotte Casiraghi.

Grace Kelly embodied the 1950’s stance of regal virtuousness; if the revelations of James Spada are to be taken as gospel truth, well, then she also captured its smoldering sense of sexual repression. Grace has been described as a contradiction of sorts (aren’t we all?) but I suppose hers stems from what was proper and what was taboo during her time. She might as well have been the feminine James Dean, in looks and in spirit.

Based on the biographies I read on Grace – most notably Spada’s down-and-dirty tell-all and her friend Judy Quine’s cloying semi-autobiography – she struck me as one who combined determination and charm to get what she wanted. As an actress, I thought Grace was rather bland but an eyeful to look at. Still, she had none of the spunk of Liz Taylor or the doe-like skittishness of Audrey Hepburn. As the years passed and she married and settled down in the Vegas of the Mediterranean, Grace seemed to be stuck in a rut. People have lauded her sense of fashion but even in that regard, Grace does not impress me. Her wedding dress was beautiful but that was the creation of Helen Rose. Grace’s dress on the day she met Rainier was one of the worst I have ever seen on anyone (and by any decade’s standards, except perhaps, the eighties).

Isabella Blow could carry the great headpieces Grace wore during the Red Cross Balls in the sixties and the seventies far better than Her Serene Highness. She did not impress me much as a mother (Jackie Onassis proved to be a better single parent than both Grace and Rainier) as her daughters proved too wild and her son too docile.

I would not want to live the life of Grace – one that was stuck in a limbo of sorts: between the stringent days of the fifties and the more libertine air of the sixties and the seventies. Underneath the charmed life she appeared to have led, I can only picture disillusionment and dissatisfaction. It would have pleased her to dabble in acting projects; this was denied her. It would have calmed her down to see her children settle down; this was not to be. It would have given her great joy to be a grandmother; this was not part of her job description. In the end, she snacked on too much caviar, gained weight and in all probability suffered from a stroke (while driving and most probably scolding her daughter, Stephanie). It was a far cry from the svelte young Princess, toting the Kelly bag named for her and sporting the chic wayfarers, with her portly husband and winsome children about her.

If Grace lived a charmed existence (at least, it looked good and glossed up on LIFE, Look and other picture magazines), her eldest daughter, HSH Princess Caroline, seemed to careen from one very public disaster to the next. Unlike the dainty mother, this willful girl possessed the sensuous looks of a Mediterranean beauty: fleshy and pouty. Caroline strikes me as rather intelligent; too intelligent, in fact, that she chafed under the narrow world of her mother. I think it was a failure on Grace’s part that she was not able to channel her daughter’s natural intelligence and talent properly. This may have accounted for Caroline’s restless spirit and quest for independence. Ironically, Caroline may have been technically virginal on her wedding night, which Grace was not (to borrow from the Gospel according to Spada). Grace had Hollywood lovers during the fifties but since Caroline came into age during the discotheque days, the latter was widely portrayed as the Lindsay of her day.

Little wonder that Caroline bloomed after Grace died and I don’t believe it is solely because she had no choice but to step into her mother’s shoes.

I think Caroline was more of an out-of-the-box-thinker than her mother was. She may have inherited that sense of self from Grace but the daughter knew her mind and was more confident of it. While Grace was placid in her beauty, Caroline exhibited verve and enthusiasm. She was stronger and more assertive, perhaps because she was to-the-manor-born whereas Grace was treated as an outsider in the early years of her marriage. Caroline also strikes me as a better mother, raising four children practically on her own. Last year, I saw a picture of Pierre giving his mother a hug after they lunched in New York. This seems to indicate a healthy relationship between mother and son. Andrea and Charlotte as well as Alexandra have been photographed being affectionate to their mother at an age when most stay away from their parents.

Now in her early fifties, Caroline may not have retained the dewy freshness of her looks but she appears to be more well-adjusted, more in control. She has come to terms with herself after a rocky marriage and a tragic widowhood; even as she faces the alleged flagrant infidelity of her husband, she works on what she can: raising their daughter and helping her brother in Monaco. I daresay she may feel more strongly about the pretty blond Charlene Wittstock becoming the principality’s Princess than an impending divorce (but that’s just me). I like Caroline; she is more real – the lady has made her mistakes (not the least of them, snagging her friend’s husband) but she has done what she could to improve herself and to do better deeds. Her fashion sense, though, seems to be on a regressive mode as she has turned up in some really questionable ensembles, most notably:

Caroline’s daughter, Charlotte, entered the worldwideweb’s collective consciousness in 2000 when she appeared with her uncle and younger brother at the Monaco Grand Prix – in a white blouse, black pants and shocking pink pashmina knotted around her neck. The effect was effortless chic and one had to remind oneself that Charlotte was then a month shy of her fourteenth birthday. She looked pretty mature then with her hair arranged in careful dishevelment and her make-up rather too thick. But she was gorgeous – Caroline with a hint of Grace.

Charlotte’s life may also embody certain elements in her mother’s and grandmother’s life. She lived in relative privacy but certainly was on the social map and calendar early on. She completed her studies while pursuing other interests, most notably horse-jumping shows. Charlotte is all doe-eyed innocence until one sees the almost lascivious curl of lip. She also isn’t afraid of public displays of affection: there’s a youtube video of her making out with current boyfriend Alex Dellal. When she was younger, there were pictures of her, scantily clad and sunbathing aboard a yacht. But Charlotte made sure she was all covered up and no stray nipple found its way out of her bikini top. Now, Monaco’s It-Girl is dabbling in journalism and has even taken up the issue of responsible consumerism. Which, in a way, strikes me as a ironic for one who shops and wears all the ultra-luxury brands out there. Apart from international fashion shows and equestrian events, there is little of Charlotte in the news. Which makes her a tantalizing fodder for photographers and cyberworld stalkers.

Above: this is the only really bad picture I have seen of Charlotte. Her hair is a wee bit put-out and her outfit makes her look like a skanktron. But, one bad picture as opposed to hundreds more which are just dazzling? Not a bad score at all:

I still maintain Charlotte is far more beautiful than her grandmother but I like the spunk that is in her mother – and which appears to have passed her by. This girl, though, has finally demonstrated that Grimaldis can dress well too!

And so in three generations of one family, one can trace a bit of history, a bit of pop culture… and a whole lot of gossip.