Jackie looking good in a trench coat. What is the Jackie O look? classic and refined
This is the week of what would have been Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ (1929-1994) eightieth birthday. Blogs, magazines, newspapers, and TV programs are celebrating her life and style – particulary her style. She was – and is – a fashion icon. Those of you in doubt of her lasting appeal need only to google the phrase, “the Jackie Kennedy Look,” and see how many sites are dedicated to this ideal.
What is her attraction? Exactly what is “the Jackie Kennedy Look”? Is it a hairstyle? It couldn’t be that; Jackie’s hairstyle over the years changed radically, going from a curly, soft, and cropped bob on her wedding day (shown below)
Jacqueline Bouvier and then-Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island. The wedding was performed by Archbishop Richard Cushing. The wedding was considered the social event of the season with an estimated 700 guests at the ceremony and 900 at the lavish reception that followed at Hammersmith Farm.
to a crisp bouffant at her husband John Kennedy‘s inauguration as the 35th President of the United States (below)
First Lady Jackie Kennedy at President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration. Seen here with, at left, then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and, at right, her husband, President Kennedy.
to a long, loose, and straight un-style when island-hopping with Greek shipping tycoon husband #2 Ari Onassis. (below).
Jackie Kennedy Onassis, in a festive summer print, and husband Aristotle Onassis leave an Athens nightclub at 7 a.m. after celebrating Jackie's 40th birthday, 1969.
Not that Jackie Kennedy’s hairstyles didn’t set fashion trends. Her 1961 inauguration hairdo, the bouffant, defined by the Oxford Dictionary, as [hair] “styled so as to stand out from the head in a rounded shape,” from the French word for ‘swelling,’ swept the nation in popularity. Her short, dark locks were teased, sprayed, and curled by her hairdresser, Mr. Kenneth of Lilly Dache, New York.
When Jackie Kennedy was First Lady (1961-1963), a rumor spread that she wore wigs from time to time, which Jackie’s spokespeople denied vehemently. Unfortunately, though, the rumor was proved true when sister-in-law Joan Kennedy blurted out in an interview:
“You know, Jackie talked me into wearing a wig. She has three of them, and she wears them a lot, especially for traveling. I tried one, but it just felt silly.”
Then, if it wasn’t her hair that defined the Jackie Kennedy look, perhaps it was her clothes. Consider her signature look…
First Lady Jackie Kennedy displays her trademark chic - pillbox hat, pearls, and stylish suit
formal, for day: the pillbox hat, pearls, the three-quarter length sleeves, the boxy Chanel suit jacket with A-line skirt
First Lady Jackie Kennedy at home in the White House. She is remembered for her love for all things tasteful (and French) which found expression in her dedicated and loving restoration of the White House.
informal, for day: the sleeveless silk sheath accented by a single strand of pearls at the throat
First Lady Jackie Kennedy as she was dressed for dinner with the French cultural minister, April 1962. Mrs. Kennedy wears a gown designed by Oleg Cassini.
informal, for night: a fabulous gown by designers such as Oleg Cassini completed by elbow-length white gloves and a clutch bag
But these were Jackie’s looks from the White House years, when she posed, posture perfect like a princess, beaming a happy smile. But then her husband was murdered and Camelot was no more. Her life changed and, with it, her wardrobe.
After she married Onassis, she became “Jackie O” and was photographed strolling the streets of Europe, slumming in casual attire -sexy capri pants with flat, strappy sandals. After Onassis’ death, she moved to New York to become a book editor for Doubleday. When she was seen on the streets, she kept her head down to avoid recognition, ducking the press, hiding behind those ubiquitous, bug-eyed, dark glasses and sometimes concealing her famous head under a scarf.
Jackie O in 1975, the year her second husband Aristotle Onassis died
No, the Jackie Kennedy Look can’t be summed up by pointing to a hairstyle or style of dress – they were too variable. Granted, whether First Lady, international playgirl, New York socialite, or career publisher, Jackie Kennedy had style, to be sure, a strong fashion sense, showing up largely as a preference for clean, uncluttered lines and simplicity. But she had an indescribable personal quality, too, a je ne sais quoi, the French would say, a quality that transcended all the changes she made to her wardrobe and hair – the quintessential Jackie O – that keeps us fixated on her well into another century.
What was it that made Jackie such an icon that we still want to look at photos of her, though she has been gone so long?
One need only consult the TV comedy ”Seinfeld” for the answer to this little conundrum. In the 87th episode known as “The Chaperone,” character Elaine Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seeks a job at Doubleday as a book editor, following in the steps of Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Elaine does not get the job. Read the Seinfeld script below to find out why Elaine was rejected by Doubleday:
New scene – Elaine at her job interview at Doubleday with Mrs. Landis.
LANDIS: Of course, Jackie O. was a great lady. Those are going to be some tough shoes to fill. Everyone loved her. She had such…grace.
ELAINE (gushing): Yes! Grace!
LANDIS: Not many people have grace.
ELAINE: Well, you know, grace is a tough one. I like to think I have a little grace…not as much as Jackie -
LANDIS: You can’t have “a little grace.” You either have grace, or you…don’t.
ELAINE: O.K., fine, I have…no grace.
LANDIS: And you can’t acquire grace.
ELAINE: Well, I have no intention of “getting” grace.
LANDIS: Grace isn’t something you can pick up at the market.
ELAINE (fed up): All right, all right, look – I don’t have grace, I don’t want grace…I don’t even say grace, O.K.?
LANDIS: Thank you for coming in.
ELAINE: Yeah, yeah, right.
LANDIS: We’ll make our choice in a few days, and we’ll let you know.
ELAINE (stands up): I have no chance, do I?
LANDIS: No. <They shake hands.>
Elaine Benes (from TV series" Seinfeld) has no grace. Jackie Kennedy Onassis had grace.
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