Get the Jackie Look! Four Ways to Win the Election of Style
Before Jacqueline Kennedy’s husband was elected President in 1961, even Barbie was taking fashion cues from her.
The “Jackie look” was the combination of her own personal choices and collaboration with designer Oleg Cassini. and the craze to imitate her became so rampant, reporter Adeline Daly quipped, “Half the students attending college look just like the former Jacqueline Bouvier. The other half are men.”
So just how did one woman capture the world and hold it in her palm with her sense of style?
Know Yourself and What You Want
Jacqueline took risks with her fashion choices. She knew what she wanted, and she made it happen. In a day and age when it was considered slightly risqué for a public figure to wear strapless and sleeveless gowns, Jacqueline did it anyway. With above-the-elbow gloves, of course.
Know Your Medium
Her time behind the lens as a New York City photo-journalist taught her how to envision the final image, and in the early days of the black and white television era, she deliberately considered how pale colors would stand out. Thus, at the 1961 Inaugural Day parade, when all the other women looked dark and foreboding in their fur coats, (not to mention old!) Jackie stood out like a beacon in a light-colored cloth coat and pillbox hat. She sent a clear message without uttering a single word: a new man, a new day, a new life.
Her later style choices show she continued a love of lighter colors, often wearing white on white everything, presumably for the same “stand out in a crowd” reason. She also gave us the classic pairing of a black top with white pants.
Stand Your Ground
Criticized widely for her penchant for expensive French couture, Jacqueline shrewdly chose American Oleg Cassini as her designer, often sending him sketches and notes detailing how she wanted to look. She then redirected media attention by refusing to discuss her clothing choices and instead emphasized her work in revamping the White House.
Jacqueline loved elegant yet statement-making clothes, and favored capes, jackets with quarter-length sleeves, and A-line skirts, none of which were in vogue at the time. Case in point was Cassini’s design of an A-line, three quarter-length sleeved leopard skin coat. Leopard skin hadn’t been in fashion for a while, and Jackie took a risk with it for its classic yet cutting-edge look.
Unfortunately, she was so stunning in it, the world leapt to imitate her, and a few years later, leopards were on the endangered animal list. Yet that one coat is responsible for Cassini’s refusal to design with fur again and led to his development of faux fur, which made possible our current love affair of leopard print everything.
On a beautifully clear November day in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy’s life ended with a shot to the head. Hours later in Washington D.C., Jacqueline was still wearing her pink couture suit splattered with her husband’s blood at Lynden B. Johnson’s swearing in. Throughout the day, Jackie had repeatedly refused to change her clothes, stating, “Let them see what they’ve done.” Even during the trauma and chaos, she communicated another clear message through visual imagery: America won’t be beaten.
Leaving the funeral, she kept her veil pulled back from her face as she and the children left the church, showing her tearless eyes to the world. A few years later, she made large, rounded sunglasses all the rage, but on the day of the funeral, she allowed us to see into her eyes, expressing the strength that inspired a nation to stand tall and proud on a dark day. No wonder she was dubbed the “Queen of America.”
The “Jackie Look” —it’s all about knowing what you want. Considering what will capture the eye. Keeping your own counsel. And then sharing your strength.