Jacqueline Kennedy's Influence on Fashion

Photo on the Left:

Our American Century Turbulent Years: The 60s. 1998. Edited by Sara Brash and Loretta Britten. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 55. (Photography taken by: Jacques Lowe -- photo No. KN-C18875 in the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston; Leonard McCombe, Life Magazine, Time, Inc.)


Photo on the Right:

Personal photograph of Joan Thompson (my grandmother) taken in the 1960s.


When Kennedy had been the youngest man ever elected to the presidency, it was no wonder that his young and beautiful wife with the greater prevalence of the television soon became another puzzle piece in the definition of a culture of “shared images” that “formed a set of commonly understood referents, a symbolic language shared by almost all;” and something that was “a part of an immediate, widely available, fast-changing culture which was beamed into almost every home and understood by young and old, poor and rich” (Farber 1994).


As the president traveled through a series of countries in 1961, it was Jackie who always seemed to steal the show. Papers of all countries seem to praise her for her charm and beauty. By the end of the trip she had even managed to charm two of what were considered some of the world’s “crustiest” leaders, France’s Charles de Gualle and Russia’s Nikita Krushchev. At home she was even more popular, as woman adopted everything from her bouffant hairdo to her pillbox hat. Time, expressed her during her husband’s presidential campaign as “dressed elegantly, as imaginatively,” and “so clearly seen both functions as a creative contribution to the success of an administration.” In the picture to the left, she is wearing one of her infamous pill box hats, combined with a red wool suit inspired by the uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during her state visit to the country. She had a taste for creativity, elegance, and only the very best (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).


Her look evolved into a whole standard of fashion known as the “Jackie Kennedy look,” occurring in the very early years of the 60’s. This look consisted of semi-fitted jackets, blouses falling at the hip bone and paired with an A-line skirt falling to the knees or just below. Collars remained, simple, rounded or non-existent, and sleeves either above the elbow or done away with altogether. The only embellishment ever to be found amidst this simplicity was single, large, center button near the neck, holding together an empire waist topcoat, finishing off were usually her signature pillbox hat, pumps, long white gloves, and sometimes pearls. For evening, her style took on a sleeveless look in a single color with a founded or bateau neckline (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).


Like many trend setters of the time, her look came from across the seas, some of this led to the disapproval of certain women. It was not so much that she spent a lot of money on clothes, but that she spent it on foreign labels, at least initially (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).


Through her own style, she sent out a message, different from that of the past, that elegance could be maintained through simple simplicity rather than fanciness of dress. Her style and the desire for its copying did reflect some of the more materialistic ideals of the early decade soon to be rejected towards its end with the hippy movement.


In the right, lies a perfect example of this “shared image of effects” and Jackie’s influence as an American fashion icon (Farber 1994). My grandmother can be seen here, wearing some of the key elements of the Jackie look, such as the shortened sleeves, rounded neck line, and a hemline falling slightly below the knees.


American Decades: 1960-1969. 1995. Edited by Richard Layman. New York: Gale Research International Limited.


Farber, David. The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s. 1994. Edited by Eric Foner. New York: Hill and Wang.


Further information on Jacqueline Kennedy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Kennedy_Onassis


Further information on 1960s Fashions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s_in_fashion


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Taken on April 11, 2007