Only 31 when she became First Lady, Jackie Kennedy was the Queen of Camelot wearing outfits from American fashion designer Oleg Cassini and dazzling in big-buttoned suits, pillbox hats and her favorite accessory – pearls.
Though she served only a short time as First Lady — from January 1961 until the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in November 1963 — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remains deeply rooted in American culture.
A large part of this stems from her timeless style that made her one of the biggest fashion icons of the last century. Legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head called her the greatest single fashion influence in history. Almost thirty years after her death (May 19 marks the 29th anniversary of her death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 64), she continues to influence fashion.
Famous for her big-buttoned suits, pillbox hats, and bouffant hair, Jackie’s ladylike couture style in the 1960s was minimal and modern, and she adorned herself with simple accessories, including her favorite pearls.
Long before setting trends as the First Lady, Jackie developed her style while growing up in a wealthy New York family, attending prep schools, debutante balls, and equestrian shows. After marrying Greek billionaire shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, she ushered in her new life with a new look centering around flowing maxi dresses, menswear-inspired suits, and her signature oversized sunglasses. After becoming a widower again in the 1970s, she focused on her career as a respected literary editor and adopted a chic and casual businesswoman style.
But it is for what she wore during her time as First Lady that she is most remembered and admired.
The Trendsetting Queen
Jackie was 31 years old when she became the First Lady and capitalized on her beauty, youth, and poise to popularize her husband’s presidency. She appointed her friend, American fashion designer Oleg Cassini to be her couturier. The famous designer had dressed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly (whom he was once engaged to), and Marilyn Monroe.
Cassini designed more than 300 custom outfits for the First Lady over three years and she collaborated, suggesting colors, fabrics, and tailoring for her outfits.
Jackie called Cassini her Secretary of Style, and he earned her the title of First Lady of Fashion. Together they created the “Jackie look” that showcased her lithe 5-foot-7-inch frame: strapless and sleeveless evening gowns with elbow-length gloves, streamlined shift dresses and daytime ensembles in vibrant colors and bold lines that made her stand out in a crowd, fur-trimmed coats with large collars and buttons, tailored suits, boxy jackets, and, of course, the ubiquitous pillbox hats. Her fashions reflected the elegance and American regency that marked the new Queen of Camelot, and defined the trends of the decade.
Here is a look back at some of her most memorable fashions showcasing her timeless style:
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