Sunday, February 20, 2011

an ode to Jackie Kennedy style.

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google images

During the early 1960s, Jackie Kennedy was a fashion icon for many women. She enlisted Oleg Cassini to design her wardrobe when her husband was elected president of the United States. Cassini designed nearly 300 looks for Kennedy. 

Cassini, a French-born American designer,  originally worked as a costume designer. Cassini grew up in Florence, but visited Paris twice a year with his mother to study French fashion. In later years, he moved to New York and eventually Hollywood. 

Kennedy's style was elegant, yet simple. She wore pieces that were tailored, geometric and decorated with large buttons. Many women copied the "Jackie" look by donning pillbox hats, above-the-elbow gloves and low-heel pumps. However after her time in the White House, her style changed dramatically. Her conservative First Lady clothes disappeared and she started to wear wide-leg pantsuits, headscarves, large sunglasses and gypsy skirts. Her clothing was also bright in color. 

Not only did Kennedy wear Cassini, she also wore Chanel and Dior. 

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was the inventor of the "little black dress," quilted handbags and the tweed suit. Chanel grew up in an orphanage during the late 1800s. Though she never married, she had several lovers and eventually obtained the funds to start her fashion empire. She shortened the hems of skirts to just below the knee (this was long before Courreges instituted the miniskirt in France) and made costume jewelry fashionable. According to Werle (author of "50 Fashion Designers You Should Know"), Chanel was not the first to reject the corset in her designs (Poiret and Vionnet had previously done so), but it was ultimately she who banned this garment from the wardrobes of the world. 

During World War II, Chanel stopped production of her clothing (as did most other French designers). However, in 1954 at the age of 71, Chanel made her comeback. 

Christian Dior, yet another French designer, took his wearers into the past. His evening gown creations used up to 40 meters of fabric. Chanel is quoted as saying, "These heavy, stiff dresses that don't even fit into a suitcase--ridiculous! Dior doesn't dress women, he upholsters them." However, Dior said his aim was to "make elegant women more beautiful and beautiful women more elegant." 

Dior proved to be successful, and by 1950 he had as many as 1000 dressmakers working for his fashion house. In only ten years he created 22 collections, and changed the silhouette of his designs each season. As many designers abolished the corset, Dior brought it back. Chanel's answer to this was tweed suits, quilted bags and the "little black dress."


  1. I'm not going to pretend like I know anything about fashion. Because I don't. But this post was interesting to me because I really had no idea that a first lady was so influential on fashion. After President Kennedy was shot I believe that Jackie remarried. Also from what I've read I've gathered that Jackie continued to be a beloved American character, and I wonder if her style continued to be influential once she was no longer the first-lady. Just a thought. Maybe you know.

  2. After President Kennedy died, Jackie did remarry. After Jackie left the White House, her style did change because she did not have to dress so conservatively. She started wearing wide-leg pants, head scarves and flowing skirts. This was a huge change from her tailored outfits while in the White House. To this day, celebrities still follow the trends she started.