As the 31st first lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy infused Parisian couture with all-American spirit, "Vogue" editor Hamish Bowles said when curating a 2001 exhibit of her clothing. "She had enormous style with great simplicity," her sister, Lee Radziwell, told "People" magazine. As first lady, her popularity prompted JFK to quip that he was the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris. As Kennedy's widow, later while married to Aristotle Onassis, then as a book editor on her own in New York City, Jackie O remained a fashion icon until her death of cancer in 1994 at age 64.
A Taste for Couture
Before her 1953 marriage to John F. Kennedy, then a congressman from Massachusetts, Jacqueline Bouvier studied in France and fell hard for French fashion. During the 1960 presidential campaign, she was criticized for wearing expensive couture -- one report said she and her mother-in-law spent $30,000 on clothing. "I couldn't spend that much even if I wore sable underwear," she responded. But when Kennedy was elected, the first lady made a point of wearing American-made designs, notably by Oleg Cassini.
The Arts and the Classics
Personal style was just a part of transformation at the Kennedy White House. The first lady "busily transformed her new home into a place of elegance and culture," The New York Times said, bringing in a French chef, hosting artists and musicians as well as politicians and world leaders at elegant parties. She redecorated the White House in 19th-century antiques, then showed it to the country in a television special. She spoke Spanish and French, painted and wrote poetry and was an equestrian. "I think she cast a particular spell over the White House that has not been equaled," Benjamin Bradlee, Washington Post editor, told The New York Times.
After her White House years, no longer photographed at state dinners in evening gowns, white gloves and upswept bouffant hairstyles, Jackie O -- trying to be low key in headscarf and big dark glasses -- continued to attract attention and paparazzi. Simple slacks and sweaters were her workday wardrobe, and she was spotted wearing casual classics walking in Central Park.
Are You a Jackie?
To show a bit of Jackie O style, you needn't forage for a vintage couture suit, pillbox, gloves and pearls -- you'd likely look like you're attending a "Mad Men" costume party. Instead, adapt a timeless look, as Onassis herself did. In a photo of 1970s night life, she's the one wearing a classic little black dress amid a sea of earth tones. An online collection of her clothing from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum shows a black Chanel suit with embroidered silk blouse, for example. Jacqueline Kennedy wore it at a photo sitting in 1958, and again for a tour in 1963. It would look just as elegant today.
To Get the Look
To capture a bit of Jackie O style, suggests "More" magazine, put together basics such as a flattering sheath dress, trim, boxy suit and a trenchcoat. For casual days, wear a turtleneck and trousers or a black T with white jeans. Wear your hair in a classic shoulder-length bob. On bad hair days, cover up with a brilliant Boho scarf and those giant sunglasses. For a Parisian touch, suggests style blogger Sharon Haver, wear ballet flats. So can you have Jackie O style on a Walmart budget? Mais oui ... maybe. But to spritz on one of her favorite scents, you'll have to spring for Jean Patou's Joy or 1000, Bal A Versailles or Guerlaine's Jicky.