“Many people called her the American Queen. ” (Mattern) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was by far the most iconic fashion figure of the 1960’s. She shaped fashion especially for women in her own time, but more than just being a significant influence on how women dressed in the 1960’s her style has transcended the boundaries of time and the modern women even looks to her on matters of fashion. Jackie, as she was fondly called, did not remain as a potent fashion figure only in the 60’s but continued to shape the fashion industry worldwide, even after her days of glory as the First Lady of America.
The influence of Jackie’s style can still be seen now on the catwalks, every designer shows a look inspired by her. She was very classic, but with a modern twist. (Reuters) Nevertheless, it would be presumptuous to just make this conclusion without looking at how this lady was able to change the way women dress. Jackie was highly instrumental in the fashion scene of the 60’s as well as in modern eras because she instilled a sense of courage into fashion, she equated fashion with personality, and she pioneered the concept that simplicity was in fact stylish, elegant and fashionable.
The baroque and almost boisterous fashion sense of women in the 60’s were a basis for Jackie’s influence in making women bolder and more unique in their choice of clothing. Note that during this period discreet strain between American and French relations, and despite of this, Jackie rose above the rest and refused to be influenced by this. Oleg Cassini, Jackie’s designer, “created her wardrobe for the 1961 inauguration. Jackie told him she wanted to dress as if “Jack were President of France”. Jacobs)
While this remark may be considered as un-patriotic at that time, it simply shows how Jackie chose to ignore political and social constructs in delivering her message of fashion. She was also known for quite radical fashion decisions such as when she “kicked off a craze for the one-shoulder dress, encouraged women to ditch their high, pointy heels, endorsed chain belts, oversized sunglasses, and YSL midi skirts. ” (Mathai) All these changes in the way women dress all speak of the boldness Jackie which was what women of the time wanted to acquire.
Fashion was almost secondary to women of this period; what were more important to them were the decisiveness, innovation, and courage that riddled decision making among the feminine gender. For instance, “Jackie had been forced by her public role into wearing hats, as called for by formal protocol…She made fashion history, however, by choosing to wear the hat tipped to the back of her head rather than straight on top. (CAVF) This is an illustration of how Jackie set the example for women to remain undaunted by male dominated policies and so take flight; she did this in a language that all women would easily understand – fashion.
Jackie was never one to follow what was ‘in’ during the moment because she believed in the value of individualism and unique style. Her penchant for seeking what was most comfortable to her was the best indication that she was not about to sacrifice her comfort for trendiness, and this worked for her as a result. “Trends and fads never dictated Jackie’s fashion choices…she had the courage of her convictions to reject it if she didn’t feel it was right for her. Flaherty) Her courage in fashion rubbed off on all women of the time and even on the modern woman and to this day, people will remember how she breathed new life into the American fashion scene even making the industry more competitive when compared to its global rivals.
“At that time, most high fashion clothes were made in Europe. However, the first lady decided to promote American designers. ” (Mattern) Jackie also exercised her influence over women of the 60’s and on today’s fashionable female by showing that clothing was not everything and that what one wore was in fact a reflection of one’s personality. Jackie understood the power of clothing and image and used it to reflect the internationalism of the Kennedy Administration and the promise of the 1960s. ” (Leight) So, Jackie always made sure that what she wore made a statement, if not about her, at least about the country she was in. Nevertheless, she also insisted that it was not really the clothing that one wore that made the person, rather, this was just the extension of the ideals and principles that a particular person stood for.
As much as Jackie loved fashion, she was much more than the clothes she wore. Although appearances clearly counted, how she lived her life mattered most. ” (Flaherty) Jackie was not the kind of person who would as she pleased while compromising the image of her family and of her husband’s administration. Through her many women all around the world realized how important it was for a person to use fashion as a means of conveying a message either about oneself or about the society that he/she was in, but more importantly about one’s beliefs and convictions. Jackie chose clothes that played to both her athletic sensibility and her Vassar-educated, Francophile refinement, notes Bowles. ”(Tauber)
This meant that Jackie was always on top of her style, that her outfit almost usually reflected not the designer, not the luxury of the attire, but the sensibilities and the principles of the wearer. This had to mean wearing clothes that were not only practical but also simple and Jackie did not destroy the concept of simplicity in the process, in fact, she even re-invented simplicity at a time when artistic expression was at its noisiest.
Jackie had left her legacy on the woman of the 60’s as well as on contemporary fashion trends by making women see that simplicity can in fact be fashionable, stylish and elegant. Her passion for simplicity “took America out of the staid and conservative 1950s and into the world of classy international elegance. ” (Leight) Jackie knew what it meant to make an impression and she believed that a lasting impression was possible even with the simplest white dress. She knew that she did not have to be overly verbose about her dressing styles to make people want to turn and have a second look. Her clothes were informed with an understated modern elegance, characterized by cleanliness, solid colors, and ease of movement. ” (Leight)
So again, one sees here that Jackie found convenience in simplicity in that other than being overly numbered, her fashion sense was fluid and responsive to the needs of the contemporary woman. Nothing went wrong with fashion when Jackie was in the limelight because her style was almost a nude expression of the feminine psyche. “Years before she became Jackie O, Kennedy was a first lady with impeccable style. (Shih) Simplicity, however, did not come without a price because appearing simple meant that she had to carefully plan her wardrobe so that she achieved the kind of impression that she wanted to get; and so for Jackie, fashion was never unintentional, it was always a conscious effort like poetry and literature; “Jackie put an enormous amount of work into appearing effortlessly elegant. ”
We look at her and think, ‘How simple! ‘ “says Hubert de Givenchy…”But it was deliberate. She was very conscious of her style, her body, her face. (Tauber) A woman of the 90’s can look at Jackie and like the woman of the 60’s still say that she was in fact right in deciding to look simple amid the fame and glory that she was in because it was this simplicity in her fashion sense that gave her authority over the world of fashion and a healthy appreciation for the elegance that came with a piece of clothing. Jackie was nevertheless quite innovative as she always believed that simplicity could be expressed in a thousand different ways, and even with this ironic contradiction, women of the 60’s were able to identify with the effortlessness of Jackie’s fashion.
It is this that transcended the trends of the 60’s and began a whole new movement in contemporary dressing, now even known as Jackie O fashion. Jackie was aware that she was changing the world of fashion little by little and building a monument to the element of feminism that is almost non-existent to the opposite sex. So, to date, the world fondly recalls “the elegant simplicity of Jacqueline Kennedy’s style that would come to influence fashion all over the world. ” (CAVF)
It is not always that a woman is able to change the world by being herself; but the fact remains that Jackie sparked a revolution or more appropriately a renaissance in how women dressed in the 60’s and in the new millennia. Of course, some would say that fashion is just a small piece of the bigger picture depicting world shattering issues but how comforting it is to have someone slink back once in a while and remember that there is nothing that one does not have that one can give to the world.
Making a difference means having that difference initiated within oneself and through fashion Jackie was able to make this bold and courageous statement. History will forever remember Jackie as the woman who was able to put policy into fashion; as the women who through her humility and respect for the female persona was able to take the fashion of the 60’s and the contemporary era and mold it to perfection by making women understand that fashion meant courage and conviction, that fashion was an extension of oneself, and that fashion does not need to be loud and un-moderated for it to be elegant, fashionable, and more importantly, stylish.