Influential Style Icon: Jackie O

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Jackie Kennedy’s very name has become a code word for effortless chic, flawless manners, powerful cultural intellect and classic glamour. A true Sloane Ranger indeed – and one we’re dying to know more about.

When she became First Lady in 1962, the world fell in love with her simple style that eased women away from the restrictive nipped waists of fifties silhouettes and into more flattering tailored shifts, funnel neck coats and pillbox hats. Jackie was also a champion of Parisian-style accents like head scarves and loose slacks, capri pants, oversize sunnies and those big made-up eyes that truly epitomise early-sixties fashion. Her approach to color was thoroughly British, though – all solid blocks and lines rather than print – enabling her to stand out in a crowd in the vital supporting role of her husband and his quest for a more internationally-minded government.

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Modern Jackie was a breath of fresh air amongst congress wives: she had a passion for European designers like Balenciaga, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Chanel. And boy, did Jackie like to shop. Known for her impulsive shopping, she would spend a fortune in minutes and return more than half her purchases the very next day. If she found a cashmere cardi that worked with her shape, she’d get it in every color. Smart chick.

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Fast-forward to the Onassis years and we see an altogether more glamorous, jet-set Jackie emerge from the flash of the paparazzi bulbs: bigger sunnies, bigger diamonds, and a close friend in the fashion designer Valentino, who created her wedding dress for her second marriage to Greek shipping merchant Aristotle Onassis. Speaking of his most eminent client after her passing in 1994, Valentino said:

‘Her style was always a great inspiration for my work. She had this inner quality to make elegant the simplest dress, the most shabby raincoat, the oldest pair of slacks. Her way to wear a scarf, a pair of sunglasses, to choose a bag or shoes or go barefoot, or with a tiara was natural, she was not thinking twice, she knew by instinct.’

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In her role as a literary editor in the seventies, Jackie’s style continued to mean business: skinny cashmere t-shirts, high-waisted flared trousers and that fabulous bouffant.

But far from merely being just a clothes-horse, Jackie Kennedy is just as iconic today for the powerful, modern message she brought to women the world over. In being the President’s wife she managed the previously impossible task of supporting her husband faithfully without losing her own individual identity. With an honours degree in French Literature, Jackie worked as an inquiring photographer on the Washington Times-Herald, brought up a family as First Lady and returned to work later as a respected literary editor and biographer. Her words on the topic of career women have secured her place in our hearts:

‘What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren’t supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown – watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?’

So there you have it, prepsters: the impossibly strong-minded, strong-spirited icon that was Jackie O. A woman truly after our own hearts.

‘I want to live my life, not record it’

-Jackie Onassis Kennedy

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