Jackie Onassis had been credited for influencing American fashion during the "New Frontier" era, when she was the White House official hostess. "Fashion is a symbol of the times and a hairdo must reflect the age in which we live," hairdresser Antoine of Paris explained in 1961. The "Jackie Look" comprised Michel Kazan's protégé Kenneth's creation of the Jackie's bouffant hairdo, one that said would rival Marie Antoinette's. And in fashion, Jackie became a style-setter (in the same way Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Anne of Austria (1601-1666) and Empress Eugenie (1853-1870) were) by wearing "chic, understated, easy-fitting clothes", the pillbox and white gloves. A spokesman for the Millinery Institute of America made the point in 1968, "You have to have a very strong personality to be a trend-setter." 

Although to most Americans Jackie "remains a soundless image", it was noted Jackie could speak 4 languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish) and had attended Miss Porter's finishing school in Farmington, Connecticut. At the Sorbonne in Paris, Jackie studied art and was very interested in literature, antiques and 18th and 19th century Europe as well as American history. Cholly Knickerbocker named Jackie "Debutante of 1948". At the time, Jackie was America's 3rd youngest First Lady. In the year 2067, the world would get to know more about Jackie when her 5-hour interview with William Manchester in 1964 became available.

In May 1961, Jackie accompanied Jack to Paris to meet with Charles de Gaulle for 3 days for Western strategy talks. At a news conference, JFK declared, "...I come from America, 'the daughter of Europe', to pay tribute to France which is America's oldest friend. But long before my country was born, French influence, French philosophy, French culture led the Western world to such a degree that the first American ambassador to Paris Benjamin Franklin could say 'Every man has 2 countries - France and his own." JFK recognized, "The present (in 1961) relationship between France and the United States is essential for the preservation of freedom around the globe." He also believed Charles de Gaulle's "vigor, your leadership, your long sense of history are needed now (in 1961) more than ever in the past." JFK concluded, "France and the United States have been associated in the past in many great causes but I can think of no more happy cause than to be associated together in the climatic moment in the defense of freedom." 

In December 1960, Oleg Cassini alerted the press, "The 'Jackie Kennedy Look' will sweep the country. It will develop in France and Italy. She will be the most seen, the most talked about, the most photographed woman in the world. For the first time in history all the elements are present to make a tremendous fashion story: The looks, age, style sense of the next First Lady. Measure that against what we've had in the past. They've been very fine ladies, but minus zero to the fashion world." 

Oleg Cassini was born in Paris. His mother was Italian and his father Russian. Insisting, "I look at fashion with the eyes of a man," Oleg reasoned, "Mrs Kennedy is the best prototype of the American girl. She can go no more to the French. She has to push American business, and the dress industry is the 3rd largest in the country. It's tremendously important for the economy and well-being of our country. Together – her wonderful sense of style and my designs – we will jell something here in this country, instead of having it transferred from Europe." 

Jackie's favorite dress was the 1960 azure blue strapless silk crepe evening gown with a bow at the bust line. Oleg Cassini described the 'Jackie Look', "Imagine a Royal Princess with a touch of fashion fantasy. She'll be elegantly dignified. There will be none of the dowdiness that goes with great austerity (*). There's going to be pepper there. But it will be in extremely good taste – and very much herself. I would be taking undue credit if I were to say I would redo Jacqueline Kennedy. But I will collaborate with her fine sense of fashion. The story will be this: Cassini proposes, Mrs Kennedy disposes." 

(*) In May 1974, Arnold J. Toynbee informed the world, "Ever since the outbreak of the industrial revolution 2 centuries ago (in the 18th), our newfangled economic set-up has required constant 'growth' in order to keep it going...In this century (the 20th), industrial workers have succeeded in raising their rates of wages through unionization. The 'developing countries' have heightened their tariff walls and have set up, behind these, mechanized industries of their own. And man's plundering of nature now threatens him with pollution and depletion...In so-called 'developed' regions – Europe, North America, the Soviet Union, Japan – 'growth' is going to cease. What is more, it is going to be reversed. Continual economic growth is going to be replaced by continual economic recession.

"…Now that the terms of trade are turning against the 'developed' countries in favor of the 'developing' countries, the peoples of the 'developed' countries are going to find themselves in a permanent state of siege in which the material conditions of life will be at least as austere as they were during the 2 World Wars. The wartime austerity was temporary, the future austerity will be perennial and it will become progressively more severe. When the people of the 'developed' countries are forced, by events, to recognize the inexorability of the new facts…they will be powerless to assault either 'natives' or nature, they will assault one another.

"Within each of the beleaguered 'developed' countries there will be a bitter struggle for the control of their diminished resources. This struggle will merely worsen a bad situation, it will somehow have to be stopped. If left unchecked, it would lead to anarchy and to a drastic reduction of the size of the population by civil war, famine and pestilence – the historic reducers of populations that have outgrown their means of subsistence.

"Consequently in all 'developed' countries, a new way of life – a severely regimented way – will have to be imposed by a ruthless authoritarian government...Children and incapacitated, unemployed or retired adults will have to be maintained by taxing the subsistence payments allotted to the productive workers...In a siege economy, all private property – except perhaps houses of non-palatial dimensions inhabited by owner-occupiers – might have to be nationalized.

"These suggestions are revolutionary, but they are as imperative as the wartime regimentation to which we have had to submit in the past. The effect will be the abolition of free enterprise on the economic plane of life. The economy will be put in irons. Some economic activities – for instance, stockbrokering and real-estate 'developing' – will disappear...Under the coming siege conditions, an authoritarian government's first task will be to impose a scale of differential subsistence payments (not wages or salaries or fees or profits) for all trades and for all classes...A society that is declining materially may be ascending spiritually. Perhaps we may be going to return perforce to the way of life of the first Christian monks in upper Egypt and of their 6th–century Irish successors. The loss of our affluence will be extremely uncomfortable and it will certainly be difficult to manage. But, in some respects, it may be a blessing in disguise, if we can rise to this grave occasion."

In November 1960, it was reported Congress had approved $75,000 for the new tenants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to spend on "extraordinary alteration and repairs (of the White House)…as the President may determine, notwithstanding of law." On February 14 (*) Americans were shown a taped one-hour special 'A Tour of The White House with Mrs John F. Kennedy' on television. "I just think that everything in the White House should be the best – entertainment that's given here, and if it's an American company that you can help, I like to do that. If it's not, just as long as it's the best," Jackie told viewers.

(*) It was understood February 14 was known as "St. Valentine's Day" because around the year 270AD, Claudius the Cruel executed the Roman holy priest Valentine for "performing marriages for young lovers in secret" after Emperor Claudius II had "banned all marriages and engagements in Rome". The ban took place because Claudius the Cruel "was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues because of their strong attachment to their wives and families." It was made known "Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off."

Back in 1988, Letitia Baldrige sighed, "The whole world has changed since the Kennedys." 

Blog Archive