First ladies have made many wonderful contributions to the United States throughout the years. As we came into the modern era, first ladies were no longer just the wives of the most important public figure; some became iconic figures themselves. The first woman to carve out this space for herself was Jackie Kennedy.
As one of the first accomplished, educated first ladies, Jackie wasn’t afraid to champion her own causes. She was a force of good, strong but unapologetically feminine. She was an icon, and fashion was just one arena where she ruled supreme.
Jackie’s keen fashion sense was no happy accident. A combination of her New York upbringing and New England adulthood, her style was simple, posh, and unforgettable. We’ve now learned just how much work went into crafting her look, and it wasn’t by designers and assistants and buyers. Jackie was in charge of it all, even on the most tragic day of her life.
Before she was a member of the Kennedy family, Jackie displayed a classic, classy sense of style.
As first lady, Jackie was aware of how she was perceived and utilized fashion to control that perception. She was always feminine, but still sharp and timeless with her choices.
Her choices were more daring than first ladies before her, showing that she wasn’t afraid to be modern (an idea that also rang true for her husband’s administration).
Recent resurfaced packing lists show just how much effort the first lady put into the looks we call iconic today.
The New York Times revealed these handwritten lists in an article published on July 2, 2018.
When Jackie traveled with her husband, she made lists of her planned outfits for each day, down to the handbag, gloves, and jewels she needed to bring.
Today, the notes jotted down by Jackie are valued at $75,000 each.
Because Jackie valued her privacy greatly, there’s been a lot of discussion over where these lists will be preserved and displayed.
A dealer well-versed in the auctioning of Kennedy personal items told the New York Times, “It’s a really sexy document. It has everything: her poise, her planning, her status as a fashion icon and, of course, the dark side.”
Of course, Jackie had no idea how the pink and navy Chanel suit she wore on November 22 would be emblazoned into public memory forever.
The next and last time the public would see the iconic pink Chanel suit was as a solemn Jackie stood next to Lyndon B. Johnson as he took the oath of office. The late-JFK’s blood was still splattered on the suit. It was never cleaned and remains preserved in the National Archives to this day.
As far as public memory goes, the black Givenchy suit she wore to JFK’s funeral comes second only to the pink Chanel suit. Images of the veiled widow showed a combination of poise, grace, and mourning in a time of national (and personal) tragedy.
Even in her later years, Jackie’s style was always at the center of the conversation.
Among her many great achievements, Jackie is still remembered today as a style icon.
She continues to inspire generations of women who are unapologetically, classily themselves.
It’s terrible that some of Jackie’s biggest fashion moments are tied to the worst day of her life, but it does speak to the staying power of both her and her husband’s legacy. The recovered packing lists may be another reminder of a terrible time in American history, but they are also the mementos of a woman very much in control, empowered by her choices.