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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Public figure, first lady to 35th u.s. president john f. kennedy

Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis (née Bouvier /ˈbuːvieɪ/; July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) was an American socialite, writer, photographer, and book editor who served as first lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963, as the wife of President John F. Kennedy. A popular first lady, she endeared the American public with her fashion sense, devotion to her family, and dedication to the historic preservation of the White House. During her lifetime, she was regarded as an international fashion icon.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from George Washington University in 1951, Bouvier started working for the Washington Times-Herald as an inquiring photographer. The following year, she met then-Congressman John Kennedy at a dinner party in Washington. He was elected to the Senate that same year, and the couple married on September 12, 1953, in Newport, Rhode Island. They had four children, two of whom died in infancy. Following her husband's election to the presidency in 1960, Kennedy was known for her highly publicized restoration of the White House and emphasis on arts and culture, as well as for her style. At age 31, she was the third-youngest first lady of the United States when her husband was inaugurated.

After the assassination and funeral of her husband in 1963, Kennedy and her children largely withdrew from public view. In 1968, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, which caused controversy. Following Onassis's death in 1975, she had a career as a book editor in New York City, first at Viking Press and then at Doubleday, and worked to restore her public image. Even after her death, she ranks as one of the most popular and recognizable first ladies in American history, and in 1999, she was listed as one of Gallup's Most-Admired Men and Women of the 20th century. She died in 1994 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery alongside President Kennedy.

Legacy
Popularity

Jacqueline Kennedy's marriage to Aristotle Onassis caused her popularity to decline sharply among an American public who viewed it as a betrayal of the assassinated president. Her lavish lifestyle as Onassis's trophy wife, in contrast to "the shy, selfless, and sacrificing mother the American public had come to respect" as First Lady, led the press to portray her as "a spendthrift and a reckless woman".

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took conscious control of her public image and, by the time of her death, succeeded in rehabilitating it. By moving back to New York City after Onassis's death, working as an editor for Viking Press and Doubleday, focusing on her children and grandchildren, and participating in charitable causes, she reversed her "reckless spendthrift" image. She also reestablished her relationship with the Kennedy family and supported the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

She remains one of the most popular First Ladies. She was featured 27 times on the annual Gallup list of the top 10 most admired people of the second half of the 20th century; this number is superseded by only Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II and is higher than that of any U.S. president. In 2011, she was ranked in fifth place in a list of the five most influential First Ladies of the twentieth century for her "profound effect on American society". In 2014, she ranked third place in a Siena College Institute survey, behind Eleanor Roosevelt and Abigail Adams. In 2015, she was included in a list of the top ten influential U.S. First Ladies due to the admiration for her based around "her fashion sense and later after her husband's assassination, for her poise and dignity". In 2020, Time magazine included her name on its list of 100 Women of the Year. She was named Woman of the Year 1962 for her efforts in uplifting the American history and art. Mary Tyler Moore's Dick Van Dyke Show character Laura Petrie, who symbolized the "feel-good nature" of the Kennedy White House, often dressed like Jacqueline Kennedy as well.

She remains one of the most popular First Ladies. She was featured 27 times on the annual Gallup list of the top 10 most admired people of the second half of the 20th century; this number is superseded by only Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II and is higher than that of any U.S. president. In 2011, she was ranked in fifth place in a list of the five most influential First Ladies of the twentieth century for her "profound effect on American society". In 2014, she ranked third place in a Siena College Institute survey, behind Eleanor Roosevelt and Abigail Adams. In 2015, she was included in a list of the top ten influential U.S. First Ladies due to the admiration for her based around "her fashion sense and later after her husband's assassination, for her poise and dignity". In 2020, Time magazine included her name on its list of 100 Women of the Year. She was named Woman of the Year 1962 for her efforts in uplifting the American history and art. Mary Tyler Moore's Dick Van Dyke Show character Laura Petrie, who symbolized the "feel-good nature" of the Kennedy White House, often dressed like Jacqueline Kennedy as well.

Style icon

Jacqueline Kennedy became a global fashion icon during her husband's presidency. After the 1960 election, she commissioned French-born American fashion designer and Kennedy family friend Oleg Cassini to create an original wardrobe for her appearances as First Lady. From 1961 to 1963, Cassini dressed her in many of her most iconic ensembles, including her Inauguration Day fawn coat and Inaugural gala gown, as well as many outfits for her visits to Europe, India, and Pakistan. In 1961, Kennedy spent $45,446 more on fashion than the $100,000 annual salary her husband earned as president.

Kennedy preferred French couture, particularly the work of Chanel, Balenciaga, and Givenchy, but was aware that in her role as first lady, she would be expected to wear American designers' work. After noticing that her taste for Paris fashion was being criticized in the press, she wrote to the fashion editor Diana Vreeland to ask for suitable American designers, particularly those who could reproduce the Paris look. After considering the letter, which expressed her dislike of prints and her preference for "terribly simple, covered-up clothes," Vreeland recommended Norman Norell, who was considered America's first designer and known for his high-end simplicity and fine quality work. She also suggested Ben Zuckerman, another highly regarded tailor who regularly offered re-interpretations of Paris couture, and the sportswear designer Stella Sloat, who occasionally offered Givenchy copies. Kennedy's first choice for her Inauguration Day coat was originally a purple wool Zuckerman model that was based on a Pierre Cardin design, but she instead settled on a fawn Cassini coat and wore the Zuckerman for a tour of the White House with Mamie Eisenhower.

In her role as first lady, Kennedy preferred to wear clean-cut suits with a skirt hem down to middle of the knee, three-quarter sleeves on notch-collar jackets, sleeveless A-line dresses, above-the-elbow gloves, low-heel pumps, and pillbox hats. Dubbed the "Jackie" look, these clothing items rapidly became fashion trends in the Western world. More than any other First Lady, her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and a large segment of young women. Her influential bouffant hairstyle, described as a "grown-up exaggeration of little girls' hair," was created by Mr. Kenneth, who worked for her from 1954 until 1986.

In her years after the White House, Kennedy underwent a style change; her new looks consisted of wide-leg pantsuits, silk Hermès headscarves, and large, round, dark sunglasses. She even began wearing jeans in public. She set a new fashion trend with beltless, white jeans with a black turtleneck that was never tucked in and instead pulled down over her hips.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis acquired a large collection of jewelry throughout her lifetime. Her triple-strand pearl necklace, designed by American jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane, became her signature piece of jewelry during her time as first lady in the White House. Often referred to as the "berry brooch," the two-fruit cluster brooch of strawberries made of rubies with stems and leaves of diamonds, designed by French jeweler Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., was personally selected and given to her by her husband several days prior to his inauguration in January 1961. She wore Schlumberger's gold and enamel bracelets so frequently in the early and mid-1960s that the press called them "Jackie bracelets"; she also favored his white enamel and gold "banana" earrings. Kennedy wore jewelry designed by Van Cleef & Arpels throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s; her sentimental favorite was the Van Cleef & Arpels wedding ring given to her by President Kennedy.

Kennedy, a Catholic, was known for wearing a mantilla at Mass and in the presence of the Pope; she is widely considered responsible for the popularization of the veil over the more traditional wide-brimmed hat among Anglophone traditionalist Catholics.

Kennedy was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1965. Many of her signature clothes are preserved at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum; pieces from the collection were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2001. Titled "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years," the exhibition focused on her time as a first lady.

In 2012, Time magazine included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on its All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons list. In 2016, Forbes included her on the list 10 Fashion Icons and the Trends They Made Famous.

Timeline

July 28, 1929
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born in Southampton.

Patents

Further Resources

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News

Title
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Date
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Boston Herald Wire Services
September 3, 2020
Boston Herald
Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street Thursday as high-flying technology companies tumbled after months of spectacular gains.
Associated Press
September 3, 2020
Boston Herald
The Martha's Vineyard estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is being sold to a pair of nonprofits that plan on turning the property into conservation land open to the public, officials said Thursday.
Associated Press
June 28, 2019
Boston Herald
AQUINNAH, Mass. (AP) -- The Martha's Vineyard estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is on the market for $65 million.
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