My Material Life

Jackie’s Style

Project Runway is doing a show tonight inspired by the style of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. You’d never know it from the promo they’re showing though. It looks like things get positively ugly which is so not Jackie.

I too have been smitten by her style. In my mind’s eye I can see her as a debutante, as First Lady, and in late middle age, but my favorite image is probably as Jackie O., wearing those sandals, white pants, black top and sunglasses with a scarf tied around her head. So chic.

In the spring of 2002, I got to accompany my husband on a business trip to Washington, D.C. where The Corcoran Gallery was featuring an exhibit of the exquisite clothing Jackie wore during her White House years. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded when I visited the exhibit and I got in quite a bit of sketching. I love the quote from the exhibit that accompanies the dressing table above – the idea that her style was not about vanity, but a way of expressing her vision of beauty in the world.

Some time after that trip I found the little book above on a sale table at one of my favorite book shops, Books Inc. What a treasure. The illustrations are charming beyond words. If you are a Jackie fan, you simply must track down this book. It was published in 1998 and documents two trips Jackie took abroad – one with her husband in 1961 and another with her sister in 1962. The illustrations are by Jacqueline Duheme (she accompanied Jackie and her sister on the second trip) with text by Vibhuti Patel.

A Precarious Camel Ride

Lunch with the Queen

Resting Up

I made a color photocopy of this last illustration and framed it for my daughter’s room. When I saw the bedding in it, I finally knew what to do with some floral fabric I’d bought years before.

Let’s hope tonight’s show isn’t as bad as the commercial makes it out to be!



  1. Jo Ann

    I’ve been looking at your blog this evening because I wanted to find this entry. I’ve been meaning to ask you if you have the book “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” which comes from the exhibit at the Kennedy Library & Museum. I think it is the same exhibit you saw at the Corcoran. I have a hard backed copy that I found at a book sale. If you don’t have it, I’ll give it to you. It is so much fun to see all those beautiful clothes.
    Jo Ann

    • I picked up a soft cover copy at the exhibit – thanks! It was really cool to see them in person. They don’t make em like they used to. Michelle Obama looks great, but I’ll bet her clothes aren’t as well made as Jackie’s were in the olden days.

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