“One should always dress like a marble column.”
Throughout history, fashion has generally been associated with a negative connotation. People who value their appearance are seen as vain and conceited, and those who dedicate all their time to the latest trends are considered superficial. Prior to the 1960s, public opinion of fashion was shaped by the conservative views that dominated American society. Jackie Kennedy, the 35th First Lady, used her popularity to encourage freedom of expression through style.
Kennedy began veering from the status quo at a young age. Because she came from a wealthy family, she was given opportunities that many young girls at the time would not have had. She was allowed to dedicate a significant amount of time to her interests, including horseback riding and reading — she was even encouraged to become a writer. During her high school years, she studied in Paris for a year where she gained exposure to different cultures and grew to be an independent and strong young woman. She returned to America and began her first job at Washington Times-Herald where she had the opportunity to cover various political events. This is where she was introduced to John F. Kennedy, whom she married two years later. Soon after, he announced his candidacy for president and was subsequently inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States of America.
Jackie Kennedy became First Lady at the age of 31, making her one of the youngest in history. She became increasingly aware of the significance of her role in the White House, and knew that anything she did was not only a reflection of her husband but also of the country. She worked to express silently, through her style and attitude, that she was more than just a behind-the-scenes pretty face standing next to the president. Throughout the time she served as First Lady, she never allowed herself to be robbed of her femininity, and embodied poise and elegance wherever she went. Kennedy redefined what it meant to be a graceful, yet strong woman.
She never let herself have a public “off” day; she knew that as the face of the country, her exterior appearance was of the utmost importance. If she were to slack off, she would be vilified as weak. She firmly believed that one should dress as though every day were an event.
Her daily look consisted of a variety of clothing and accessories that revolutionized the idea of grace. For example, she primarily wore miniskirts and dresses — which was quite bold at the time for someone who was often in the public eye. Even though people constantly made remarks about her perceived inability to understand the gravity of her position in the White House, Kennedy was secure in herself and her clothing choices. Additionally, she never left her room without a pillbox hat, elbow length white gloves, and oversized sunglasses. No matter where she was going, she exuded elegance. But above all, her confidence was undeniable. She understood that her decision to dress authentically was more important than the views of the public, and so she was comfortable experimenting stylistically.
Regardless of whether you lived through Kennedy’s era or are living in 2019, we can all learn something from Jackie O. She proved that it’s possible to be ground-breaking without being loud or overtly bold. She made femininity strong and beautiful, as it should be, because she emboldened it with confidence everyday. So take a page from Jackie’s book; be authentic and stop worrying about what everyone will think. Wear what you want, and wear it with confidence.