How to Get the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Look


Jackie Kennedy, wife of President Kennedy, at opening of Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City on Sept. 23, 1962. ID 60352808 © Picturemakersllc |

There is no denying that Jackie Kennedy is and was a style icon.  Women still try to replicate her outfits and looks.  She is the gold standard to whom all other women’s sartorial choices are compared.  Think of Michelle Obama on inauguration day…her outfit was defined as Jackie-esque (I don’t feel that is fair to either woman).

Some elements of Jackie’s style can not be replicated by all women.  She had a well proportioned, well-toned build; so curvy women for example can’t wear the same cut of clothes and expect the same results (yes, I am talking about me!).  Nor can women who are tom-boy thin, nor basketball player tall wear the same outfits and look the same.  However, there are elements from which we can all learn.

Jackie Kennedy at Charity Tennis Tournament in New York City in the 1980s. ID 60332139 © Picturemakersllc |

What was it that gave Jackie her timeless look?  Ultimately, it can be boiled down to five points:

1.  Jackie did not wear many patterned fabrics near her face.  We see this preference for solid fabrics from many famous women such as Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, Queen Elizabeth, etc.  Patterns can be distracting, photograph as busy, and often make a photo look dated.  Jackie, instead, chose fabrics that were solid colored, many with a monochromatic texture such as tweed or beading.  I am reminded of a lovely evening dress that featured a silk woven fabric skirt.  The fabric had been a gift from King Saud of Saudi Arabia.  She had the long column dress made with a solid fabric bodice (at one point it was pink velvet and another time it was hunter green velvet).   It was gorgeous on her.  She used the ornate fabric on bottom, while keeping the solid fabric near her face.

2.  Jackie’s clothes were precisely tailored to fit her body.  No baggy pants in her closet or hemlines that hit at the wrong spot.  She knew the few dollars invested in tailoring made her clothes look perfect on her.

3.  Jackie chose silhouettes that looked good on her body shape.  Jackie’s lean frame looked good in tailored clothes.  Even though the 1980s brought gargantuan amounts of fabric to many stylish outfits, I can not find a photo of Jackie wearing one such outfit.  No t-shirts down to her knees, no shoulder seams down to her elbows, no gathered day dresses down to her ankles.

4.  Jackie incorporated elements of modern trends, but kept to her style.  We can all agree that Jackie was the most stylish woman in the world.  Her wardrobe was always appropriate for the time, but she was not a victim of fashion whims.  She would incorporate elements of modern style into her outfits without going overboard with faddish choices.

5.  Jackie chose outfits that were streamlined.  She rarely had scarves, bows, ruffles or other ornate elements in her clothing.  If there were embellishments, they were minimal and controlled.  Think of the French bow she used on the white evening gown on inauguration day.  One simple, restrained embellishment was all that was required.

Although Jackie had a tried and true look that she wore, she didn’t even always hold true to her own style.  I recently ran across a photo of Jackie during the Onassis years, and her hair was long and pulled off her face.  She wore a 1960s patterned dress.  It may have been one of the worst looks I have seen her photographed wearing.  But that is okay.  We are all going to make bad choices from time to time.  That is how we learn what works and what doesn’t.  Needless to say, I have not seen another photo of Jackie with that hair style or dress.

If we want to incorporate Jackie’s look into our own closet, just follow the five pointers above, and you are well on your way to looking like one of the best dressed women in the world!

Bonus:  If you want to take a trip across Europe this summer, I would recommend enjoying said trip with the Bouvier sisters. Their book, One Special Summer, is written and illustrated by Jackie and Lee as a thank you to their parents for their 1951 trip to Europe.  It is a delightful, quick read full of humorous stories!

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