Jackie Kennedy, 1961
What She Wore: A white gown and cape she designed herself in collaboration with Bergdorf Goodman’s Ethan Frankau.
What it Meant: When Jackie came to the White House in 1961, she was already widely recognized as one of the most fashionable ladies in political society and, at just 32, she was also one of the youngest First Ladies in recent history–two facts her daring gown and cape perfectly underscored. That she actually had a hand in designing the outfit speaks not only to her fashion savvy but also her control over her public image. “She knew exactly how she wanted to look, what she wanted to wear, and how she wanted to present herself,” Betts said. “Not every First Lady has that.”
According to Betts, Jackie, as one of the first First Ladies to be televised in that role, took the new media into consideration when she dressed. “She used her style to telegraph her message in a way that was highly calculated for television.”
She chose pale colors that would look good in black-and-white and made an effort to choose slightly unconventional looks so that you could pick her out in a crowd. During the Inaugural Day parade, for instance, Jackie wore a cloth coat despite the cold temperatures. She might have been freezing, but in a sea of fur coats, which was the standard cold-weather outerwear for ladies at the time, she certainly stood out. “She seemed younger and fresh, dressed in a way that was not conventional.”