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- Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy: Glamour Comes to the White House

The First Ladies at the Smithsonian

Jacqueline Kennedy made it known that she would be focusing on the arts. Shortly after the election, she announced her intentions to make the White House “a showcase of American art and history.” Newspapers reported her plans for the historic house and changes in White House entertaining (more intimate, more French), but spent a greater amount of time covering her style. Stories about her influence on public taste and the fashion industry, her appointment of Oleg Cassini as her official designer, her plan to buy American fashion, and her inaugural wardrobe appeared in daily newspapers. The scrutiny made her determined, she said in one interview, that once in office, the Kennedy administration wouldn’t “be plagued by fashion stories.”

“As the First Lady born in the Twentieth Century, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy will epitomize the modern American way of life.”
Washington Post, November 13, 1961

Gift of Mrs. John F. Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Inaugural Gown, 1961

Jacqueline Kennedy wore this off-white sleeveless gown of silk chiffon over peau d’ange to the 1961 inaugural balls. Its strapless bodice under the chiffon covering is encrusted with brilliants and embroidered with silver thread. Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf Custom Salon designed and made the dress based on sketches and suggestions from Mrs. Kennedy. It was worn with a matching cape (not displayed). Along with a description of the inaugural wardrobe, the Washington Post reported that Mrs. Kennedy’s “career as a major fashion influence was beginning impressively.”

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Inaugural Gown, 1961 (detail of front)

Courtesy of Associated Press

Jacqueline and John Kennedy, 1961

Jacqueline and John Kennedy leaving for the inaugural balls, 1961