Forever Jackie

By Mary Christopher

November 12, 2014: By the time I could identify all of the Huxtables on “The Cosby Show,” I was already fascinated with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

My baby boomer mother, think Sally Draper obsessed with Mary Poppins, grew up in the thick of the 1960s culture boom as a Jackie lover and Kennedy admirer.

Her love for Jackie certainly rubbed off on me – a girl who came of age in the 90s during the emergence of technology, hip hop and Hillary Clinton.

In May 1994 when everyone was rushing around my suburban town having prom pictures developed, I was running around buying commemorative Jackie magazines because she had just passed away. There may have been photos I hadn’t seen before and I was curious to see which part of her life would be projected on the cover … young Jackie, First Lady Jackie, jet set Jackie O or New York years Jackie.

As I look through those magazines today no feelings have changed, no interest flailed and no part of me wants to de-clutter the box to make space for my daughters’ ever expanding toy collection. Why? Because it’s Jackie, she will always remain a chic and timeless mystery.

She never seemed to go through any “awkward” phases in life and didn’t need formality to look elegant. It was her natural way. Her life was a mixture of fairy tale, fable and tragedy. As one of the most followed and photographed women in the world we are left feeling like we didn’t quite know her.

Someone once said that Jackie was “a phenomenon in phenomenal times” and I believe that to be very true. Living in the sixties had to be an unbelievably sensational and befuddling experience. The country changed socially, politically and culturally and she entered at just the right time. Coming off the stodgy fifties, she infused chic, modern and traditional sensibilities in her own way. Classic with a twist.

It’s all been said before, but her style, grace, beauty and mystique all have yet to be matched. She is the gold standard for all things beautiful and elegant. If her closet were still in tact today, we could pull out anything and wear it. She was that timeless. Interestingly for the constant public fascination that surrounded her right up until her death, there is still so much we are left wondering about her.

We were offered glimpses into her life, but her quest for privacy and peace never allowed the public full access. For that she will always be in our hearts and minds. When someone pops up with some “new” anecdote, photo, book or program we can’t help but tune-in.

Some of my fondest memories were had on vacations that somehow had some sort of Jackie element weaved into them.

When our Greek honeymoon had to be postponed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, what did we do? Packed the car for Newport, Rhode Island of course! I treasure the photo of my husband and I standing outside the slightly arched wooden door at St. Mary’s Church, made famous by JFK and Jackie on their wedding day. Peering into her life – even if you are only getting a tiny glimpse – is powerful and often emotional.

As a young girl my parents, brother and I visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on a few occasions. The standout trip being when her actual wedding gown (not paper replica) was on display.

The crown jewel of all my Jackie related pilgrimages was with my mother in 2001 to see the exhibit Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We both felt that we were actually witnessing history and having the up-close experience of seeing the gowns, outfits and accessories that we spent a lifetime marveling at was a thrill for us.

Her pink straw lace Cassini creation worn at the Elysee Palace in France … intricate perfection. You truly got a sense of her figure and stature as the clothing came to life viewing it in person.

Later that year when the show moved to the JFK Library in Boston I went with my husband again, but this time I was writing about it for the newspaper I was working at. Armed with a press pass and my own tour guide, again I was able to take in the beauty. While the Boston exhibit was smaller and displayed fewer pieces, seeing them again and being able to write about it professionally was a wonderful experience for me. 

Some may say she represents an era gone by, but her good taste and quiet persona that spoke volumes are too important to fade away. They are a gold standard. Jackie’s importance in history, fashion and culture will always be relevant.

My daughters are now growing up amid the Kardashian era where ego and sharing anything and everything on a whim is becoming the norm. We can only wonder (but I think we all have an idea) of what Jackie would think about that.

Keeping that in mind, viva la Jackie!

Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2002-2015. All Rights Reserved.