Master of the chic accessory, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy “O” Onassis is still one of America’s proudest sartorial figures. Her pristine and effortless style was punctuated by her characteristic dark oversized sunglasses, neat hairdo, perfect white gloves, gracefully placed hat, classic string of pearls, Hermès silk scarf, and off-duty Capri sandals. Perhaps her iconic shades were a product of her father “Black” Jack Bouvier’s teachings; he said, “Always let others see you as mysterious…unattainable”.
A pro at putting together separates, New York-born Jackie Onassis trailblazed the pantsuit at a time when dresses and skirts were the norm. She also felt an affinity with Hubert de Givenchy and Chanel’s subtle French tailoring - the strawberry-pink and navy-collared Chanel suit worn with a pillbox hat on November 23, 1963 when her husband was assassinated, has become one of the iconic outfits of 1960s America. Valentino once said, “Much has been said about Jackie’s style. Her look was feminine and simple with a legendary ease… Her sense of elegance inspires me to this day.”
Despite being a lover of luxury fashion, Onassis's eye for craftsmanship meant she inadvertantly propelled the work of humble Italian artisans to world fame as she championed designers she stumbled across during trips to the island of Capri. She developed a good relationship with the local shoemakers Canfora, who would open the store out of hours to allow her to shop there in privacy. A sandal christened “K” was made exclusively for her. However, legendary former American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland claimed to have ordered “Capri sandals” for the first time in 1935 from a native Cobbler, thus initiating their popularity.
The story of the sandals, along with a wider exploration of Kennedy’s relationship with Capri, feature in an exhibition and an accompanying photobook Jacqueline A Capri (Jackie’s Capri). On show are images of the icon relaxed and smiling as she holidays with her husband Aristotle Onassis, her two children John-John and Caroline Kennedy, and various friends, shot by Settimo Garritano along with an accompanying revelatory essay by Guiseppe Scaraffia.
Un Mito Nel Mito, sponsored by TOD’S, is at La Conchigilia, Grand Hotel Quisisana, Capri, Italy until August 20, 2011.
Text by Laura Havlin