Why Jackie O Is Still The Ultimate Summer Dresser – And What We Can Learn From Her Outfits

Introducing our new FashBack series with the First Lady of fashion.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis style

by Laura Antonia Jordan |
Updated on

Influencers existed long before Instagram had us tapping for credits. The fashion zeitgeist has always been shaped by the forward-thinking and super-stylish – the trend creators rather than the trend followers – who can anticipate what we want to wear before we even know it.

Exhibit A: Jackie Kennedy. As First Lady in the early 1960s, Kennedy’s poised looks redefined what contemporary American style looked like. She had impeccable form in pre-empting how women wanted to dress, popularising the boxy skirt suit, column dress and pillbox hat (hers were designed by Studio 54 favourite, Roy Halston) in her White House years.

Jackie Onassis in 1976
Jackie Onassis in 1976 ©Getty

And like all true fashion icons, the Jackie look continues to endure. So much so that if you’re struggling to nail summer 2020 style (and who could blame you? Summer dressing is tricky), and are left cold by the supersized dresses and dad sandals doing the rounds at the moment, then you’d be advised to step away from the ‘gram and do a deep dive into her fashion back catalogue instead.

Specifically, you’ll want to look at the era Jackie Kennedy became Jackie O, that is when she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968 (her White House era Chanel suits and white gloves are as lovely as ever, just a little much for the park perhaps). It was during the late ’60s and ’70s that she mastered a clean-lined, minimal style that delivered maximum impact. Today, it’s a look that feels as relevant – and irresistible – as ever.

Jackie Onassis in 1970
Jackie Onassis in 1970 ©Getty

You need to think of Jackie O less as a summer style fling and more as an enduring, lifelong romance. Her appeal is rooted in an immaculate breeziness. This is a woman whose cool, calm, collected exterior made her seem as if the air around her was perpetually air conditioned. Sure, you might more likely be schvitzing on the bus than disembarking the Christina O (as Onassis’s yacht was called) but, never mind, you can allow your wardrobe to tell a different story.

The temptation in the summer can be to overdose on fuss; too many frills and florals, too much froth. But the secret to Jackie O’s warm weather wardrobe is simple – although the ingredients are specific. For starters, steer clear of saccharine pastels in favour of a neutral palette: black, white, navy and camel are perfect. You wardrobe doesn’t need to be an entirely ‘pow’ free zone, however. Peppy primary brights are Jackie-approved for after dark, on belted, fluid dresses, or on holiday when worn in unapologetic blocks.

Jackie Onassis in Greece with her children John Jr and Caroline
Jackie Onassis in Greece with her children John Jr and Caroline ©Getty

As for the pieces? Reconsider the shirt outside of its traditional workwear realm; unbuttoned low and tucked into high waisted skirts and trousers is the way to wear and infinitely more chic than trying to negotiate a bra with a vest top, we’re sure you’ll agree. Cropped trousers, meanwhile, are made for strolling barefoot in an Amalfi Coast port (or, you know, around the garden). She liked white ones, but you'd be advised to steer clear if you are anywhere in the vicinity of children/animals/grass/red wine. And don’t underestimate the power of a great T-shirt, a scoop necked long-sleeved style and a boyish short sleeved one are a shortcut to summer ease. And ease is the word to keep in mind, here; she never, ever looked like she was trying too hard.

Jackie Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill
Jackie Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill ©Getty

Accessories are where you can have fun. Wooed by this summer’s headscarves? Look to Onassis for a masterclass. She also popularised the barely-there Capri sandal, and was dedicated to her Gucci Constance hobo bag (so much so, it was renamed the Jackie) – so find your signature pieces and wear them on repeat. Jewellery should be minimal, this is a jingle-jangle free zone where less is more. Her supersized, bug-eyed sunglasses, meanwhile, still look shockingly modern. For Jackie, excellent for shielding from the prying eyes; for you, a perfect hayfever deterrent.

And the best thing of all about these investments? Well, they’re exactly that: investments. Nobody knows what trends we’ll be jumping on next summer, but we can guarantee these will still look as stylish as ever - much like Jackie O will.


Jackie O Style

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Victoria Beckham, Gold And Blue Deep Square Sunglasses, £325

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Jigsaw, Denim Button Through Midi Skirt, £85

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Matalan, Cropped Bengaline Trousers, £10

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Dodo Bar Or, Lolitta crocodile-effect leather skirt, £820

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Mango, Openwork knit polo, £29.99

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Max&Co, Oversized Square Sunglasses, £129

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Zara, Jacquard Dress With Belt, £49.99

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Kate Spade, falling flower square scarf, £70

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Uterque, Striped Knit Dress, £130

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Boden, Long Sleeve Breton, £28

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Autograph at M&S, Pure Irish Linen Short Sleeve Shirt, £36

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Zara, Knit skirt with buttons, £29.99

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Dune London, Loupe Smart Slider Sandals, £85

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Marge Sherwood, Grandma Mini Croc-Effect Leather Top Handle Bag, £294

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Missoma, lucy williams gold t bar chain necklace, £215

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& Other Stories, Striped Twill Scarf, £29

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Next, Linen Blend Crop Trousers, £24

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Kaleos, Brown And Gold Tone Bennet Square Sunglasses, £210

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Dodo Bar Or, Paya rib-knitted silk shirt, £398

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Staud, Rey contrast-handle leather bag, £270

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H&M, Button-front skirt, £14.99

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Uniqlo, Linen Blend Open Collar Short Sleeved Shirt, £19.90

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