The Style of Camelot

Posted on November 22, 2013


It never occurred to us to do anything on this site in observance of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. It’s pretty far outside our purview, after all. But we had the enormous honor of being asked by PBS NewsHour to contribute a short essay on the style of Camelot,  featured here. Our Mad Style posts had a lot to do with why we were asked to contribute, so we tried to put the style of the Kennedy years into some sort of context, as well as looking at the tragedy itself through the lens of style, strange as that sounds:


“Did she ever wear pink again? Or carry roses? These are the things we wonder.

There’s so much to the Kennedy mystique and legacy. We’re not sure there’s anything left to say about two of the most examined people of the last century, but we can’t help focusing on their tremendous style — a marriage of New England moneyed Irish preppiness and French-infused finishing school couture that shouldn’t have blended well but managed to become iconic. With John and Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Family became an aspirational image for the first time — a magazine cover version of the presidency, perfectly suited for an ever-accelerating mass-media age of across-the-board middle class growth. That good-looking couple just down the street. Jack and Jackie.

But they were much more than that, of course, this refined, privileged and well-educated couple, who filled the White House with artists and antiques or managed the near-impossible task of charming the French people on their home soil, in their own language. The world watched them greet and host a succession of world leaders and great artists; Jack, charming everyone with his smile and ease in a tux, and Jacqueline, owning the room in opera gloves, a bouffant and one stunning gown after another. Pure post-war continental glamour. A presidency of style.

And in the end, when it was over and something needed to be said, some expression of grief or rage needed to be expressed, she remembered that the world looked to her and saw only the surface of who she is, focusing on her clothing above all else. When asked if she wanted to change out of her blood-encrusted pink suit on that interminable plane ride back to Washington from Dallas, she declined. “Let them see what they’ve done.”

We’re ever so proud of it, so please go on over there and read the whole thing, as well as a bunch of other short essays from people who humble us just by having their names on the same page as ours.

When the piece went up last night, we figured it might be nice to feature some examples of the Camelot style here on our site, since it’s not a given that everyone who reads us is familiar with it. There’s so much written about the JFK years and we’re not at all interested in rehashing the pros and cons of them, but there’s a reason these two became so iconic and it’s not entirely because of the tragedy. They brought an approachable sort of glamour to the presidency that hasn’t ever been quite matched and defined the aspirational look for the period in a way that no other First Couple ever has in the modern era. For a time, for their time, “Jack and Jackie” were what people wanted to be.







[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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