Jackie Kennedy's Cape Cod Style
I love walking on the angry shore,
To watch the angry sea;
Where summer people were before,
But now there's only me.
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Few women hold our fascination in the way Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis does. Her particular brand of elegance has been revered and emulated and iconized and parceled out to replicable bits and pieces for decades. Add pearls! Try a bandana! I recently came across the feature image- a picture of Jackie barefoot in Hyannis Port, Cape Cod, a young John F. Kennedy in sea-splashed shorts by her side a few months before their wedding. I stared at the picture for some time, hardly believing these people were real, and that for this moment in time, they weren't icons, but humans, basking like so many of us in the universal pleasures of summer.
Of course, since I've had summer style on my mind, I very quickly got to thinking about Jackie Kennedy's Cape Cod style. What can we learn about getting dressed from the woman behind the icon in all of those surreal Hyannis Port pictures? What can we learn from her about our own womanhood?
We have a tendency to reduce style to things we can easily understand. We make it about a hair cut or a hat, about the pearls or the shorts or the collared shirt. We make it about a brand name or a logo or a price tag. We even make it about a place. It's as if we're likely to absorb style via osmosis just by being in a certain location. In short, we tend to consistently externalize style by making it a function of things outside of our own being.
Enter Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, bona fide style icon, being stylish simply by being. By being herself, by being a wife and mother, by indulging her joys (she had a special relationship with Cape Cod all her life). Style pieces on Jackie Kennedy tend to dole out endless lists of items we can own to replicate her style. But looking at these pictures, the magic in them has nothing to do with replicating her clothes, but with embodying her spirit, her sense of self, and applying it to our own lives. It was Jackie who said, "I am a woman above everything else," and I see that sentiment borne out in these pictures. When I look at these images, I see Jackie's style as a function not of what she's wearing, but of how she's living. It's about elegance as attitude. It's about style as an embodiment of who we are, the roles we play that nurture us, and the things we do that gratify us. As one of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' dear friends wisely said, "...a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later."
This summer, I've been trying to get clearer on what constitutes good summer style. I've considered the importance of simplicity, the benefits of white, the joys of wafting, the potential role of oft-overlooked accessories. Now,courtesy of Jackie Kennedy comes another insight: summer style as a way of being authentic to ourselves. The next time I'm tempted to see my summer style as something I can buy, I'll think of Jackie Kennedy, pants wet up to her thighs, shirt untucked, exuding the kind of style that has very little to do with clothes.