On Tour with Jackie Kennedy: Versailles to Pop Icon (Part I)

Jacqueline Kennedy at the Palace of Versailles. Fifty years ago, from May 31 to June 16, 1961, a world leader’s wife found herself transformed into a world Icon in her own right. Many attributed the rare status to the night of June 1, when she glided in a cape past the illuminated gardens and fountains at the Palace of Versailles and sailed into the Hall of Mirrors in a glamorous evening gown to assume her seat at the table of history. After her palace premier, growing masses of fans cheered her as she toured in little hats and bright-colored dresses through Vienna and London. By the time she returned home to the U.S., she’d transcended being a mere trend-setter with a trajectory towards Icon along an arc that endures to this day. Her famous style, however, was but the hardware of an intrinsic substance more visible during her last stop, in Greece, without the press coverage of artificial coiffure or fussy clothes eclipsing it. Her intuitive sensitivity to the range of human emotions was especially overt the day she spontaneously postponed boarding a luxurious yacht to instead join a village festival with gustily celebrating peasants, an episode almost universally excised from her public narrative. Her substance and sensitivity, however, did embed in what she came to symbolize, though expectations of her as an Icon often proved so demanding she herself was overwhelmed by the phenomena known simply as “Jackie.” Mrs. Kennedy in the famous suit she wore that fateful day in 1963. As time moves on past a memorable event, it becomes easier for collective memory to believe the narrative which persists with the widest emotional appeal, an especial irony when it centers on a life chronicled almost daily for over thirty years in print and pictures. Jackie Kennedy Onassis made few public appearances after campaigning for her brother-in-law Teddy’s failed 1980 presidential bid. Today’s conventional view of Jackie Kennedy Onassis began when she let misperceptions about her go unchallenged and abandoned any further public role, following her reluctant 1980 presidential primary campaign appearances on behalf of her brother-in-law Teddy

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Categories: First Ladies, On Tour with Jackie Kennedy, Presidents, The Kennedys

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