SHE WAS YOUNG, beautiful, and cultivated. She had studied European literature and art, spoke French and Spanish, and traveled abroad extensively. Her taste was impeccable--at once simple and sophisticated. She had, one might say, a modern outlook informed by Old World values. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was a new kind of First Lady, and the world embraced her as a role model and inspiration. By following her own standards and aspirations, she broadened an awareness of the arts and historic preservation. With her husband, she opened our eyes to international culture and engagement. She transformed our idea of what a First Lady could be, and, in doing so, she transformed the image of America.
"Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years--Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum" examines the influence of this extraordinary woman through the unique lens of style. On display are more than 70 articles of clothing and personal items, classic and rarely-seen photographs, Mrs. Kennedy's handwritten notes, video excerpts from her White House tour, etc. Through these intimate objects and public events, the exhibition transports visitors back to a memorable time in our nation's history--a moment when the world opened before us, and nothing seemed impossible.
While the exhibition displays many of Jacqueline Kennedy's signature outfits and accessories--from pillbox hat and sunglasses to A-line dresses and elegant formal gowns--it is tar more than a fashion show.
"People through the ages, in every part of the world, have used clothing and personal adornment to create identities for themselves and their cultures," explains John McCarter, president of The Field Museum, Chicago. "This exhibition examines how Jacqueline Kennedy created her own public image, and how that image relates to the change in American cultural perspective--the emphasis on youth and vigor, internationalism and culture--that began in the early 1960s."
Mrs. Kennedy publicly feigned innocence of her role. "What does my hairdo have to do with my husband's ability to be President?" she wrote from the campaign trail. Yet, this, too, was part of the image. She was well aware of her power, and used it wisely. "I know that I am so much more of fashion interest than other First Ladies," she told her fashion coordinator, Oleg Cassini. Cassini himself was chosen precisely to project an image: the American fashion magazines had begun to criticize Kennedy's French tastes, and, unlike the...