Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 21 February 2015

"The Kennedys - Timeles Fashion Icons" in the KaDeWe

©Brigitta Huegel


You see it at one glimpse: These are The Kennedys
We have an exhibtion now in Berlin's KaDeWe (= Kaufhaus des Westens, founded in 1902, with 60.000 square meters shop floor the biggest department store in Continental Europe. And just around our corner...). 
No political themes are touched - but that would be unfair to expect from an exhibition with the title "THE KENNEDYS. Timeless Fashion Icons." 
"The Kennedys" here are just the couple John F. and Jackie Kennedy (though the exhibition organizers sometimes quite surprisingly talk of "Jackie O."). NOT surprising for the KaDeWe: the subject is Fashion. Huge grey moveable walls in the entrance hall form an open cube, in which the new Armani collection is sold. 
On the enclosure walls the black-and-white photos are presented (the original photos are in the private 'Museum The Kennedys' - surprise again: I did not know that Berlin has such a museum). 
The legends under the photos are beautiful, but not easy to read, they glitter golden at knee's-height, so you have to do a bit of aerobics and take-off your sunglasses... (though, if you don't want to be outraged by the many comma faults: keep them on...)  
What do you think of when you hear "Jackie O."? 
I think: Pillbox hat, huge dark sunglasses, A-line - in one word: elegance. 
Some facts are quite interesting - for example I did not know that John F. wore - different from other chief of states - single-breasted suits, his suit jackets were without a vent, had small soft shoulders and were strongly tapered/waisted. Also new for me: he wore silk ties in "American stripe-direction" (my strange translation) - they go from below right to above left - contrary to the British style, where the aristocrats wore ties with stripes from below left to right above and sneered at the copycats from America - till those changed their design in the Twenties.. 
Jackie loved Givenchy, Chanel, Dior (he invented the A-line) - but, after Pat Nixon said in 1960 
"I like American designers, I think they are the best in the world", Jackie switched to Oleg Cassini - an American, because she wanted to please the American voters. 
And her 3 strings of pearl were made of glass - 6mm and 8mm in diameter - the wealthy society then loved those pearls, easier to buy and more even than real ones.  
Both Kennedys loved the Ivy League style when in private - when Jackie met John the first time she had short cropped hair - "the Italian cut" - but the voters and the press preferred the "Bouffant" (which in the Fifties originally was designed to counteract the huge petticoats). 
And she had to wear a hat - thus she needled the pillbox-hat on her hair - because John hated hats. Which infuriated (and finally ruined) the American hat industry - they slid into a sales crisis (which Jackie should heal...) 

So: if you are near the KaDeWe - have a look! 

©Brigitta Huegel






16 comments:

  1. I delight in the iconic photo of the Kennedys. It reminds me of entering my teens and feeling such promise glowing in the future. We called it Camelot.

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    1. Dear Geo., it was "to make a virtue out of necessity": I photographed a shop window, because inside the glass reflected the light so much that it was impossible to see the objects of the photo.
      I'm still looking for Camelot... favour Lancelot. :-)

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  2. Jackie Kennedy is the first First Lady in my memory whose clothing was a subject of news every time she was seen in public. Her prim little pillbox hat and tailored dresses became the height of fashion. Poise and grace were defined by Jackie Kennedy.

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    1. Dear Emma, yes, I think her very, very elegant too. She really has poise and grace, as you say.

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  3. I remember having a strawberry pink Jackie Kennedy suit for going away on my honeymoon - I thought I was the bees knees in it.
    I think that she was probably one of the first so called celebrities that everyone wanted to emulate.

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    1. Dear Rosemary, I "see" you in that dress - very special.
      And what I like: timeless (well, that's one attribute of elegance).
      Do you still own it? Could you still wear it today? I think so.
      (Last year fashion designers started to bring in a few quotes of the Jackie style).

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  4. I remember her well - she was certainly a fashion icon of her day and always looked impeccably dressed.

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    1. Dear Elaine, yes, she was beautiful. When I read about the hats and the hair it was the first time that I thought about the pressure that press and voters put on the president's wife.

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  5. They were our "American Royalty" ...she so very chic and he so handsome with their storybook beautiful children. I remember my mother buying me a Jackie-inspired red wool suit... Straight skirt with a little just below the waist jacket that buttoned down the back with black tarpunto trim on the lower front edge and a pair of black kitten heels for a family wedding... I was almost 13. I was in heaven... My mother sewed all my clothes so I felt very sophisticated and beautiful in my store bought suit! Thanks for memories, Britta! Smiles...Susan

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    1. Dear Susan, now that is interesting! One of the headers of the photographs was "Royal Glamour"!
      I see your red wool suit before me - chic! (And one always remembers colour and texture of beloved dresses, I believe).
      And kitten heels: I am so glad that they are back since a few years: much easier to run through a city with them, and more becoming than ballerinas (though I wear those too).
      I rember that I learned to sew to copy a few things in the futuristic style of Courrèges.

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  6. Hi Britta,
    I liked Jackie Kennedy and she always looked so chic and well turned out. I'm afraid that I wasn't so enamoured with Jack or any of the Kennedy men … I shall say no more !! XXXX

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    1. Dear Jackie, some politicians with outstanding merits can't resist temptation (men in low places neither, come to think of it). Jackie O. was an example for elegance and grace in every way - in conduct and loyalty too. .

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  7. She really had it right, didn't she? I was recently sent a link (which of course I can't find now) showing Oscar fashions from the year of the flood to now, and it seemed very apparent to me that more has been lost than gained!

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    1. Dear Sue, I admire her elegance - and you are right when you say there was lost a good deal of it in modern fashion: I think the fashion for "grown up" women was lost, because nowadays they make beautiful clothes, - for ordinary life, I mean - but so short that no woman over 30 wants to wear it (her legs could look as beautiful as they might - it is a question of proportion and style).

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