Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Sarah Coffey
Jul 28, 2010

Whole books have been written about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' style, and although it's sort of redundant to post a column about her unique aesthetic, today is her birthday...so we figured, why not give her one more small shout-out?

Throwing the bouquet at her wedding, 1953

Like anyone who lived a long, full life, Jackie went through many phases and many different "style decades." Style-wise, she's usually remembered as a fashion symbol — Chanel suits, pillbox hats, and pearls will always be associated with her years as First Lady. Yet she also had a strong sense of herself as a preservationist, and her efforts to restore and conserve the White House have been well documented.

Her background prepared her to be a smart and savvy aesthete. Born into the wealthy Bouvier family, she spent much of her childhood in an East Hampton mansion known as Lasata. As a girl, she rode horses on the grounds. She attended private schools in Maryland and Connecticut, and — after a stint at the Sorbonne — graduated from George Washington University with a degree in French literature. Out of college, her eye grew sharper working as the "Inquiring Camera Girl" for the Washington Times Herald.

Refurbished White House Red Room, 1962

In 1953, she married Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. In 1960, JFK defeated Richard Nixon in a heated race and, in January of 1961, the new First Couple moved in to the White House. Just one month after moving in, Jackie announced the formation of a Fine Arts Committee that would focus on restoring the home. The next month, the committee appointed Lorraine Pearce the first White House curator.

"It would be sacrilege to merely redecorate it—a word I hate," Jackie said in an interview with LIFE Magazine. "It must be restored, and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship." She helped to found the White House Historical Association in 1961 and oversaw the publication of the first guide to the building, which remains in print today. She also appeared in a televised tour of the restored White House, for which she received an Emmy.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has many beautiful photos in the public domain from the Kennedys' White House years, and we pulled the slideshow above largely from those. That's why you see so much of "Camelot" with a huge — and noticeable — absence of photos from Jackie's other eras. After JFK's assassination in November of 1963, Jackie guarded her family's privacy closely, and there are fewer public photos available from the post-Camelot years.