KENNEDY, JACQUELINE as FIRST LADY (ELECT) Magnificent nine page autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini in advance of the presidential inauguration.
Palm Beach, FL: 13 December 1960. Nine page autograph letter in blue ink signed "XO Jackie", written on the recto and verso of 5 sheets of "North Ocean Boulevard/Palm Beach, Florida" stationery. Each sheet 7 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches. Usual folds and handling creases and with a few chips to the upper margin, remnants of hinging tape to versos where formerly mounted for museum display.
As Mrs. Kennedy prepares herself for the White House, a remarkable and important letter readying Oleg Cassini for the design role of a lifetime. Penned about one month following her husband's election as President, the detailed letter is entirely about fashion and aspects of the highly intimate journey on which the two - designer and First Lady - are about to embark.
"Thank heavens all the furor is over and done without breaking my word to you or Bergdorf's" the letter opens regarding Mrs. Kennedy's decision to wear a gown designed by Cassini the Inaugural Gala and a gown of her own design created by Bergdorf's to the Inaugural Ball: "Now I know how poor Jack feels when he has told 3 people they can be Secretary at State!" Mrs. Kennedy admits this letter is "a series of incoherent thoughts that I must get settled so I can spend these next weeks truly recuperating" and provides several lists of instructions for Cassini. The first list regards her measurements, Cassini sending fabric swatches of evening gowns to bag and shoe designers, and requesting sketches of the "cape or coat to wear with your white dress for Inaug gala Jan 19. It must be just as pure & regal as the dress." She instructs Cassini to work on outfits for public daytime appearances "that I would wear if Jack were President at France." As the instructions intensify, Mrs. Kennedy stops the letter to ask in all caps" "ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE UP TO IT OLEG?"
The soon-to-be First Lady reveals that she cannot devote as much time to clothes as she had during the campaign or "I will never see my children or my husband or be able to do the million things I'll have to do" and urges him to hire an additional secretary just for her matters if needed. Mrs. Kennedy continues discussing the control she wishes to have over publicity noting that it "has gotten so vulgarly out of hand" and that she "will never become stuffy - but there is a dignity to the office which suddenly hits one" and that she refuses "to have Jack's administration plagued by fashion stories of a sensational nature & to be the Marie Antoinette or Josephine of the 1960s ... But if I look impeccable the next 4 yrs everyone will know it is you - and you will probably have Mrs. Rockefeller or whomever desperately telephoning you in 1964." The final point of this first list regards "COPIES - just make sure no one has exactly the same dress I do ... I want all mine to be originals & no fat little women hopping around in the same dress ... as long as when I wear it first it is new & the only one in the room."
As the remarkable letter comes to a close, Mrs. Kennedy provides an additional list of highly personal concerns: "1) Forgive me for not coming to you from the very beginning - I am so happy now - 2) Protect me - as I seem so mercilessly exposed & don't know how to cope with it ... 3) Be efficient by getting me everything on time ... 4) Plan to stay for dinner every time you come to DC with sketches & amuse the poor President & his wife in that dreary Maison Blanche & be discreet about us" and closes with encouragement "5) I always thought that if Jack & I went on an official trip to France I would secretly get Givenchy to design my clothes - so I wouldn't be ashamed - but now I know I won't have to - yours will be so beautiful. This is le plus grand compliment I can give you - as a designer anyway? XO Jackie".
See Oleg Cassini. A Thousand Days of Magic, 1995, p. 28.
C Estate of Oleg Cassini, 19th Street Townhouse, New York
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