Jacqueline Kennedy’s notes to designers up for auction
Even the stylish former U.S. first lady admitted to tiring of the all-black attire long considered chic in New York City.
In private, even the stylish former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis admitted to tiring of the all-black attire long considered chic in New York City.
“I just love this suit & will wear it everywhere as I am SO sick of everyone constantly in black - like Mediterranean villages where everyone is in mourning for 20 years,” she once wrote to Bill Hamilton, then the design director at Carolina Herrera.
The handwritten note – accompanied by her own sketch of a suit with a single-breasted jacket – is among a few dozen pieces of Onassis’ personal correspondence making a rare appearance at auction Saturday in Florida.
The notes about clothes and furniture she was buying show the human side of the widow of President John Kennedy and tycoon Aristotle Onassis, said Rico Baca, auctioneer and co-owner of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.
“In these notes you get a sense of how someone famous can make the average person comfortable,” said Baca, who is preparing the personal correspondence for auction Saturday. “She really did go out of her way to make people feel appreciated.”
Mostly written on her signature blue stationery, all the notes end with the former first lady giving thanks for the work Hamilton and interior designer Richard Keith Langham did for her from the mid-1980s until her death in 1994.
Some notes offer Onassis’ polite yet firm opinions on shoulder pads, the shape of a jacket, slim pant legs and the weight of chairs.
Hamilton remembers how Onassis would arrive for fittings with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in aluminum foil in her handbag, ready to work through lunch to get the details right.
“To get the point across she would do drawings of ideas she wanted, from a canopy bed to a jacket. We spent a lot of time selecting fabrics,” Hamilton said.
“She knew when she went out she had to look perfect,” he said.
Other notes simply express Onassis’ appreciation for work done by designers she considered friends.
“I hope life gives you back all the nice things that you put into it for other people,” she wrote Langham on the back of a postcard of the Louvre in Paris.
Among the correspondence to Langham is a copy of a book about Onassis’ restoration of the White House when she was first lady. “What fun it would have been to work with you then,” Onassis said in an accompanying note.
The auction also will include photographs by Bob Davidoff, who spent decades as the Kennedy family’s photographer in Palm Beach, Baca said. The black-and-white prints show Onassis’ classic yet trendsetting style in tailored pants, big sunglasses and simple yet elegant shift dresses.
Baca expects bidding for each of the 30 lots of correspondence and photographs to start from $800 to $1,200.