Words by Natalie Hughes
Beloved by and then renamed after Jackie O, the accessory is a piece of fashion history
“What would Jackie Kennedy Onassis do?” is a perfectly reasonable question to ask oneself when getting dressed. After all, the famously chic first lady had objectively great style and a knack for accessorising. Her preferred finishing touches: a printed silk scarf, bug-eye sunglasses and, most importantly, a crescent-shaped Gucci bag, now known as the Gucci Jackie 1961.
There wasn’t just one Gucci Jackie – or as it was originally called, the Constance – in Kennedy Onassis’ repertoire. The style icon bought the bag in multiples, and she wore them so faithfully that Gucci ended up renaming the bag in her honour.
The story goes that in 1964, three years after the Constance was first released, Kennedy Onassis wandered into a Gucci boutique and left with six of the crescent-shaped bags. From then on, she was rarely photographed without one tucked under her arm, popularising the style and prompting the house to change the Constance’s name to ‘the Jackie’.
It’s easy to see why Kennedy Onassis was smitten. Boasting a half-moon, hobo-style silhouette and piston-shaped closure, the Gucci Jackie was a departure from many of the austere, structured bags of the era, signalling an effortless elegance that later defined the 1970s and feels contemporary to this day. With the exception of the monogram styles, the Jackie has no obvious logos, making it identifiable only to those in the know. And those in know included Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett, who was photographed looking extremely chic and writerly with his very own Jackie bag on the streets of Genoa, Italy, in 1971.
The bag was undeniably versatile; Kennedy Onassis wore hers in the city, at the airport, on holiday. She is pictured leaving her Manhattan apartment with a chocolate-brown leather version and in Capri wearing a two-tone canvas style. The accompanying outfit – a ribbed knit, wide silver belt and ruffle-trimmed midi skirt – looks as relevant now as it did in 1970, and typifies the timelessness of Kennedy Onassis’s style.
The Jackie was arguably one of the 1970s’ most-photographed bags, thanks largely to its namesake, who was trailed by paparazzi wherever she travelled. It seems fitting then, that the new Gucci Jackie 1961 is introduced for cruise ‘23 in a reportage-style campaign, in which we follow actor Dakota Johnson around Los Angeles. Captured by Glen Luchford, the film and photographs show the bag in various guises and scenarios, illustrating its versatility. Johnson is spotted running errands toting the Jackie in green, en route to a yoga class with the bag slung crossbody, and finally heading to Sunset Strip’s The Viper Room, aptly accessorised by a snake-print style.
This article originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com