Style Icons: Jackie O and Queen Elizabeth

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The ultimate game of "who wore it better?"

By Zoe Denenberg

Monochrome dress-suits, triple-strand pearls and pristine white gloves. These timeless pieces mark the wardrobes of two of history’s most influential – and fashionable – women: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Queen Elizabeth II. 

Although these two figures are seldom compared in terms of their fashion sensibilities, in a side-by-side view, Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II’s wardrobes are remarkably similar. 

So who wore it better? You decide.

and it was all yellow...

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During her 1961 official visit to Paris, Jackie Kennedy wears a pale yellow jacket created by Oleg Cassini, one of her favorite designers. The jacket is made of Alaskine, a crisp, vintage fabric made of silk and wool. She pairs this suit with a signature pillbox hat created by Roy Halston Frowick.

Queen Elizabeth II dons a similarly bright ensemble for the 2017 Royal Ascot, wearing a sunshine yellow jacket with a yellow hat to match. Due to her extensive collection of colorful dresses, the Court takes careful precautions to ensure that the Queen never unintentionally repeats an outfit. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Queen’s dress designer Stewart Parvin said, “Her dresses are each given a name that is recorded on a computer with the dates on which they were worn.” 

Although both women gravitate toward a daring color palette, their overall looks are classy and simple. Jackie and the Queen are almost always spotted wearing a triple strand of pearls, a timeless addition to their colorful looks.

lazy day hermès

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A Hermès scarf: the most stylish way to hide from the paparazzi, protect a coiffed blowout from the wind, or to make a timeless fashion statement. This versatile accessory has adopted a plethora of patterns and colors since its debut in 1937 and, to this day, it remains a staple fashion piece. 

Oversized sunglasses, Hermès headscarves, and trench coats composed Jackie’s travel aesthetic, as she often sported these signature pieces in airports. Since Jackie was constantly on-the-go, she became an early American icon of feminine street fashion. Here she is pictured at London's Heathrow Airport in 1972. Queen Elizabeth II also frequently dons a patterned Hermès headscarf, without the statement glasses, for a casual yet composed look at horse shows.

powerful in pink

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Jacqueline Kennedy's infamous watermelon-pink Chanel suit did not merely make a fashion statement: it told a story. Here, Jackie is pictured arriving at the airport in Dallas with her husband, President John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963. The Presidential pair was driving in a motorcade through Dallas just after their arrival when he was shot and killed, blood splattering on Jackie’s pink suit.  

Immediately following her husband’s death, Jackie refused to take off the blood-stained suit, famously saying, "Oh no... I want them to see what they have done to Jack." She wore the suit during the emergency swearing in of new President Lyndon B. Johnson and did not remove it until she arrived back at the White House the next morning. For the whole nation, Jackie’s pink Chanel suit came to symbolize her strength and resilience in a time of crisis. Although Jackie's family deeded the suit to the National Archives, the suit's location is kept a secret to this day. 

a deep red duo

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The haute red of these ladies’ outfits exudes warmth, class and power – a perfectly appropriate color for their respective occasions. Jackie wears a wool two-piece by Chez Ninon for a nationally televised Valentine’s Day tour of the White House in 1962. The dress would gain notoriety and be featured in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City – “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.” Queen Elizabeth II wears a deep red overcoat for a visit to the Royal Air Force Marham on February 4th, 2008. The Queen watched a flypast of Tornado jets returning from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and personally greeted the returning squadron air crew.

cross-continental class

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Foreign delegations always require the utmost elegance, as epitomized by this stylish duo. On her 1962 trip to India, Jacqueline Kennedy’s pastel blue silk dresses certainly stole the show. Queen Elizabeth II similarly wows in sky blue at a banquet in Oman on her 1979 Gulf Tour. She switched out her trademark triple-strand pearls for a stunning triple strand of diamonds – quite a sparkly upgrade. Aside from their refined fashion tastes, both of these women’s composure and grace gained them worldwide respect as they represented their countries abroad.

bold and bright

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Are apricot and peach dresses making a comeback? While many fashion stylists avoid these bold colors, the vibrancy certainly draws all eyes to Jackie and the Queen. These ladies share a similar affinity for matching their attire to the occasion. Jackie carefully selected this apricot silk dress for a daytime boat ride in Udaipur, India; she aimed to be instantly identifiable to onlookers on the shore as she sailed to Udaipur’s White Palace. This bright, yet elegant dress sure did the trick. 

Just as Jackie strove to stand out with her fashion choices, the Queen selects bold colors so that she can always be easily seen. Here, she wears a sherbet overcoat and matching hat for the 2015 QIPCO British Champions Day racing at the Ascot Racecourse. Queen Elizabeth surely deserves to be the center of attention at these races, where she even has an event named after her, “The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.”

foxy ladies

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Just as these ladies loved to make a statement in bright colors, they also embraced dynamic prints. These archival images capture Jackie and Elizabeth II in leopard-print fur coats fit for a queen (no pun intended). Leopard print has been a popular pattern since the 1920s and reached a peak in the 1960s, when these ladies were extremely well-known public figures. For Jackie and the Queen, these bold statement coats served as markers of style and status.

an accessory for every occasion

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If these women leave the world with one lesson, it’s that no outfit is complete without a matching hat (or crown). Jackie often opted for her signature pillbox hat or, as she wears here, its cousin the beret. Meanwhile, the Queen has touted a wide range of hat styles throughout the years, adorning their rims with buttons, flowers, feathers and more. In an E! News article, Journalist Melanie Bromley said, “Royal milliner Rachel Trevor-Morgan makes the Queen’s favorites,” with the more elaborate designs costing upwards of $1,500. 

In addition to their matching hats, Jackie and the Queen sport bejeweled brooches to add a little sparkle to their outfits. Jacqueline Kennedy wears her beloved 'berry pin,' which she received as a gift from her husband upon the birth of their son, John F. Kennedy Junior, in 1960. According to The Kennedy Center, the chief designer at Tiffany's specially fashioned the berry pin to symbolize the Kennedys' two children. "One berry, slightly larger and with slightly larger stones, represented Caroline; the smaller berry stood for the new baby, John Jr.," said the Kennedy Center.

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Not only is the Queen rarely spotted without a color-coordinated outfit – she is also always prepared with a matching umbrella. Her signature umbrella is clear so that she can still be seen beneath it, but is rimmed with color to complement her outfit. 

Another one of the Queen's essential accessories is a Launer handbag. She is said to own over 200 of the classic bags, her favorite styles being the Royale and the black patent Traviata. So what's inside that signature handbag? 

"Alongside everyday items such as a mirror and lipstick," The Telegraph says, "is always a crisply folded £5 note to donate to the church collection on Sundays." 

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timeless elegance

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Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II’s shared affinity for white gloves is hardly a coincidence. White gloves historically symbolize high status, cleanliness and dignity; by frequently donning these gloves, Jackie and the Queen reinforce their images as prim and proper.

This rare photo of the Queen from 1972 gives a glimpse into her fashion sensibilities as a young woman. Since then, she has rarely, if ever, appeared publically with her arms exposed. According to Bromley, the Queen’s transition to long sleeves carries symbolic weight. 

“Fashion helped cement her place as a world figurehead." Bromley says, "The strappy dresses and off-the-shoulder tops she used to love parading around in were relegated to the back of the closet, replaced by higher necklines and lower hemlines. And it's a look that stuck and helped ensure that she radiates regal power and authority ever since.”

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Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II used their fashion sensibilities as yet another way to curate their public presence. Their shared values of tradition, class, poise and feminine strength can be gleaned through their elegant fashion choices. Through timeless accessories and classic ensembles, these two women cement their spots in history – not only as instrumental politicians, loving mothers and gracious diplomats, but also as fashion icons.

fashion forward

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While Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II certainly earned their spots as fashion idols, they simply cannot compete with the queen of couture, Coco Chanel. But there's much more to Chanel's story than purses and perfumes. Learn about another fashion legend with 15 things you didn't know about Coco Chanel.