Wedding: Dress Drama: The bittersweet story behind Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress

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Designing the wedding dress of a future First Lady is as career-defining a moment for any fashion designer, and Jackie Kennedy’s remains one of the best-remembered gowns in modern history.

a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by Evoke.ie

Made from ivory silk taffeta, it featured a striking portrait neckline, a fitted bodice and a bouffant skirt that had interwoven tucking bands. It was dappled with wax flowers and came with fifty yards of flounces. The style would go on to become coveted by brides for decades to come. She also wore a rosepoint lace veil, that was first worn by her grandmother, which was draped elegantly from a tiara of lace and orange blossoms.

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800 guests attended the society wedding ceremony of the season in the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island, on September 12, 1953. It is said 3,000 people lined the streets outside just to try and get a glimpse of the beautiful bride.

While it was utterly ravishing it was not the wedding dress that Jackie imagined herself wearing to say I do to her beloved, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and she is said to have compared it to a lampshade.

John F. Kennedy et al. posing for a photo: Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Democratic senator for Massachusetts, escorts his bride Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929 – 1994) down the church aisle shortly after their wedding ceremony at Newport, Rhode Island. Pic: Keystone/Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Democratic senator for Massachusetts, escorts his bride Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929 – 1994) down the church aisle shortly after their wedding ceremony at Newport, Rhode Island. Pic: Keystone/Getty Images

Before she was a Kennedy and before she was a First Lady, young Jackie Bouvier who came from a well-connected New York family was working as a photojournalist for the Washington Times-Herald. She had gotten engaged to the stockbroker John G W Huster Jr after a month of dating, but called it off after three months because she apparently found him ‘immature and boring.’

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A life-changing meet-cute came in 1952 when she was introduced to Congressman John F Kennedy at a dinner party by one of her friends, and the politician was instantly smitten by her. JFK scored success as he was elected the senator of Massachusetts in November of that year, which he celebrated soon after by proposing to Jackie with a 2.88-carat diamond and 2.84-carat emerald Van Cleef & Arpels ring, Vogue notes.

Jackie approached the African-American couturier Ann Lowe to create her wedding gown. A biographer of the designer told Elle that Ann had previously created gowns for Jackie so she was attuned to her taste. The whole ordeal proved to be a nightmare for the designer and would be something that would haunt her long after the big day was over.

Having recently travelled to Paris, it is said that the young bride-to-be, who was 24 at the time she tied the knot, wanted a simple French-style gown for her nuptials. Her soon-to-be father-in-law had different ideas though and pushed for something more ostentatious.

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a man and a woman standing in front of a curtain: Ann Lowe adjusting the bodice of a gown she designed and worn by Alice Baker. Pic: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Ann Lowe adjusting the bodice of a gown she designed and worn by Alice Baker. Pic: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

For 35 years, Ann was a hidden force on the American fashion scene who crafted one-of-a-kind pieces for the upper echelons of society such as the Roosevelts and the Rockefellers. The acclaimed actress Olivia de Havilland would go on to wear one of her designs to the Oscars in 1974.

The wedding dress took two months to make and was made up of more than 50 yards of silk taffeta it was reported.
Unimaginable disaster struck just ten days before the young bride-to-be was to walk down the aisle as a pipe burst in the designer’s studio destroying the original wedding dress and taking nine out of the 15 of the bridesmaids’ dresses with it too.
While the team worked day-and-night to remake the intricate elements it carried a big loss for the studio, at what would have amounted to about $21,000 today, Vogue writes. The designer also never allegedly told Jackie or her mother what had happened either.
a vintage photo of a group of people standing in a field: A scene from the Kennedy-Bouvier wedding. Groom John walks alongside his bride Jacqueline at an outdoor reception, 1953. Newport, Rhode Island. Pic: Bachrach/Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie A scene from the Kennedy-Bouvier wedding. Groom John walks alongside his bride Jacqueline at an outdoor reception, 1953. Newport, Rhode Island. Pic: Bachrach/Getty Images

Despite the fact that Ann was a barrier-breaking African-American designer her role in the making of the iconic wedding dress was largely written out of history. This was 1950s America, it’s not hard to connect the dots. Her illustrious career was dogged with racial discrimination, but she paved a brave path for designers of all colour and creed.

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Spirit-crushing disappointment came for the creative as it has been reported that when asked who was behind her instantly-iconic wedding dress, The Washington Post note that the newlywed Jackie simply said: ‘a coloured dressmaker did it.’

a woman wearing a dress: Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress was nothing short of iconic. Pic: Bachrach/Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress was nothing short of iconic. Pic: Bachrach/Getty Images

Ann would continue to face serious financial issues for the rest of her career and would be rendered penniless by the time of her death.

She was frequently taken advantage of by her clientelle who always challenged her to lower her prices, and she declared bankruptcy in 1963.

It was reported that thousands of dollars of her debt were cleared by an ‘anonymous friend’. Lowe is said to have suspected that it had been none other than Jackie.
On the subject of dress drama, another iconic wedding dress was shrouded in controversy: Meghan Markle’s!
Lee Radziwill et al. posing for a photo: The wedding cake was traditional and had five tiers. Pic: Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie The wedding cake was traditional and had five tiers. Pic: Getty Images
a group of people posing for a photo: Jacqueline Bouvier (C), bride of Sen. John F. Kennedy, wearing a gorgeous off-the-shoulder wedding dress. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Jacqueline Bouvier (C), bride of Sen. John F. Kennedy, wearing a gorgeous off-the-shoulder wedding dress. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images a woman standing in front of a wedding cake: Portrait of future US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929 – 1994) (in a Battenburg wedding dress) next to her wedding cake at her wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Portrait of future US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929 – 1994) (in a Battenburg wedding dress) next to her wedding cake at her wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images a woman standing in front of a crowd of people: View from behind of Jacqueline Kennedy (1929 – 1994) (in a Battenburg wedding dress) as she dances with her husband, future US President John F Kennedy (1917 – 1963) at their wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie View from behind of Jacqueline Kennedy (1929 – 1994) (in a Battenburg wedding dress) as she dances with her husband, future US President John F Kennedy (1917 – 1963) at their wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, John F. Kennedy posing for a photo: John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier wed on September 12, 1953, in St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Pic: Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier wed on September 12, 1953, in St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Pic: Getty Images John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis posing for a photo: Newport, RI: Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and his bride, the former Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, cut their wedding cake after their marriage yesterday at St. Mary’s Church in Newport. Pic: Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Newport, RI: Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and his bride, the former Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, cut their wedding cake after their marriage yesterday at St. Mary’s Church in Newport. Pic: Getty Images a group of people standing in a wedding dress: Senator John F. Kennedy and his bride, the former Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, leave a Newport, Rhode Island, church following their wedding ceremony. An estimated one thousand people waited outside the church for the newlyweds. Pic: Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Senator John F. Kennedy and his bride, the former Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, leave a Newport, Rhode Island, church following their wedding ceremony. An estimated one thousand people waited outside the church for the newlyweds. Pic: Getty Images George Smathers, John F. Kennedy posing for a photo: Sen. John F. Kennedy (C), with his bride Jacqueline in their wedding attire. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Sen. John F. Kennedy (C), with his bride Jacqueline in their wedding attire. Pic: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images a woman standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Throwing Bouquet, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, by Toni Frissell, September 12, 1953. Pic: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images © Provided by Evoke.ie Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Throwing Bouquet, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, by Toni Frissell, September 12, 1953. Pic: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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