Being the daughter of an internationally admired fashion icon is daunting enough, but Caroline Kennedy says she was even more awed by her regally turned out grandmas on both sides of her famous family.
“My grandmothers were the most correct and elegant women I have ever known, “ writes the fifty-something child of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose new poetry anthology, “She Walks In Beauty,”celebrates the gifts and mysteries of womanhood. “Thinking about my grandmothers now, I understand that it was their faith, bravery, and curiosity that made them beautiful.”
However, in a chapter dedicated to poems about beauty, clothes and things of this world, Kennedy says she especially admired her grandmothers for their attention to sartorial details and the joy they took in looking their best. “They always wore lipstick and perfume, they carried a handbag, even around the house, and they always dressed for dinner,” she says. Kennedy notes that Rose Kennedy, the tough clan matriarch, was especially fond of Lilly Pulitzer shifts, and never minced words when she thought one of her many grandchildren wasn’t dressing up to her exacting standards. She says that Grandma Rose gave her firm thumbs down on a green dress she bought, telling her, “That’s lovely, dear. But in my day, we tried to buy things that suited us.” Ouch, Granny!
As for her equally imperious maternal grandmother, Janet Auchincloss, Kennedy explains that she too had firm opinions about clothes.”My mother became famous for creating her own style, but she learned a lot from her mother,” she recalls of Mrs. Onassis who died in 1994, and Mrs. Auchincloss who passed away five years earlier. “Ever since they fought about her wedding dress, she steered my grandmother’s critical comments away from her, and toward the length of my brother’s hair, the social deterioration of fashion in general, and my summer wardrobe in particular.”