Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy was a true style icon who was revered by many for her impeccable fashion choices. But even her biggest admirers might be surprised to learn that in her many pairs of shoes, she kept a secret that would not be revealed until years after her death in 1994.
A fashion icon
Jackie’s outfits have been analyzed and discussed for decades. Her commitment to style cemented her as one of, if not the, most fashionable first lady in American political history. Fashion was very important to her, and Jackie spared no expense when buying clothing and accessories. It is said that she spent more on outfits and accessories than her husband, John F. Kennedy, made in salary as President of the United States.
Even though the John F. Kennedy Library has acquired many of Jackie’s more iconic outfits, including her shoes, and despite the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art displaying many of her outfits in an exhibit dedicated to the Kennedys, no one noticed her secret sitting in plain sight.
Live-in aide’s exposé
The secret hidden in Jackie’s shoes would only be revealed after her live-in assistant of 13 years, Kathy McKeon, published her autobiography, Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family. As you can imagine from the title, the book describes her time living with and working for the Kennedy family. McKeon established a close connection to Jackie Kennedy herself during this time. McKeon had intimate access to the first lady’s wardrobe and kept her secret quiet until 2017 when she published her autobiography.
Even before the publication of Jackie’s Girl, it was common knowledge that Jackie was very particular when it came down to the little details. Extremely organized and meticulous, Jackie kept her wardrobe in tip-top shape. In the memoir, McKeon describes this further, noting, “The bedroom walk-in closet was jam-packed with Madam’s everyday clothing, all arranged according to color. I had never seen such a dazzling selection of shoes!”
After graduating from George Washington University with a French Literature degree and a previously-acquired junior editorship at Vogue, Jackie grew fond of French fashion and designers. Unfortunately, a strong love of French designers did not mix well with the patriotic requirements of a political wife, so Jackie reached out to fashion editor Diana Vreeland to help source American designers who could recreate Parisian fashion.
This really set Jackie apart as a fashion icon. Women all over America tried to embody the iconic and always fashionable first lady. She became famous for her pillbox hats, A-line dresses, suits, and over-the-elbow gloves. Jackie had a say in every aspect of her outfits, and was quite forward about the vision of her fashion style. This extended into the style and make of her shoes, where she would hide a secret that would not come to light until long after her death.
The secret revealed
Jackie’s meticulousness could be seen in all parts of her fashion sense – including her footwear. When she sent her personal shoppers to select her new shoes, she had one request that was the same for every pair she wore. She kept this request a secret.
What she was hiding was a characteristic she would share with her husband, John F. Kennedy. One shoe out of every pair had to be lifted one-quarter of an inch! Like her husband, who had previously discovered that the cause of his back pain was that his left leg was shorter than his right, one of Jackie’s legs was a tad shorter than the other. Now the difference was no more than the length of a grain of rice, but her constant attention to detail made it important to her.
Because of this, nearly every pair she owned had one shoe raised one-quarter of an inch. The public had no idea that Jackie was hiding this secret. Even in 2013 when a pair of her size 10 René Manici pumps went on auction and sold for $30,000, the new owners did not expose the first lady’s secret.
As Kathy McKeon wrote in her autobiography, “No one would have ever guessed.”