There’s no question Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was an icon of style. That’s why these style hacks that came straight from the woman, herself are brilliant and yet almost shockingly intuitive. But it turns out Jackie had an eighth brilliant hack for stepping out in style, which has only come to light with the publishing of her former assistant’s memoir, Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family.
Kathy McKeon served as Jackie’s assistant from 1964 (when, as McKeon puts it, “the shock of President Kennedy’s assassination was still fresh”) through 1977 (two years after Jackie became a widow for the second time, having re-married to Aristotle Onassis in 1968). “I couldn’t know… mere days into my new job, how thoroughly I would be swept up into this most royal of American families,” McKeon writes in her prologue, and that included getting to know a very intimate fact about Mrs. Kennedy/Onassis: one of the elegant beauty’s legs was a quarter of an inch shorter than the other. This little-known fact didn’t seem to bother John F. Kennedy who once told her she looked “smashing” in the pink suit she wore the day before he died. This was the last thing JFK said to Jackie before he died.
“I had never seen such a dazzling selection of shoes! London-look boots, pumps in every color, spotless sneakers for morning jogs around the reservoir,” Town & Country quoted McKeon as having written. But what intrigued her more than the variety of shoes was the way all the shoes were the same in one critical way. One shoe in each pair had a quarter-inch lift affixed to its heel, “apparently… to compensate for one leg being slightly shorter than the other.”
To put Jackie’s attention to detail into perspective, consider this: a quarter inch is about the size of a pencil eraser. That same attention to detail contributed to Jackie’s famously elegant renovation of the White House, as well as her meticulous editing of the script for her nationally televised tour of the renovation, which took place on Valentine’s Day of 1962 and drew 80 million viewers in all. This is just part of the incredible history of Jackie Kennedy’s decorating of the White House. Many of her changes during the extensive White House restoration project in the early 1960s have lasted.
But what many people still may not know, even after reading McKeon’s memoir, is that Jackie may well have drawn her inspiration for this style-hack from none other than her husband, John “Jack” F. Kennedy. In 1955, two years into the Kennedy marriage, Jack saw Dr. Janet Travell for his near-debilitating back pain. Dr. Travell discovered that Jack’s left leg was shorter than the right and so made heel lifts for all of Jack’s left shoes to compensate. Jack’s back pain improved, and Dr. Powell was eventually the president’s personal physician.
And presumably, in addition to making rocking chairs chic again (Dr. Travell recommended that Jack use a rocking chair for comfort’s sake), John F. Kennedy may have been the secret inspiration for Jackie’s correction of her own posture. Whether Dr. Travell was the maker of Jackie’s lifts isn’t known at this time, and Dr. Travell died in 1997 at age 95. But if we ever find out, you’ll be the first we’ll tell! Next, check out these 15 rarely seen photos of JFK and Jackie Kennedy.