In the wake of Edward Kennedy’s death, The Washington Post has a fine appreciation of the Kennedy clan’s perfectly imperfect style. Fashion writer Robin Givhan puts a nice twist on the old Shakespearean adage that clothes make the man by arguing that patrician pedigree can make even modest attire look rich.
It’s an interesting way of looking at things. The idea that clothes make the man (“the apparel oft proclaims the man,” is how Polonious puts it in “Hamlet”) suggests a case of working from the outside in, whereas Givhan says that with the Kennedys it went from the inside out, with their character imbuing otherwise understated attire with the associations of wealth and privilege. In the former it’s the clothes that are doing the proclaiming, in the latter, the man himself.
Some highlights from the article:
Those images of the Kennedy clan — so steeped in mythology — speak of a particular kind of subtly sporty American style that the fashion industry has devalued.
The photographs of the generation of Kennedys… evoke what one used to think of as old-money style. The Ivy League suits, the chinos and button-downs, the boat shoes, the tweed jackets and the colorful crew necks that fit just so — loose enough to be comfortable but snug enough to hint at an athletic physique.
In looking at the images of the Kennedys, though, the clothes don’t look perfect. In fact, they don’t even look especially expensive… We associate them with wealth only because they are worn by the wealthy.
A Washington Post timeline and slideshow on Senator Kennedy can be found here.
The portrait above is from the September 28, 1962 cover of Time Magazine. — CC