Jackie Kennedy is renowned by some for being the most glamorous first lady in U.S. history. Everybody remembers that iconic boatneck wedding gown and those stunning pillbox hats. And yet Jackie’s effortless sense of style actually kept a fact about her hidden from the public for decades. Yes, it turns out that Jackie’s choice of footwear was concealing an intimate secret in plain sight.
A closer look
The revelation came about after Kathy McKeon — who served as Jackie’s live-in aide for 13 years — published her autobiography in 2017. And it was a chapter of the book, entitled Jackie’s Girl, discussing her boss’ famous wardrobe that made all the headlines.
So how did McKeon find out what had escaped so many others before her?
Something about the shoes
Well, the aide was tasked with taking care of the former first lady’s closet. McKeon wrote in her autobiography, “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!” But when McKeon took a closer look, she also spotted one unusual thing about the footwear.
Kept a secret
It’s interesting that this secret has been kept hidden for so long – considering how much we know about Jackie. And how much fans have always obsessed over her style — from her head to her toes.
The then-future first lady was, it seems, always destined to be a bit of a fashion icon. After graduating from George Washington University with a French literature degree, she acquired a junior editorship at the most fashionable magazine out there: Vogue.
At this point, though, Jackie's most memorable fashion moment was yet to come. After breaking off her first engagement to stockbroker John G. W. Husted Jr, Jackie was formally introduced to John F. Kennedy — then a U.S. representative — at a dinner party.
And just over a year later, the pair confirmed they would be getting married.
Hidden under the dress
Regarded by some as the social event of 1953, the couple’s wedding ceremony took place at St. Mary’s Church in Rhode Island.
Jackie wore a beautiful flowing gown with a bouffant skirt, portrait neckline, and a fitted bodice. The creation — which had a whole 50 yards of material on it — can’t have been easy for the bride to move around in. Yet it looked amazing on her, and it cemented her place as a true fashion icon. Fans wouldn't have spotted the secret about Jackie's shoes that day, as the dress conveniently covered them up.
Not looking at her feet
And while Jackie would flaunt her gorgeous shoe selection lots after her special day, fans were probably more interested in how she supported her husband. Jackie proved to be a vital part of JFK’s triumphant re-election to the Senate in 1958.
In fact, JFK told a reporter that Jackie’s appearances and support during his campaign proved “simply invaluable.” And she served a similar role during his subsequent bid for the U.S. presidency — all while looking flawless, we might add.
A whole new wardrobe
After JFK won the 1960 Presidential election, Jackie asked her fashion designer friend Oleg Cassini to provide her with a unique wardrobe for her various duties. The French-born American then helped create some of the first lady's most iconic outfits — including her inaugural gala dress.
And she no doubt played a part in creating Jackie’s special footwear.
Jackie proved to be a popular first lady, making more official international visits than any of her predecessors, and each time, giving fans a glimpse at her fabulous wardrobe. But being decked out in the latest trends didn't come cheap.
In fact, Jackie spent in excess of $145,000 on outfits and accessories in 1961 alone. That was nearly $50,000 more than the yearly salary JFK received for being the president of the United States.
Make it French
The work of French couture designers Givenchy, Balenciaga, and Chanel proved to be Jackie’s personal favorites. Yet her inclination towards Parisian trends was scolded by the more patriotic sections of the American media.
That’s why Jackie asked fashion editor Diana Vreeland to help source U.S. designers capable of recreating the Paris style.
Calling in the experts
Norman Norell and Ben Zuckerman were two of the names that Vreeland put forward. Norrell was widely regarded as the “first designer of America,” while Zuckerman had become renowned for his take on Parisian couture.
In fact, Jackie wore a purple woolen coat designed by Zuckerman for her famous White House tour alongside Mamie Eisenhower.
Her go-to outfit
Jackie’s signature look during her White House stint consisted of suits, sleeveless A-line dresses, above-the-elbow gloves, hats, and her secret-concealing low-heel pumps. Her bouffant hairdo — crafted by famous hairdresser Mr. Kenneth — proved to be just as significant as her outfits, too.
And, naturally, Jackie’s style was recreated by numerous clothing manufacturers across the world.
New era, new trends
Following the death of her first husband, though, Jackie altered her image. So big lapel jackets, silk headscarves, gypsy skirts, pantsuits and round sunglasses replaced her earlier, more formal looks.
She also cemented her status as a trendsetter with a black turtleneck left to hang outside her white jeans.
And alongside her stylish wardrobe, Jackie possessed an exquisite jewelry collection. Contrived by Kenneth Jay Lane, her signature item as the first lady was a pearl necklace.
She was also famed for wearing bracelets created by Frenchman Jean Schlumberger. But her most cherished piece was her Van Cleef & Arpels wedding ring. As you can tell, people picked on every minute detail of Jackie's clothing, but they somehow missed what she'd done to every pair of shoes.
That was until Jackie's former aide Kathy McKeon published her autobiography, Jackie’s Girl, in 2017. As previously mentioned, McKeon was charged with looking after the first lady’s closet.
This related to clothing items and shoes from glamorous retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. And McKeon was left in awe of both its contents and the way it was organized.
“It was extremely easy to find anything in it,” McKean said in a 2017 interview with Fox News. “Everything matched. A pair of pants would always be accompanied with the right blouse… and her shoes were always lined up. Nice and shiny… London-look boots, pumps in every color, spotless sneakers for morning jogs around the reservoir.”
But then you’d expect nothing less from a fashion icon widely regarded as flawless. What McKeon may have not expected to find, however, was the discreet detail about Jackie’s shoes.
A slight raise
So what did she find? Well, it turned out that a single heel from every pair of Jackie’s shoes had been raised by a quarter of an inch.
This means that the country’s most glamorous first lady had a minor imperfection when it came to her legs — something you'd never notice at a quick glance!
You see, the altered heels were designed to disguise the fact that Jackie had one leg just a little shorter than the other. “No one would have ever guessed,” McKeon claimed in her memoir.
It was a tactic that, some reports suggest, may have been inspired by her first husband.
Like husband like wife
That’s because, two years after his wedding to Jackie, JFK was treated for his severe back pain by Dr. Janet Travell.
The doctor found out that the future president’s left leg wasn’t the same size as his right. And so as a result, a minor heel lift was affixed to all of JFK’s left-footed shoes.
Single grain of rice
It’s not known whether Travell, who became JFK’s physician, was also responsible for discovering and treating Jackie’s similar problem. But she may well have influenced Jackie to adopt the same method.
Not that the first lady particularly needed to disguise it. After all, the disparity was no bigger than a grain of rice.
Letters to her shoppers
So the heel-altering was perhaps just another example of Jackie’s quest for perfectionism. Jackie’s perfectionist streak was also noticeable in a series of letters that were auctioned off in 2013.
These letters were sent to her Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper, Marita O’Connor. In them, the first lady provides catalog pages, sketches, and pieces of fabric to show exactly the kind of items she was looking for.
Jackie’s very particular requirements and high standards are evident in one such letter. In it, she writes, “Please order me a pair of alligator shoes — size 10A — medium heel — slender — pointed toe but not exaggerated — tricky vamp business...
I like elegant and timeless. I must have these for Inauguration Day so you’ll have to rush.”
Don't mess with the first lady
And as well as knowing what she did like, Jackie also knew what she didn’t. In another letter, she complains about a particular shoe featuring a vamp she wasn’t too keen on.
She wrote, “Tell [Mario] I want them in the same model as my black faille evening pumps and impress on that rather disorganized Italian that they simply must be ready in time.”
Worried about her fashions
Appraiser Dan Meader told WWD, “You have to think her husband had just been made president-elect after this whole dramatic campaign. She was about to have a baby and this was what she was worrying about: her fashions.
It’s pretty incredible.” But in an interview with People, McKeon was keen to point out that Jackie’s sense of style was far from her most notable quality. She said, “[Jackie] was more than this glamorous figure. She made me feel like part of the family.”
Fresh from Ireland
McKeon also discussed how close she became with Jackie over the years. The assistant first moved from her native Ireland to the United States at the age of just 19.
And shortly after her arrival, she landed her long-running job with the former first lady. And it didn’t take long for McKeon to become immersed in this role.
Part of the family
In her memoir, McKeon writes, “I couldn’t know… mere days into my new job, how thoroughly I would be swept up into this most royal of American families.
How their everyday life would also become mine, my heart lifted by the powerful love they shared and shattered by the unimaginable tragedies they endured.”
In fact, Jackie and her two surviving children, John Jr. and Caroline, all attended McKeon’s wedding.
And the first lady continued to keep in touch with her assistant once she retired to look after her kids. She even invited McKeon and her family to her Hyannis Port home in Massachusetts for the summer.
McKeon told Fox News, “My best friend lived in the Cape [Cod] and whenever I would visit, Madam was always happy to see me. She would always invite me for lunch and dinner… and she would also invite me to her private beach.
She always made sure someone sent us lunch.” It's amazing to get a sense of what Jackie was like beyond all of the gorgeous clothes.
McKeon further reflected on Jackie’s warm nature in her memoir. She writes, “She was very shy and scared of crowds, but she had a personality that really shined when you got to know her and she opened up to you.
Whenever she would meet someone, she would say, ‘Kat, what did you think of him?’ She wanted to know my reaction.”
However, McKeon eventually ended up losing touch with Jackie. She told Fox News, “I wasn’t really aware that Madam was sick.
It was in the papers and magazines, but I wasn’t one to read that gossip. So I felt like there was a lot I didn’t know about her until I saw a picture of her in Central Park. It wasn’t the Madam that I remembered.”
In her shoes
Still, the interest in Jackie’s sense of style, including her footwear, remains high to this day. In 2013, for instance, one particular pair of the first lady’s pumps was auctioned in Los Angeles.
Designed by Italian Rene Mancini, the size 10 shoes were sold to an anonymous person for almost $30,000.
And three years previously, two of Jackie’s fake pearl necklaces went for approximately $47,000 at an auction in England. The items would originally have cost the first lady only several hundred dollars.
As Bonhams jewelry expert Jean Ghika told The Telegraph, “It’s fair to say that 99.9 percent of the value is because they belonged to Jackie Kennedy.”
Fashion hall of fame
Incidentally, the John F. Kennedy Library now houses many of Jackie’s iconic outfits — including shoes.
And in 2001 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art showcased several pieces in a special exhibit named “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.” During the 2010s, too, Time and Forbes placed the former first lady high in their all-time fashion icon lists.
Finding love again
Jackie and her gorgeous clothes largely retreated from the spotlight following JFK’s assassination — although she continued to make headlines for her personal life. For instance, she enjoyed a close relationship with her late husband’s brother Robert, and some believed this turned romantic.
But in 1968 she married for a second time to Aristotle Onassis — a shipping tycoon from Greece.
Rediscovering her passion
Following Onassis’ death in 1975, though, Jackie returned to work. She served as a consulting editor for publishing company Viking Press and later as an associate editor for Doubleday.
She also continued to pursue the type of architectural and cultural preservation work that she had first embraced during her stint in the White House.
A quick passing
Many years later, in late 1993, Jackie suffered a fall from a horse. After this, her health began to decline — and she was subsequently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
By May 1994, the disease had spread to her liver, brain, and spinal cord. That same month, Jackie passed away in her sleep at the age of 64. But this wasn't before she lived the life of luxury on the island of Skorpios.
It’s known across the world as Aristotle Onassis’ idyllic private island. The retreat even hosted the billionaire’s 1968 wedding to Jackie.
Today, though, the island is no longer in the public eye – and it’s all thanks to the introduction of some strangely strict security measures.
It's heaven today
Situated on the Ionian Sea, Skorpios is one of the Greek Islands. It lies to the west of the mainland and east of Lefkada island.
And while the private retreat is unusual in its shape, it roughly covers an area of 3,280 feet by 4,921 feet. Today, it boasts sandy beaches and thick forests. This, however, wasn’t always the case.
That’s because Skorpios was largely barren when Aristotle “Ari” Onassis purchased it as a private retreat back in 1962. The Greek shipping tycoon bought the land for 3.5 million drachmas, which is the equivalent of around $12,000 in today’s money.
And Ari soon set about transforming the arid island into an inviting idyll.
Let there be greenery
In order to create a tranquil retreat, then, Ari imported more than 200 types of trees to Skorpios. He then established great forests running the whole length of the island to make for a leafy landscape.
And alongside helping to create widespread woodlands, he also made East Beach with sand taken from Greece’s Salamis Island.
But it wasn’t until 1968 that Skorpios would come to the attention of the wider public. For it was then that Ari tied the knot with Jackie Kennedy on the island.
The Greek businessman and the former first lady of America had been long-term friends before then, of course. But romance had developed between the pair following the assassinations of her first husband, John F. Kennedy, and her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy.
Fleeing for safety
The assassinations in fact left Jackie fearing for her family’s safety. And following the death of Robert in 1968, the concerned mother stated, “If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets.”
As a result, Jackie said of the U.S, “I want to get out of this country.”
A modest do
So in Ari, Jackie seemingly found love and some semblance of security, and the couple married in October 1968. At the time of their wedding, the shipping magnate was 23 years older than his new bride.
Yet despite Ari also being one of the richest men on the planet, his nuptials with the former first lady were surprisingly intimate.
The couple actually married in a traditional Greek Orthodox service. Jackie’s children — Caroline and John Jr. — were both involved in the celebration, as was Lee Radziwill, the bride’s sister.
The nuptials were also attended by approximately 40 guests who were largely family members and close friends of the pair.
Real estate tycoons
And following the couple’s wedding on Skorpios, they and their guests boarded the businessman’s super yacht Christina for the reception. The island would therefore remain a special part of the pair’s lives and formed one of their six residences.
Aside from the private island, you see, the newlyweds owned homes in Paris, Manhattan, New Jersey, and Athens — and they also lived on board the Christina.
Caught off guard
So thanks to the couple, Skorpios became one of the best known private islands on the planet. The retreat’s fame, however, came at a cost to the pair’s own privacy.
In 1971, in fact, Jackie was snapped sunbathing naked on one of the island’s beaches. The photographs were subsequently published in Italy in 1972, provoking outrage in the States.
A spy mission
It turned out that Settimio Garritano had taken the revealing nude photographs of Jackie. The Italian paparazzo had actually managed to gain access to Skorpios by pretending to be a gardener.
And after learning that the former first lady sometimes sunbathed naked, he took a boat to her preferred spot and hid the vessel behind some undergrowth.
Couldn't believe it
From Garritano’s concealed position, then, he leered on as Jackie undressed until she was completely nude. In 2009 the photographer confessed that he’d struggled to believe the rumors about her habits at first.
He told The Telegraph, “It didn’t seem possible.”
All happened so quickly
But as Garritano had peeked out from behind the undergrowth, he had seen Jackie laid bare with his own two eyes. He later revealed, “Suddenly, she appeared and wandered around the patio area.
I concentrated on just taking the pictures, not composing them. It was a matter of moments, not even minutes.”
For the whole world to see
At first, though, Garritano had struggled to sell the nude images that he’d captured of Jackie. That’s because a number of editors had simply refused to print them.
However, the snaps then appeared in a 1972 edition of Italian magazine Playmen. And while the decision to print the pictures caused a stir in the former first lady’s native U.S., her husband seemed unconcerned by the uproar.
Following the furor that the naked photographs created, you see, Ari reportedly said, “Sometimes I take my clothes off to put on a bathing suit. So does my wife.”
The images were eventually published by the American magazine Hustler in 1975 too. That edition consequently became the publication’s all-time best-seller.
The kids weren't happy
But naked photographs weren’t the only scandal that Jackie became embroiled in during her marriage to Ari. In 1973, for instance, the shipping magnate’s son, Alexander, died aged 24 following a plane crash.
But prior to his death, both he and Christina, his sister, apparently disapproved of their father’s marriage to the former first lady.
Names and money
That’s because Alexander and Christina had reportedly hoped that Ari would reunite with their mother, Tina, following his affair with the famous Greek opera star Maria Callas. However, their father’s subsequent relationship with Jackie prevented such a reconciliation.
Alexander even later attacked the couple, stating, “My father loved names, and Jackie loved money.”
Following Alexander’s untimely death, then, Christina’s dislike of Jackie seemingly intensified. And as Ari’s health deteriorated in the wake of his son’s passing, Christina sought to convince her father that the former first lady was cursed.
She even pointed to the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy in order to support her claims.
Tragedy after tragedy
Interestingly, though, the so-called Kennedy curse has been a topic of fascination in the media for years. The idea came about, of course, after the prominent political family were dogged by a number of deaths and tragedies.
Aside from the assassinations of John and Robert, you see, many members of the famous family have suffered early deaths in a range of unfortunate circumstances.
Just bad luck
In relation to the Kennedy curse, though, skeptics have pointed out that many of the events experienced by the family could be considered normal. And in a large family like theirs, people say, it’s entirely possible for tragedies to occur at such a seemingly high frequency.
So it therefore doesn’t mean that some kind of supernatural influence is at play.
At least one member of the family has publicly addressed the Kennedy curse, though. In 1969, in fact, Ted Kennedy accidentally steered his car off a Massachusetts bridge in an occurrence known as the “Chappaquiddick incident.”
Though Ted himself escaped unscathed, the event led to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, his passenger.
A guilty plea
And following the crash in Chappaquiddick, Ted failed to report the incident to authorities for several hours. As a result, he subsequently pleaded guilty to causing personal injury by leaving the scene of an accident.
In a statement following his court appearance, too, the Senator questioned “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.”
It’s not clear what Jackie herself thought of the Kennedy curse, though. Yet she has been accused of transferring the hex to the Onassis family by marrying the shipping magnate.
Christina, for one, certainly believed that her father’s new wife had brought them bad luck. And her suspicions surrounding the former first lady must only have been intensified when her mother died in 1974 following an alleged drug overdose.
The Onassises’ string of bad luck continued when the family’s business empire ran into difficulties too. And at the same time, Ari’s health continued to fail.
Soon, he too reportedly came to believe that Jackie had brought the Kennedy curse to his family. And as a result, the businessman apparently looked into divorcing his wife. He also changed his will to reduce the payout she’d receive in the event of his death.
It all goes to Christina
So when Ari died in Paris in March 1975, Christina was named as his sole heir. However, Jackie contested her late husband’s will, and – after a couple of years of negotiations – she accepted a $26 million settlement from her estranged stepdaughter.
Meanwhile, the shipping magnate was laid to rest on his beloved Skorpios — where his son also lies.
The curse continues
Sadly, the misfortunes that the Onassis family experienced didn’t end with Ari’s death and Jackie’s subsequent estrangement. Tragedy in fact struck again in 1988 when cardiac arrest claimed Christina’s life at just 37 years old.
And as we know, the former first lady herself also died at the relatively young age of 64. This was in 1994 after she’d contracting Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
When Christina died, her father's fortune — including Skorpios — passed to her daughter, Athina. But given that Athina seemingly had little interest in Skorpios, the private island reportedly caught the attention of Giorgio Armani and Bill Gates.
It’s rumored that both men even expressed an interest in buying the retreat at one time or another. However, Athina eventually sold the idyll to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva in 2013.
A huge transaction
Ekaterina is the daughter of billionaire businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev. She was, in fact, just 24 when she acquired a long-term lease of Skorpios, and the deal struck between the two women was reportedly worth $150 million.
However, it was not immediately clear what the heiress would do with the island.
Plans for the island
Yet one of Ekaterina’s first moves after acquiring Skorpios was to prevent tourists from coming to the private island. Visitors had previously been permitted, you see, although their access was confined to a couple of the retreat’s small coves.
Under the new owner’s tenure, however, it seemed that outsiders would not be tolerated at all.
To ensure that no one could access Skorpios, in fact, Ekaterina employed a specialist team of bodyguards from the United States and France to patrol the island around the clock. They also apparently use advanced surveillance equipment.
The heiress reportedly wanted to enlist a team of frogmen to guard the waters surrounding the retreat as well.
Yet it’s believed that those strict security measures were put into effect on Skorpios without permission from the Greek police. But in any case, they seemingly worked in deterring people from visiting the private island.
In the years following Ekaterina’s purchase, mind you, a number of ghost stories have emerged from the tightly guarded retreat.
Following the sale of Skorpios, for example, a number of unexplained sightings were reported on the island. And they involved a silhouette of a man who apparently looked like Ari.
This led to a spine-tingling tale. In his will, people said, the shipping magnate stated that the retreat must remain in the Onassis family. And so it was rumored that the businessman had started haunting his former home — maybe as a direct result of Ekaterina’s purchase.
Two such sightings were, in fact, apparently reported by a security guard who worked for Dmitry Rybolovlev. The unnamed man allegedly told Greece’s Espresso newspaper that he first came across the strange shadow while patrolling Skorpios in 2016.
The figure had seemingly worn a black suit and held a cigar in one hand.
The security guard reportedly said he had not seen the man before and had tried to approach him. But as he walked towards the silhouette, he apparently said, the shadow vanished into thin air.
While on another occasion, the same man had allegedly noticed flickering lights inside one of Skorpios’ villas. But there had been no one in the residence, he seemingly said. And in an even spookier development, an electrician supposedly later confirmed that there had been no issue with the building’s power supply.
Up and run
So, following these two unsettling experiences, the alleged security guard in question apparently realized that the man he’d spotted resembled the island’s late former owner. The incident had reportedly scared him so much, in fact, that he quit his job and never returned to Skorpios.
Others who’ve frequented the island can also attest to a strange presence at the location.
A figure dressed in black
For instance, another person who believed they’d seen Ari’s ghost on Skorpios was a fisherman from the nearby island of Lefkada. Speaking to Keep Talking Greece, he revealed that he’d seen a figure dressed in black approaching one of the villas.
At first, he said, he’d believed his eyes had deceived him. But after hearing about the security guard’s spooky experiences, the angler then became convinced that he’d encountered the island’s former owner.
Ari would be unhappy
The rumored sightings of Ari’s ghost on Skorpios hit headlines in Greece in May 2018. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if the shipping tycoon is indeed haunting the private island.
Given the wishes that he outlined in his will, however, there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have been happy about the new owner’s plans for Skorpios — which emerged in September 2018.
Planned building work
For it was around then that Sergei Tsernitsin, a representative of Dmitry Rybolovlev, thanked the Ionian Island Regional governor, Theodoros Galiatsatos, for helping a proposed development on Skorpios. Yes, Dmitry is reportedly planning to build a luxury resort on the island.
This would consist of at least 12 villas and a number of restaurants and spas as well as a marina.
A silver lining
The project proposed by the Rybolovlev family would be the only luxury resort in Greece. It would also become the latest in a select number of destinations situated on private islands.
As an official EU Natura site, however, Skorpios is protected. This means that buildings can only be erected on five percent of its acreage. Ari’s legacy on the retreat, then, shouldn’t be totally threatened after all.