A bag fit for the former First Lady—the origins and revival of Gucci’s Jackie 1961

The Gucci Autumn Winter 2020 women’s and men’s fashion shows saw the reintroduction of one of the House’s most famous styles—the Jackie Bag — imbued with new relevance. Image courtesy of Gucci.
Jackie 1961 Light Blue Mini Hobo Bag. Image courtesy of Gucci.
Gucci’s Jackie 1961 is designed as a unisex bag. Image courtesy of Gucci.
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Asia Society Hong Kong

 

A chic hobo bag chock-full of Gucci grammar, befit for First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the 1960s and now readily available for the fashion forward in 2020.

TEXT: Carina Fischer
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

The Gucci Autumn Winter 2020 women’s and men’s fashion shows saw the reintroduction of one of the House’s most famous styles—the Jackie Bag — imbued with new relevance. Image courtesy of Gucci.

 

In 1958, Gucci released the Fifties Constance bag, or the Constance, a curved hobo shaped bag that slotted comfortably underneath the shoulder. The Constance was offered in iterations that carried a number of classic Gucci motifs including the Supreme GG canvas and the now signature green-red-green band. While the Constance was functional, stylish and a seeming instant Gucci classic, it failed to achieve the cult status it deserved at its initial launch. Turns out, all it needed was a push in the right direction with a little help from former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who wandered into a Gucci store in 1964 and walked out with not one but six new Constance bags.

The bag became an instant hit the moment it was seen tucked casually under Jackie O’s arm. A style icon of the time, the bag quickly became affiliated with the former First Lady’s elegant yet effortless look, and the popularity of the bags swelled as sales spiralled. A similar story to that of Princess Diana’s Lady Dior bag, Jackie O rather famously donned the Constance bag as she was shielding herself from paparazzi—making for a series of images, and a bag, that would go down in history.

Men and women alike were hot on Jackie O’s heels, following suit with a purchase of the freshly renamed and ever-so-slightly updated Jackie 1961. Britt Ekland, Peter Sellers, Samuel Beckett and Barbra Streisand are just a few of those that were photographed with the latest ‘it’ bag. And ever since the release of the Jackie 1961, the bag has remained a Gucci house classic, evolving over the years whilst retaining the coveted hobo silhouette that the former First Lady popularized.

 

 

Jackie 1961 Light Blue Mini Hobo Bag. Image courtesy of Gucci.

 

1999 saw the first significant revival of the coveted bag at the hands of Tom Ford, then Creative Director of Gucci. The original piston lock from the 1961 release was replaced with a sleeker, more updated alternative, whilst sharp, clean lines were incorporated across the bag body, in line with the current trends of the early 2000s. Over a million were sold. Ten years later in 2009, Frida Giannini gave her interpretation of the classic handbag. Giannini’s version was larger, with a softer structure, enhanced by the addition of pompoms, tassels, appliques and stitching. Her use of different materials and textures such as bamboo, python and ostrich took the already iconic bag one step further, as she reinvented it for the contemporary woman. This iteration was appropriately christened New Jackie.

In 2014, Giannini brought back the ever-popular Jackie through an expanded line in the form of the Jackie Soft. This iteration of the Jackie 1961 was slightly more relaxed, minimal and pared back, but still with the same slouchy hobo shape and classic piston clasp. The line also included other silhouettes that embodied the same chic, elegant air of the original Jackie 1961, only in the form of crossbody bags, totes, convertible clutches and more.

In 2019, Alessandro Michele revived the Jackie in his Chateau Marmont Collection—it was a popular item but did not quite incite the typical Jackie bag hype from the public. However, the most recent release of the Jackie 1961 in the Gucci Autumn/Winter 2020 Menswear show certainly caused quite a stir. In ever-trendy small and midi sizes, the bag is available in an array of shades and patterns, from creamy pastels in leather to the Supreme GG canvas with the signature green-red-green webbing. And don’t forget the iconic piston clasp.

 

Gucci’s Jackie 1961 is designed as a unisex bag. Image courtesy of Gucci.

 

In its original creation, the Jackie 1961 had been designed as a unisex bag. Its practical functionality and fit allows it to slot unassumingly under the arm, a genderless, no frills bag that is both utilitarian yet effortlessly bohemian and chic. And Michele firmly cemented this genderless outlook with his decision to integrate the Jackie 1961 as the key accessory of his Fall/Winter 2020 collection.

“Gucci Jackie 1961 is a bag that was invented when women felt more liberated. Maybe this was the first bag that you could throw on the ground and take into a café or bistro or bar. You could also talk without taking it off, because it was part of you and had your things inside. In bags before, women kept only the tools they needed to make themselves attractive to men: lipstick, pressed powder. My mother used to work and would go out in the morning like other women who worked—in their bags they would have the things they needed for their own lives and not the things they needed in order to maintain their relationships,” Alessandro Michele.

 

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