IT’S A FAMILIAR picture: a post-Camelot Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, with her windswept coif, giant tortoiseshell glasses and that classic saddlebag perpetually swung over one arm. The story goes that the former first lady used Gucci’s slouchy leather tote, originally named the G1244, to shield herself from the paparazzi. In the ’70s and ’80s, she was photographed carrying the bag so often — arriving at her Manhattan apartment, whizzing through Heathrow Airport — that the Italian fashion house at some point began internally referring to it as “the Jackie.”
With its rounded trapezoidal base, short buckled strap and piston-shaped closure, the soft, crescent-shaped accessory debuted in 1961 in canvas and brown boar skin, 40 years after Guccio Gucci opened his first luggage and saddlery shop in Florence. Since its inception, the shoulder bag has reappeared in chamois, vermilion-and-red grosgrain stripe, white calfskin and diamond-patterned cloth — Kennedy Onassis owned several versions, including one in natural canvas, which she wore while walking barefoot on Capri.
The company’s series of half-moon hobo-style totes, to which the G1244 belonged, was once also a favorite of men. Peter Sellers carried one in the ’70s, and so did Samuel Beckett, on holiday on the Ligurian coast in 1971. This year, the brand has officially renamed the G1244 the Jackie 1961, which made its debut at the Gucci men’s fall 2020 show in Milan. Using a vintage Jackie from his personal archive for inspiration, creative director Alessandro Michele scaled down its silhouette and rendered the piston lock in gold. For women, he reimagined it in miniature, in shades of pastel pink, butter, lavender and blue patent leathers. On the runway, models who carried the very small saddlebag were outfitted with elbow-length opera gloves in matching candy-colored hues — most certainly a nod to another of the first lady’s signatures, as well as to the timeless nature of not fashion, but style.