CHARGE IT: It’s no secret that, as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy’s designer wardrobe was the center of much discussion. But Sally Bedell Smith claims in her new book, “Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House,” that Kennedy’s indulgences caused rifts between the randy president and his fine-boned wife. Her $40,000 department store bills resulted in one in 1962 at a dinner with Ben Bradlee and his then-wife, Tony, according to an excerpt of the book in Vanity Fair’s May issue.
A passage quotes Tony Bradlee as saying, “She didn’t shop all the time, but whatever she got was expensive, and Jack thought so, too.”
Reached by phone Thursday, Tony Bradlee said, “That sounds as though it could be true. I haven’t read the book.”
According to Smith, Kennedy complained that his wife’s spending habits had gotten out of hand. In 1962, her spending was said to have climbed $121,461 — a 15 percent jump compared with the previous year — and well above JFK’s annual presidential salary of $100,000, all of which he gave to charities.
His father, Joe Kennedy, was charitable in another direction, footing the bill for the First Lady’s Oleg Cassini dresses. During a phone interview Thursday, Cassini, who whipped up 300 ensembles during the 1,000 days of Camelot, said, “He did pay the bills. Reluctantly, but he did.”
But Cassini scoffed at Smith’s suggestion that the First Lady bought European clothes through her sister Lee Radziwill, who was then living in London, and a few other “clothing scouts.” “The fact is when I went to Paris, I went to some couture houses and bought two Balenciaga dresses for her. She never wore them, though I bought the ugliest dresses to impress her with how good I was.”
Cassini said the First Couple’s squabbling was overblown in the Vanity Fair excerpt. But he did recall JFK balking at his wife’s interest in a $1,600 Givenchy gown for a state visit to Paris. “Jackie thought it was a political gesture and it would be good p.r. The president was unnerved and thought the price was huge and hoped she was not entertaining the idea. It was a legitimate gesture from Jackie, who had that kind of sensitivity.” Read — she got the dress. — Rosemary Feitelberg
DEMURE YOUTH: Abercrombie & Fitch is covering up.
No, it isn’t about the new retail concept the firm is keeping tightly wrapped. Rather, the youth retailer has begun mailing the reincarnation of its infamously sexy A&F Quarterly magalogue, now called Youth.
After taking the heat for its pictures of scantily clad models, A&F is still keeping it natural, but this time skipping the nudity. The 60-page publication features black-and-white photos of young people communing with nature, partying, creating performance art and brooding into space. The scenes are similar to the old catalogue, but now the fashion layouts will feature clothes.
A&F cut the cord on its quarterly in December after years of publishing nude photography and sex advice, which triggered protests.
“Mike [Jeffries] decided it was time to retire the A&F Quarterly in December and although the Quarterly was very important to the positioning of the brand, it was time for a change in our marketing emphasis,” a company spokesman said. “The primary focus continues to be in-store, but the new photo essay Young is our lifestyle direct mail piece. It is young, fun, sexy and represents aspirational college life. It is very Abercrombie. We love it.” — Jennifer Weitzman
OOH-LA-LA: A new French version of Ohla! magazine, previously Spanish-owned and operated, arrived on newsstands this week, reigniting a war among among weekly “people” magazines in France. Hachette Filipacchi, which also owns Paris Match, purchased Ohla! last year to capitalize on a category that has been growing swiftly, thanks partly to the multiplication of TV reality shows. Last year, more than three million copies of people magazines were sold in France, a growth rate of 8.2 percent. The 100-page debut of the relaunched Ohla! features larger photos and a more upscale design than the previous incarnation. In fact, Ohla! closely resembles Paris Match. Meanwhile, Prisma Press, publisher of Voici and Gala, says it welcomes the competition and has no worries, given the dynamism of the market. Nevertheless, Ohla! poached Gala’s artistic director for its new launch. For its first issue, the magazine features Clothilde and Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie on the cover with an introductory cover price of $1.85, or 1.50 euros. The initial circulation is 140,000 copies. — Chantal Goupil