Clothing a First Lady is nothing new to California designer Bill Travilla. Last winter he created Faye Dunaway’s 67 costumes in NBC’s Evita Perón saga, but that was just a dress rehearsal for the 83 outfits Travilla concocted for Jaclyn Smith to wear as Jackie Kennedy. Travilla had only time to make eight or nine sketches before the actual shooting began, so his team of five seamstresses and tailors cut, sewed and altered well into the night to complete the costumes (up to six a day) that Smith needed. Travilla subtly updated Camelot by adding belts and sashes, minimizing the pillbox hat and lowering the bustline 2½ inches. He explains: “The Jackies have different kinds of bodies, and I have my own signature.”
Although Oleg Cassini was Kennedy’s chief couturier, Travilla got the ABC job because he’s a Hollywood pro. In fact, he dressed Loretta Young and Marilyn Monroe for the movies, and in 1949 his costumes for Errol Flynn and Viveca Lindfors in Adventures of Don Juan earned an Oscar.
For the current film, the designer studied old newsreels and snapshots. He chose favorite Kennedy colors (vibrant red, clear pink and white) and fabrics (linen and crepe). “He really knew the period and retained the style,” says Smith. “His wardrobe helped me feel like Jackie.” The size-6 star was so pleased that she kept one of the costumes, a $1,400 chiffon sheath that she wears in the show to her first state dinner. (The other outfits will be altered and recycled for use in future ABC productions.) While Travilla didn’t quite match the $40,000-a-month clothing bills President Kennedy is said to have grumbled about, the network paid plenty for Smith’s TV attire. Total cost: $150,000.