Few public figures have had more effect on American style, fashion, and culture in general than Jacqueline Kennedy (1929–1994) did during the early 1960s, when she was married to John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963), the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Though she disliked the spotlight of public life, Jacqueline took her responsibilities as first lady seriously and created an atmosphere of elegance and dignity that surrounded her husband's presidency. A quiet, reserved woman from an upper-class family whose poise and grace charmed people of all classes both in the United States and abroad, Jacqueline had a confident, modern style that inspired women all over the world to imitate her.
Born Jacqueline Bouvier in 1929 in South Hampton, New York, she was raised in a socially prominent family. She attended Miss Porter's, an exclusive girl's school in Connecticut, where she loved riding horses. The horsewoman's style of tailored slacks and jackets would become one of Jacqueline's fashion trademarks. In 1953 Jacqueline Bouvier married Massachusetts congressman John Kennedy and entered the political life. By 1960 the couple and their two children had moved into the White House. The handsome John Kennedy was the youngest man to be elected president, and he and Jacqueline brought a welcome feeling of youth and energy to a country entering a new decade. Because of the new medium of television, citizens could watch the president and his wife more closely than ever before, and the new first couple was extremely popular. Raised in the upper class and educated in Europe, Jacqueline knew about the latest Paris fashions. She loved simple, elegant designs, and brought that elegance and sophistication to the White House.
As the wife of the president, Jacqueline was the most watched woman in the country, and her clothing instantly became famous. She became known for her bouffant hairstyle and the small, round hats, called pillbox hats, that designer Halston (1932–1990) created for her. She left behind the puffy skirts of the 1950s, and Oleg Cassini (1913–) designed her simple A-line suits in striking colors, which were widely imitated. Always an active sportswoman, Jacqueline was confident enough to dress casual, and she became known for wearing slacks, shorts, and riding clothes, at a time when most women wore skirts and dresses in public. Many American women imitated the first lady's look of tapered slacks and casual fitted tops, worn with a scarf tied around the hair and big sunglasses.
Jacqueline Kennedy's international, sophisticated style was not only imitated in the United States but around the world. Even after the tragic assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy never really left public life, though she tried. People worldwide were still fascinated by her, and tabloid newspapers and aggressive celebrity photographers called paparazzi followed her everywhere, hoping for a picture or a story. In 1968 she married Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis (c. 1900–1975), and after his death in 1975 she worked as a book editor and lived with a companion, Maurice Templeton. She died of cancer in 1994.