Get Style Inspiration from Carolyn Bessette Kennedy

Remember Carolyn Bessette Kennedy?  She was the wife of America’s “Prince”, John F. Kennedy Jr. The United States has always been in love with the Kennedy Family. Weather it was matriarch Rose, JFK and his beautiful, smart and fashionable wife Jackie, or a young John John saluting his father’s coffin upon his death, the US loved their own version of the “Royal Family.”

John F. Kennedy Jr, was always in the spotlight.  What he looked like, where he worked, who he dated.  He was known as “America’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”  He was also know to have a type.  Blonde, tall, and slim. In the nineties it was getting to the point where America was wondering if John was ever going to get married.

Then he met her, Carolyn Bessette. There are several stories as to how they met but no one knows for certain.  We do know it was in 1992. One thing that was certain is that everyone in the 90’s was now fascinated with Carolyn. The couple became a paparazzi favorite.  One of the biggest areas of attention, one that constantly got her on the covers of magazines was her sense of style.  Her style was unique. Her look unmistakable. It intrigued everyone and then the copying began.

Carolyn was born in White Plains, NY in 1966.  Her parents were William Bessette and Ann Messina.  She had two older sisters who were twins named Lauren and Lisa. Bessette moved with her mother to Connecticut for most of her school years. Carolyn was popular in high school and a member of the “in crowd.” She then attended Boston University to get a degree in Education.

Carolyn worked for Calvin Klein after university as a saleswoman at the Chestnut Hill Mall in Newton, Massachusetts. A sales coordinator for the company thought she had grace and style, moved her to the flagship store in Manhattan. There Bessette made it up to director of publicity for the store.  When she left Klein she was the director of show productions. She left due to all the scrutiny she faced being JFK Jr’s girlfriend. He leaving Klein also signaled a change in her life.  She was able to pull off one of the key events of the year in secret.

In 1996, the couple married in a secret candlelight ceremony on an island in Cumberland, Georgia. Carolyn wore a simple and chic wedding dress by a little know designer at the time named Narciso Rodriguez.

Carolyn at this point was having difficulty adapting to the paparazzi following her in a swarm.  She only went out of their Tribeca loft with her husband, their family, or to an event. Carolyn chose her events carefully.  Many were held for her husband’s new business venture “George” magazine, or a charity event such as the Fire and Ice Ball. Other than these brief glimpses, not much was known about Carolyn.  Which only added to her allure.  She almost never gave interviews and their are only brief clips on the internet of her speaking.

In 1999, their love affair came to an end when a plane piloted by JFK Jr. crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Massachusetts on the way to a family function.  The cause was pilot error. Killed instantly were John, Carolyn, and Carolyn’s older sister Lauren.  She (Carolyn) was only 33.

Today, many designers, editors, bloggers and just plain fashionistas still admire the clean, cool, elegance of this mysterious young woman.

What goes into Carolyn’s look? First, lets look at the clothes.  One word you could us to describe her is minimal. The second word is neutral.  Carolyn’s look was one of clean lines, and classic colors with the occasional architectural edge.  Her wardrobe consisted of primarily neutral colors of black, camel and grey with the occasional pop of color or print.  One of my favorite outfits she wore was the camel skirt and black v-neck top with saddle colored boots. (see photo below)

Carolyn was sexy but not in a over the top out there way. She concentrated on silhouettes and giving a hint of her shape underneath. Often times her wardrobe only shows her face and hands uncovered. I also think this is due to Carolyn’s shyness and not for any moral statement or judgement. She knows what she likes and she knows what looks good on her.

Carolyn often wore her hair back in a ponytail or in a simple up do. She always makes sure it’s not too neat. A little relaxed bedhead gave her an air of down to earthiness to contrast with her high end wardrobe. Carolyn, a natural brunette, also dyes her hair a cool, icy shade of blonde. Carolyn keeps her makeup minimal. She was known for her “unmake-up” look. She often just wore a little mascara and eyeliner. If she was going out in the evening she would sometimes sport a bright red lip. Her accessories were also in the minimalist vein. She had a few headbands-her favorite a beautiful tortoise shell. She wore simple oval shaped sunglasses. Her engagement ring was a simple band with diamonds and sapphires in platinum. Her knee high boots were her signature footwear along with black loafers. Carolyn rarely wore other jewelry only occasionally a diamond stud in the ear or a simple pearl necklace.

Carolyn in her style changing wedding dress.
Carolyn in one of her statement coats on a walk with John in New York City.

One place Carolyn let a little bit of “statement” dressing into her wardrobe was her outerwear. She had a plethora of different coats to wear. Some of her more famous coats included the “red three-quarter wool coat”, her green plaid wool coat, and her leopard print three quarter coat. (She had two of those in different style of Leopard Print.)

So how can you get the Carolyn Bessette Kennedy look? Fortunately, this is an easy look to copy. The elements of her look never go out of style. You don’t have to buy a ton of clothes either. Her look was the first big minimal chic style. Start out getting the basics. A white button down shirt, a little black dress, a pair of cord pants, a black v-neck sweater, a camel colored skirt, a neutral trench coat and a pair of black boots. For accessories, she stuck with very plain jewelry like a simple pearl necklace or her wedding band. She also had a plain black scarf, a pair of patent leather heels, and a nice large black leather bag. Polish off your interpretation of her look keep your hair simple and if possible slightly messy. Makeup should be at a minimum with a little mascara and eyeliner. If you really want to look made up add a red lip.

In all, Carolyn will always be remembered for her clean, neutral wardrobe that highlighted her elegant demeanor.

Were you a fan of CBK? Let me know in the comments.

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