How Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy Became A Style Icon – And 6 Ways To Channel Her Best Looks

Her pared-back style is still celebrated today.

jfk jr with carolyn bessette kennedy

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

Long before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's relationship dominated headlines around the world, there was another couple who captured the attention of the world's media. John F Kennedy Jr and Carolyn Bessette started dating in 1994 and began to be perceived as America's answer to a royal couple. They married in 1996, only to tragically die in a plane crash just three years later. Now, FX and 20th Television have announced that their relationship will be the subject of a new American Story spinoff series.

jfk jr with carolyn bessette
JFK Jr with Carolyn in 1996

American Love Story will become the latest show to join producer Ryan Murphy's extensive catalogue at FX, which already includes American Horror Story and seasons 1-3 of American Crime Story__. A synopsis of the plot states: 'What started out as a beautiful union for the young couple, widely regarded as American royalty, began to fray under the stress of the relentless microscope and navel gaze of tabloid media. The pressures of their careers and rumored family discord ended with their tragic deaths when his private plane crashed into the ocean on a hazy summer night off the coast of Massachusetts.'

Carolyn Bessette was an executive at Calvin Klein who was notoriously private and shunned interviews and photo shoots. As a result, the only photographs of her came from official public events or paparazzi, who would often follow her around the streets of New York. It's thanks to such photographs that Bessette became known for her impeccable sense of style – one which has come to embody the minimal, chic '90s aesthetic that's still popular today.

From her now-famous wedding dress (designed by a then-unknown Narciso Rodriguez) to her penchant for the more avant-garde designers like Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, Bessette-Kennedy – as she became when she married JFK Jr – exhibited a classic style that can now be seen on moodboards, Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts across the world.


SEE: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy's Style Rules

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Never Underestimate The Power Of A Black Dress

Bessette-Kennedy was a big fan of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. In 1998, she wore this autumn/winter 1998 obi dress with velvet opera gloves to a gala for the Municipal Art Society, proving that you really can't go wrong with a black dress.

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A Great White Shirt Works For Anything

For another black tie event, Bessette-Kennedy chose a white shirt from Yohji Yamamoto Homme, pairing it with a fitted skirt from the designer's womenswear collection. In a clever twist, Bessette-Kennedy chose not to button the shirt – rather, she wrapped it and tucked it into her skirt.

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Find The Right Jeans

Shopping for jeans can be a fairly torturous task, which is possibly why Bessette-Kennedy stuck to her tried-and-tested Levi's. Here, she paired them with a simple black tank top and minimal sandals, which are one of the summer's most popular shoes thanks to new styles from the likes of The Row, Neous and By Far.

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Invest In Hero Pieces

She may have been hailed as a '90s style icon before the decade had even come to a close but Bessette-Kennedy reportedly had a small wardrobe filled with just her favourite pieces. In an interview in the New York Post, JFK Jr's former assistant RoseMarie Terenzio said that Bessette-Kennedy never accepted free clothes from designers and didn't have a 'big closet'. Instead, she consistently re-wore her clothes and invested in things she really loved, like this Prada coat, which she had made in three different colours. Its timeless design mean it won't ever go out of style, making it a truly sound investment.

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A Midi Dress Is Always A Good Idea

Throw-on-and-go dresses can make life infinitely easier when it comes to getting dressed. Bessette-Kennedy knew that and, in keeping her accessories simple, she made it look entirely effortless. It's the perfect look for summer days.

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Pay Attention To Your Accessories

Bessette-Kennedy was often seen in a hairband, somehow managing to make the hair accessory look fresh and interesting as opposed to just preppy. It can also add interest to an otherwise simple combination of jeans and your favourite jumper.

READ MORE: The Most Nostalgic '90s Fashion Trends That Are Probably In Your Wardrobe Right Now

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