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Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s Timeless Fashion Style

Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s enduring style 06:17
Has it really been 25 years? On the evening of July 16, 1999, a small plane carrying 33-year-old Carolyn Bessette vanished off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, along with her older sister, Lauren, and her husband, John F. Kennedy Jr., who piloted the aircraft.

The story was monumental, focusing primarily on Kennedy. America had watched him grow up, mourn his father, navigate the streets of New York, establish the magazine George, and begin dating Bessette, a publicist for fashion designer Calvin Klein.

Twenty-five years on, we’re also recognizing the impact Carolyn Bessette herself had—and still has—on young women. According to author Sunita Kumar Nair, “There are TikTok accounts and social media dedicated entirely to Carolyn’s style.”

More significantly, Bessette continues to inspire fashion designers today. Kumar Nair notes, “Long opera gloves that she wore recently appeared on the runway at Marc Jacobs.”

In “CBK: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: A Life in Fashion,” published by Abrams, Kumar Nair explores Bessette’s enduring fashion sense and allure.

From the moment she appeared alongside Kennedy until their tragic deaths three years later, Carolyn Bessette was one of the most photographed women in the world. “She had a keen understanding of what worked for her and what the cameras would appreciate,” said Kumar Nair. “That’s her allure; it’s what sets her apart from many other women today.”

Describing Bessette’s wardrobe style, Kumar Nair pointed out, “The white shirt, the white T-shirt, a great coat, a jacket, and jeans. These were the foundation pieces for her wardrobe.”

Bessette’s photos predate the social media era, like Instagram and YouTube, where celebrities have some control over their images. However, in the late 1990s, she was constantly hounded by paparazzi, even when simply walking her dog.

Washington Post columnist Robin Givhan emphasized Bessette’s significant influence, “I understand why the fashion industry celebrates her and why a book like this exists. She had an outsized impact on many designers and people navigating their style.”

Givhan also points out a somber note, “In nearly all these photos, she appeared to be an unwilling subject.”

These photos offer a glimpse into Bessette’s life under unrelenting scrutiny. “In most pictures, she is turning away from the camera or looks like she’s retreating into herself. It’s strikingly sad. The book may be celebratory, but there’s an undercurrent of sadness.”

Bessette was a private woman who disliked the limelight. This gave Kumar Nair pause in creating the book, “That was one of the reasons it took so long for me to do it.”

But Nair insists the book is a celebration of Bessette’s eye for design and her fashion sense.

One of the most iconic examples of Bessette’s style? Her wedding day ensemble: a simple white slip dress of pearl-white silk crêpe with a silk tulle veil, designed by Narciso Rodriguez. Givhan commented, “It underscored that she didn’t see herself as a traditional princess. The dress was anything but fussy.”

“She knew all eyes would be on her. The photograph of her wedding day circulated globally. It’s one of the few photos where she genuinely exudes unfiltered joy,” Givhan continued.

That genuine joy, more than anything Carolyn Bessette wore that day, remains her most enduring legacy—an American love story frozen in time.

Givhan summarized, “These images give us a fantasy, forever capturing them as a young, vivacious couple.”

Source: CBS News