When it comes to chic minimalist '90s fashion, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's style endures the way few others from this era have endured. Her style was authentic in the way street style (and style broadly) simply often is not for those in the public eye today. Carolyn Bessette's Kennedy's style, quiet understated luxury, was simply how she dressed. She didn't want to be noticed. It's 1990s minimalist fashion at its very best. It's why women still look to her for inspiration so many years later. We broke down the key themes from the handful of photos that exist from her short time in the public eye.
Neutral colors and timeless cuts never go out of style
A neutral color palette and timeless cuts defined her style. Black, white, stone (a 90s favorite for those that lived through the era) and browns were Carolyn's color palette. This was a common theme in '90s fashion, especially at Calvin Klein where she worked. If it weren't for the graffiti in the photos, one would be hard-pressed to identify whether the street style photos were from 1996 or 2016 based on her clothing alone.
I keep the color options at Senza Tempo simple and to the basics because it's what people want and need in their wardrobes. Neutral colors and styles are timeless.
Clean lines and sharp tailoring
One of the most iconic Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's street style photos is the one where she's wearing a camel colored pencil skirt, black sweater, and high boots. The outfit is so simple, so streamlined — so 90's. The genius of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's style and '90s fashion, in general, is that it always looks modern — even thirty years later.
It's easy to emulate this look with our Frances and Sophia top in the photo above with my vintage leopard coat from eBay. This ensemble also pairs well with a pair of high boots, or your favorite sweater or jacket instead.
Inspiration: "A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view." Sophia Loren’s sexy Italian style inspired our pencil skirt embodying our ethos of creating clothing that's subtly sexy and always elegant. Why we… read more
Subtle details make all the difference
Rather than make a statement with color or wild accessories, Carolyn often chose items with subtle design details like the ruffles around the bottom of her ball skirt, or an interesting neckline. Or she would choose one accessory like a leopard coat or leopard heels.
This is the basis of so much of what I do at Senza Tempo from the contrast linings to the sculptured necklines. The items are simple and timeless, but these small, subtle details make a simple style feel special — elevated. Carolyn didn't want to be noticed, as there were many please from JFK Jr. asking the paparazzi to leave her alone, but her style was anything but boring. She was a woman of her time and at the same time completely classic.
"Dress shabbily they remember the dress, dress impeccably they remember the woman." — Coco Chanel
Carolyn Bessette's fashion is a little of both. We remember the woman in part because of who she married, but also for her impeccable style. Had she dressed in the trends and styles that date '90s fashion in the worst ways, would her style be remembered as fondly as it is? Unlikely.