CHIC Style Icon: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

Vanity Fair

In pulling together a list of potential fall blog posts, I keep coming back to the same fashion staples that guide my own style choices:  clean lines, simple elegance and solid separates.  In that vein, there is one style icon, to me, that epitomizes this timeless aesthetic.  Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy set the bar when it came to fashion at its cleanest, most chic and natural.  In fact, I can’t think of any other icon that can best her in the style department.  From her classic bun (I wear it almost every day), to her red lips (much harder for me to pull off), I love the idea of owning your own style and fashion statement.

Black and tan, always a winning combination. (Proof positive that black and brown is a fashion “do.”)

Magazines have described her style as “throwaway chic” and “effortful effortless.”  She was a master of combining minimalistic makeup, accessories and her signature red lipstick in one very put-together, but uncomplicated package.  While some of her favorite designers were Narcisco Rodriguez (who designed her stunning wedding gown as a wedding present to her), Prada, Hermes and Manolo Blahnik, she reportedly felt most at home in her go-to Levi’s and Gap T-shirts.  Doesn’t that make you like her even more?

Couture CHiC
Casual CHiC
Sleek bun, red lips and classic pearl studs

CBK served as PR director at Calvin Klein (my dream job) and the company’s president Susan Sokol said of her style, “She was absolutely charming, she was completely refreshing, she was completely outgoing.”  But another aspect of her that added volumes to her beauty and style was the mystique she radiated, whether walking NYC streets in corduroys or the red carpet at the Met Gala.  Unlike many celebrities today, she was the furthest from a media hound and apparently shied away from the public eye, preferring the company of close friends.  She also was intensely personal and only 40 friends and family members witnessed her wedding to JFK, Jr.  Her exceptional beauty contributed to her elite air, but two of her most endearing qualities belied this perception; CBK’s ready smile and silly demeanor (often photographed in the lap of JFK, Jr.) were some of her most endearing accessories.

A smile is your best accessory

She had a way of making simple fashion staples – like a white button-down – appear very CHiC, and she combined a couple of my favorite pieces – a black turtleneck and brown corduroys – to perfection.

White button-down staple
Black with brown – love it

And despite my mom’s insistence that I wear too much black, CBK constantly wore the color (and come on) does it get any more CHiC than this?

Again, the classic bun, red lips and pearl studs

And never underestimate the “adorableness” quality when it comes to personal style and individual beauty.  CBK had it in spades, making her approachable, endearing and just darn cute.

Need I say more?

In researching her timeless style, I came across this CBK collage from Polyvore that boils it down to her simple basics.

Polyvore collage

I also came across a Victoria Alexandra CBK collage that capture her style in a nutshell.

Elegant black and red

Very simple, no?  Very simple, but quite hard to pull off with her finesse, to be sure!  It’s not often that one person captures everything I love about fashion.  Perhaps apart from Grace Kelly, her timeless style will always make her my ultimate style icon.

But what about you?  Who are some of your fashion heroes?  Anyone, like CBK, who epitomizes your style and inspires your fashion choices?  Do you have any signature fashion statements like her red lips or elegant bun?  I highly endorse them!  I only know her outer style, so don’t know her personal beliefs and “heart.”  Like a smile, of course, one’s character can reveal real beauty like none other.  Any “character beauties” out there who you’d love to emulate?  If so, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment or email me at and tell me what inspires you – both in the fashion and internal beauty arenas.  I look forward to hearing from you!

4 comments on “CHIC Style Icon: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

  1. The one “celebrity” outfit (though that word seems too pedestrian for anything CBK wore) is the black sweater and camel skirt with brown boots. I have been searching for the perfect skirt for years!


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