When Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy walked down the aisle on September 21, 1996, she changed the world of bridal wear forever. Prior to Bessette’s wedding to John F. Kennedy Jr. at the First African Baptist Church on Cumberland Island, Georgia, it was Princess Diana’s elaborate tulle, taffeta and lace dress with a 25-foot train – from her 1981 nuptials – which set the trend for a generation of women’s wedding dresses around the world. Bessette’s dress, designed by her dear friend Narciso Rodriguez (the two worked together at Calvin Klein), was the ultimate antithesis of Diana’s ballgown and broke every bridal rule in the best possible way. It was strikingly simple and would define an era of minimalism, not just for the bride, but for fashion as a whole.
The bias-cut, form-fitting silk dress was remarkably bare — it had no embroidery, rhinestones, or embellishments. Instead, the dress was all about the stunning woman wearing it. (It’s no wonder Narciso Rodriguez launched his eponymous line the following year and catapulted him to stardom.) She paired it with a silk tulle veil, long white gloves, shoes Manolo Blahnik in crystal beads and a bouquet of lily of the valley. Her hair was casually pinned up in a low bun that looked both effortless and chic. To this day, it remains one of the most timeless, iconic, and most copied bridal ensembles of all time.
If that famous shot of Bessette leaving the church is your ultimate wedding dress inspiration, look no further. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite current iterations of the Carolyn available now.