When Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy walked down the aisle on September 21, 1996, she forever changed the world of bridalwear. Before Bessette’s wedding to John F. Kennedy Jr. at First African Baptist Church on Cumberland Island, Georgia, it was Princess Diana’s elaborate tulle, taffeta, and lace gown with a 25-foot train—from her 1981 nuptials—that had set the trend for a generation of womens’ wedding gowns around the globe. 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 all the bridal rules in the best way possible. It was strikingly simple and would come to define an era of minimalism, not just for bridal, but fashion as a whole.
The bias-cut, body-skimming silk gown was remarkably bare—it had no embroidery or rhinestones or ornamentation at all. Instead, the dress was all about the stunning woman wearing it. (It’s no wonder Narciso Rodriguez launched his namesake line the next year and catapulted to stardom.) She paired it with a silk tulle veil, long white gloves, crystal-beaded Manolo Blahnik shoes, and a bouquet of lilies of the valley. Her hair was pinned back nonchalantly in a low bun that looked equal parts 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 have rounded up some of our favorite current iterations of the Carolyn available now.