Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy: Beauty Evolution

6 09 2009

By Taryn

After reading Sheila’s entry about beauty idols, I figured I’d add one of my own. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve long been a fan of the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s style, both in clothing and hair/makeup. I still lament the fact that her life (along with John and her sister’s) was cut so short, but it’s nice to pay tribute to a woman who will always remain an example of how to do classic fashion and makeup and whose style transcends time, much like her mother-in-law, the late Jacqueline Kennedy.

I created a little collage of Carolyn from when she was in her early 20s up until her last year, and it’s really quite a study to see the transformations she underwent through the years. Her face never seemed to look exactly the same – it could look subtly different depending on what angle she was photographed at, or even just by a change of shape or color in her brows or a few tweaks to her hair color. Her unconventional beauty was refreshing. It showed us that you don’t have to be model-perfect to be beautiful and classy.

So, without further adieu, here is my little collage and below it, some random observations:


What’s interesting about Carolyn is that while it’s clear she didn’t change her face with cosmetic surgery, she was able to transform it by simply plucking and lightening her brows and then allowing them to grow back to their thick, dark, full arches once again, or just by adding a slick of what was her favorite lipstick – Bobbi Brown’s Ruby Stain/Sheer (now both discontinued).

Her hair was00d always long and classic in style, but her color underwent a drastic change before her wedding when she visited Brad Johns, the pioneer of the “chunking” technique. She first had just a few buttery blonde chunks with maybe some lowlights, but that eventually morphed into the full-on butter blonde that is still coveted by many women today. Eventually, towards the end of her life, her hair went back to a more natural blonde.

For further information about various beauty products she used, please visit the terrific blog CBK Beauty Products for detailed information.


I’m going to save her fashion style for a future entry as that deserves one of its own, but I wanted to shine a light on a woman who managed to cement her place in history as a classic fashion icon in the brief period that she was with us.

She was not only someone who served as simply aesthetic inspiration, but was also a dear friend of Carole Radziwill, who shared beautiful anecdotes of their friendship in her memoir, What Remains, which also chronicles her late husband’s battle with cancer.  While the book can be a bit depressing, it is also uplifting to read how one person can make such a positive difference in another’s life while going through such a harrowing experience.

May Carolyn’s love and inspiration always live on.




19 responses

6 09 2009
Lisa Parks

Such a beauty!

6 09 2009

I liked her too. She definitely was an unconventional beauty. I would have loved to see her and JFK Jr. grow old together. But like other Kennedys, they will be forever young.

28 10 2010
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there are many hair colors out there but i alway prefere blondes`-~

21 06 2011
style icon:: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy » cowboys & cadillacs

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30 06 2012

Always thought Carolyn was beautiful but am learning what a wonderful person she was as I read Carole’s book. Such a sad loss of such a lovely young woman who was trying to find her place in this world. I feel so sad for Carole not only for losing her beloved husband but also for losing her best friend, Carolyn, John and Carolyn’s sister also. Tragedies of unimaginable proportions. I am so enjoying Carole on RHONY. I didn’t know anything about her before the show and am now reading her book because I was so impressed with her on the show.

5 09 2012

She was much more beautiful in her early years when she was natural and her eyebrows weren’t plucked away and her hair was natural and she enhanced her eyes with eyeliner. Toward the end she looked so washed out and ghostly fair skinned. I guess that is what John liked. Look at the young Darrel Hannah. Fair skin and hair was his type.

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8 06 2013
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When she could not or did not use B.Browns Ruby Stain,she did use one from Mac called Ruby Roo which I might add , cracked her up cause her dog’s name was Ruby.FYI!!

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12 07 2014

just gorgeous .. not wanting to compare Carolyn to Madonna however I can’t miss the refinement of Carolyn’s angles to those of the absolute Queen .. 15 years today RIP to a classic NYC beauty xoxo

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28 09 2017
Jill Brown

She has been dead for nearly twenty years and yet her style still looks as modern as it was the first time we saw her. Real style in a person means that they will never look dated. Any of the articles of clothing she owned could still make a great outfit. My favorites are the all black styles. They are so easy to do and anyone can do them, even without spending a lot of money. With red lips, long straight, blonde hair and light skin added up to beautiful. Add all black and her Hermes Birkin bag and she was a woman for all decades.

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