The coat Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy wore with her L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in a Patagonia Jacket with the L.L. Bean Open Tote

This post comes from a reader who asked me on the Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy Jean Style Guide. The question was: What coat was she wearing when she rocked the large L.L. Bean Boat and Tote Open-Top. Thank you for the question and I have an answer.

Reportedly, the jacket she wore was a Patagonia coat. Based on my research, this looks like a single breasted chore coat.

This probably took awhile for the internet to hunt down since Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy famously almost never wore logos. I actually found the answer buried on this Instagram post by @cbk_closet. So, this is speculative but it’s the closest I found to any ounce of information on this coat.

This post comes with the disclaimer that I am not 100% sure that this is the coat. I was able to find comments that narrowed down the brand. Based on my own observations and decade of fashion reselling, I was able to identify the style of the coat based on the images. This is not me saying this was definitely the coat, but this is my best guess based on the research. This post also contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I may make a small commission.

What is a chore coat and why do I think this is what Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was wearing?

What is a chore coat? Well, by definition, this style a durable jacket typically crafted from sturdy fabrics like denim, heavy cotton drill, or moleskin and features up to four large front pockets.

After looking at hundreds of chore coats from Patagonia, I’ve narrowed down some key elements of a the brand’s chore coats. These are often common elements of other brand’s chore coats, but I’m focusing on this coat and style specifically to prove my point that this was likely a Patagonia chore coat from the 90.

Patagonia chore coat features

Common features in vintage Patagonia chore coats are:

  • Coat hits about a few inches under the hip depending on the person’s height
  • Made from sturdier fabrics such as denim and wool
  • Features snap or donut buttons (no zippers)
  • Has deep and easy access pockets, often open or with a flap
  • Can be double or single breasted pockets but usually has at least 3 pockets
  • Looks oversized but in an intentional and not sloppy way
  • No hoods on this style
  • Collared, often in a contrasting color
  • Other than the collar, these coats are usually in a muted or neutral single color

Factors of the Carolyn Bessette Patagonia chore coat

The coat Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was wearing hits on all of the factors of Patagonia chore coats from the 90s. I looked at the photos available, and surprisingly, there was even some very blurry videos from the outing. This coat and bag combo was worn on a sailing outing with John and his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.

Here’s my case for why I think this was a Patagonia chore coat:

  • This coat was collared with no hood
  • The fabric looks like a wool or wool blend
  • It appears to have a single breasted pocket
  • Easy to access front pockets
  • Looks like it fits but is not oversized, meaning it was likely a women’s size chore coat
  • Single color
  • Snap button closure

So, the coat more or less hits on every factor of a vintage 90s Patagonia chore coat.

How to get this look

To get this look, it’s not necessary to purchase a wool Patagonia chore coat specifically. There are certainly many vintage coats that can be found on eBay, but new styles are also available. The chore coat is pretty evergreen, so this look is pretty unlikely to ever go out of style. Seriously, I love a chore coat!

Here’s my tips for looking for a chore coat like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy wore sailing to get the authentic look:

  • Fleece is not your friend. Look for wool or wool blend options.
  • Her jacket was ribbed. I didn’t see too many ribbed options in my search endeavors, but it’s worth noting for authenticity.
  • Go for charcoal grey or black
  • Look for snap buttons–no donut buttons or zippers
  • Go oversized but not too oversized. If you find a men’s size jacket, opt for a size down from women’s sizing to get the right oversized fit. In other words, if you’re a large in women’s sizing, look for a small or medium in men’s
  • Make sure the jacket has a collar and no hood
  • Pockets should be prominent but not obnoxious

What to search for to find this coat secondhand

Thanks for reading everyone. I hope this post is enough to send someone in the right direction to find the exactly style of Patagonia coat that Carolyn was wearing that day. As I mentioned earlier, this is my best guess based on what I was able to find.

I tried to look for styles available today that matched the one Carolyn was wearing, but honestly, there really is no comparison to the vintage chore coat like this one. I didn’t want to link them just to check a box since none of them were exactly right.

The best bet is to look on eBay or Poshmark with the following keywords in your search:

  • Chore coat
  • Vintage
  • 90s
  • Snap buttons
  • Collared
  • Single Breasted
  • Wool
  • Wool blend

These keywords should help you find a style in your size and price point that’s also authentic to Carolyn’s look! I hope you are able to find this! Thanks for to my reader for this question and please feel free to ask me questions!

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

  1. Claudia wrote:

    Wow! Thank you so much for dedicating a post to my question. I will definitely use the information and knowledge shared here to continue on my search for this coat. I love Carolyn’s timeless style and have always wondered about so many of her fashion choices. I wish we knew what happened to her wedding dress. I think it would be so cool if the CBK community that had access to all this information and pieces of her wardrobe could come together and set up a museum to honor her and teach future generations about her legacy. Again, THANK YOU!

    Posted 3.28.24 Reply
    • Can't Hardly Dress wrote:

      Hi Claudia! You’re most very welcome, this was a fun post to work on for me.

      There’s a book that recently came out that you might enjoy. It’s called CBK: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: A Life in Fashion. I haven’t read it yet myself but it looks great.

      Thanks for the info on the wedding dress–I didn’t know it was lost.

      Posted 3.28.24 Reply