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As they say, what’s old is new again, and this especially reigns true when it comes to summer fashion. In fact, many of the most popular summer fashion trends were inspired by history’s most beloved style icons, from classy ladies like Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn to edgy divas like Debbie Harry and Bianca Jagger.
When it comes to fashion, it’s no secret that trends are recycled at a pace that’s often difficult to keep up with, especially given the influence social media has on outfit envy. Let’s be real, Instagram is a great source of inspiration in moderation, but investing in pieces you know will test the time is a safer bet than buying every trendy piece you scroll by.
For a much-needed dose of summer fashion inspiration, we’re taking a look back at style icons of decades past for major outfit inspo this season. Think straw bags a la Jane Birkin, retro swimsuits courtesy of Marilyn Monroe and ’90s flair that’s definitely Kate Moss and Jen Aniston-approved.
The best part about trying out the trends of fashion icons past? These items are still around today and easy to find—you don’t have to sort through racks on racks at your local vintage shop to get a retro-inspired look (unless you want to!). Many of our favorite brands have updated these timeless pieces with modern twists that you’ll surely want to wear to your next summer picnic, beach bonfire party escape to the backyard.
With that, read on to learn a little bit more about 10 iconic women and the summer fashion trends they started.
1. Jane Birkin’s Basket Bag
If you’re a fan of the Hérmes Birkin bag, you have the iconic Jane Birkin to thank. Birkin was an actress, singer, songwriter, model and fashion icon; talk about a triple––or should I say, quintuple––threat.
Birkin is also known for her headline-making romance with Serge Gainsbourg. Together, they basically owned the street-style scene before it even began. She was often spotted toting a basket bag, making straw handbags an absolute must-have for summer.
The Isla Bahia Basket by Pamela Munson is the perfect blend of timelessness with a playful twist. The punchy orange ribbon and tortoise beads take the classic style up a notch, making it ideal for daytime or date night.
This option by Hat Attack is great for the women who just can’t stand top-handle bags, as it’s optimized with a crossbody strap for versatility. It also features a cute knit cherry charm, one of summer’s most major kitschy trends.
We love this Mini Bucket Bag by Sensi Studio for its incorporation of animal print into the woven straw. Leopard is a year-round fan favorite, so why not try it out this summer?
2. Jackie O’s Silk Scarves
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis––better known as Jackie O––is a forever muse when it comes to summertime style. As the First Lady, she often paired well-tailored basics with chic accessories like silk scarves.
While she’s often praised for her night-out looks, her off-duty, daytime style is just as enviable. This summer, take a styling cue from Jackie O and update your go-to look with a versatile, luxe-feeling scarf.
This chain print is a classic motif beloved by fashionistas for decades. We love the idea of taking this tried-and-true print and updating it with a fun, summer-friendly color like bold orange.
This polka dot number is giving us major nautical vibes. Sport this tied in your hair or wrapped around your beach bag handles with your favorite bikini and you’re ready for a fashion-forward beach day.
Scarves as accessories not your thing? Opt for the ever-trendy scarf top we’ve been seeing all over the ‘Gram this season. We love this Scarf Top by Cleobella for its feminine print and sunset color palette.
3. Audrey Hepburn’s Romantic Silhouettes
Quite possibly one of the leading ladies best known for her timelessly feminine closet is Audrey Hepburn. On and off screen, Audrey kept it classy, making a name for herself as a style icon in the process. Her summer aesthetic is best translated through romantic, feminine tops and dresses.
I can totally picture Hepburn prancing around in this minty green Charo Ruiz frock. The bodice-style detailing and eyelet-on-eyelet texture are so dreamy, but the mini length keeps it contemporary.
The collar, cinched waist and ditsy floral print make this For Love & Lemons romper timeless and chic! We’re heading to the shore ASAP to rock this one.
The square neck translates Audrey’s signature boatneck well for modern-day. This MINKPINK top also offers puffy sleeves and a smocked bodice for an extra-romantic feel.
4. Marilyn Monroe’s Retro Swimwear
Known for embracing her “blonde bombshell” image, Marilyn Monroe is the ultimate icon when it comes to retro swimwear. Her pin-up girl aesthetic was the perfect balance of sex appeal and class, and the recipe works just as well today.
Given the nostalgia of the season, high-waisted bottoms and molded cups are already making a comeback. Channel your inner Marilyn with any of the swimwear silhouettes below.
The Norma Kamali Ruched Bill One-Piece is perfect for the lady who likes a little extra coverage. The wide halter strap is just enough of a retro nod to feel fun without being too over the top. Plus, white is Monroe’s signature shade.
If you prefer separates, Norma Kamali still has some wonderful options. Between the molded cups, candy stripes and halter neckline, the Bill Bikini Top is a must-have for channeling a retro aesthetic.
As for bottoms, high rise is the move. We know Mara Hoffman is all about women’s empowerment, and it clearly shows in her designs. These Goldie Bikini Bottoms are ultra-flattering with their high-rise cut and tie-waist detailing.
5. Princess Diana’s Laid-Back Athleisure
If you’re a lover of loungewear, look no further than Princess Diana. Although she dressed to the nines as she tended to her royal duties, she was the queen ––or princess––of off-duty style, and she’s certainly influenced the way we interpret dressing down today.
Step one, acquire go-to bike shorts. Onzie is known for well-made fabrics at a great price, making this high-waisted pair a no-brainer. Chances are, you’ll be wearing them a lot, so you want a pair you love!
“Sweat shorts” are the summer-friendly alternative to joggers that Princess Di would’ve definitely loved.
Princess Diana always paired her athleisure bottoms with baggy crew neck sweatshirts. This vintage-inspired sweatshirt by ASOS DESIGN is perfect for channeling her off-duty look.
6. Bianca Jagger’s Summer Suiting
Actress and activist Bianca Jagger had us swooning over suiting. Although we loved her more glam looks from her Studio 54 days, she was mostly known for her sleek, day-to-night suiting ensembles.
Often seen coordinating with Mick Jagger, this power couple slayed the ’70s fashion scene, and we’re taking styling cues for the 2020s and beyond.
An oversized blazer should be a staple in everyone’s closet. If you’ve already conquered the neutrals, opt for a summery shade like this pale blue option from BB Dakota for a sweet statement.
“Short suits” have become a staple in every fashion girl’s closet as of late, and with good reason. The chicness of a suit with the breeziness of a summer staple? Yes, please. This ASOS DESIGN Camel Grid Suit Short Set is a personal fave.
Jagger often wore a wider-leg trouser with her suiting, and she’d love the fit of these baggier Extreme Dad Suit Pants.
7. Debbie Harry’s Graphic Tees
Even if you don’t know Debbie Harry, you’ll definitely be familiar with her music from her days as the lead singer of Blondie. She arguably defined punk style as we know it! Her key item? The graphic tee, of course. It’s the quickest way to edge up even the simplest of outfits.
Why not honor Debbie herself? A Blondie tee is a no-brainer when it comes to channeling the singer’s cool-girl aesthetic.
Rock on with an ACDC tee this summer. Pair this one with your go-to denim shorts and comfiest kicks for a relaxed look you’ll wear on repeat.
If you don’t like wearing shirts bearing bands you don’t listen to, go for a general graphic tee like one with this cute “Stay Golden” motif. Sleeveless options are also trending, so sport this on your next park day for an easy, comfortable look!
8. Jennifer Aniston’s ’90s Minimalism
On and off screen, Jennifer Aniston shows us that “less is more” can be pretty damn cool when done right. This ’90s It-Girl actress gravitates to form-fitting frocks and teeny tanks that showed just the right amount of skin—exactly what we need on these sweltering summer days.
This dress by Splendid hugs all the right areas without clinging too tight. The ruching on the sides is key for achieving comfortability when rocking a mini!
Consider this silhouette the ultimate “sneaker dress.” The ribbed cotton makes it cool and casual, while the flattering silhouette adds a dash of sex appeal. Even better, this Enza Costa number is ethically produced in Los Angeles.
A silky cami is a day-to-night essential. Easily layer it with a blazer for work, or spice it up with a slinky skirt for a wild night out. This is definitely a silhouette you’ll want to stock up on!
9. Kate Moss’ Slip Dresses
Kate Moss rose to supermodel status during the ’90s, and has been a style icon ever since. Also channeling the minimalist aesthetic, Kate wore the look in a totally different way than Aniston, by sporting sexy slip dresses everywhere from the sidewalks to red carpets.
We have Moss to thank for normalizing this barely-there frock for outside the bedroom. If you’re looking to make a statement on a night out or just want something breezy to throw on with your sandals for brunch, a slip dress is key.
The classic bias cut gets a funky upgrade thanks to the fun marbled pattern on this slip dress by The Fifth Label.
If your portfolio of slips is well-stocked, take a risk and opt for a printed option! The Mina Dress by OPT has all the allure of a classic slip dress, plus bright colors, a cute floral pattern and a sexy ruched side.
Slip skirts are just as beloved as slip dresses, and of course, animal print is always in. Pair it with a black top in summer and transition it for fall with a cropped sweater and over-the-knee boots.
10. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Candy Colorways
We all know Sarah Jessica Parker for her over-the-top outfits as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, but her day-to-day looks are just as enviable. SJP is never afraid of a fashion risk, and she rarely opts for basic, monochromatic black.
Parker is often spotted in candy-colored hues, which makes her a perfect muse for summer style inspo. Try playing with pops of color and just see if your mood (and wardrobe) don’t improve.
If full-on color isn’t your thing, go for a neutral-grounded option with a multicolored print, like the one on this C/Meo Collective dress.
Combining two of our favorite trends this summer, these Sam Edelman slides feature a strappy look and a pop of key lime color. Tone them down with a neutral dress, or use them to complement an already-colorful look to reach SJP-worthy style success.
This baby blue handbag by HORSE&TIGER is at the top of our summer wishlist. Everyone knows Parker’s iconic Carrie Bradshaw loved a baguette silhouette, and this bag’s tortoise strap makes it especially intriguing.
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