There’s a reason why portraits of Audrey Hepburn and Bianca Jagger are still iconic today. The stylish ladies of decades past had that certain je ne sais quoi, non? Fortunately for us, we can all learn to embody that effortless appeal in fresh, updated ways.
Let’s kick it old school for a moment (glass of red wine optional) and take some serious style notes from those who knew best—from Brigitte Bardot’s hourglass silhouette dresses to Diana Vreeland’s unmistakeable hue of choice, click through below to absorb the cool.
Josephine Baker was the It-girl of the early 20th century. She was born in America, but swiftly relocated to Paris, where she became famous as a dancer and actress. Remember the Charleston? Yeah, all her. Ernest Hemingway even called the starlet “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” While her signature banana skirt may not be a wearable option for all of us, Baker was rarely seen without layers of pearls. Now that's a trend we can get behind.
Kenneth Jay Lane Pearl Choker Necklace in Pearl/Gold ($50)
We’re still not over the choker, and the oversized pearls on this one add feminine charm.
Vita Fede Half Moon Imitation Pearl Earrings in Gold/Pearl/Clear ($525)
Pearls don’t have to be old-fashioned when they’re attached to sleek, modern earrings like these.
Elizabeth Cole Aeryn Earrings in Gold/Pearl ($73)
You little rebel—these pearl earrings pack ladylike elegance and a spunky edge all in one.
Rosantica by Michela Panero Himalaya River-Pearl Necklace ($780)
The layered pearls and tassels on this necklace perfectly capture the glamorous aesthetic of the ‘20s.
Wearing pants right now? You might want to thank this lady. Known as much for her fierce and independent persona off-screen, this actress pushed boundaries by wearing menswear pieces in a time when pants were exclusively reserved for the boys. Want to copycat this elegant icon? Her wide-leg trousers are having a serious comeback right now, and they’re callin’ your name.
Elizabeth and James Trenton Trousers in Navy ($295)
These Elizabeth and James trousers keep the wide-leg silhouette modern with a cropped hemline and subtle pleating.
The film bombshell, dancer, and songbird inspired an entire generation worldwide. Bardot's style may have changed over the years from the sweet charm of the ‘50s to the graphic and bold geometrics of the ‘60s; however, she was continually photographed wearing one silhouette in particular: the fit-and-flare dress. This style has hardly gone anywhere (just take a peek at Dior’s most recent show), and for good reason–the classic shape is über-flattering.
Maison Kitsuné Stripe Bali Dress in Navy Cream ($72)
The traditional cut of this day dress is offset with funky details: gold and pearl hardware at its cinched waist and a playful cut-out back.
Derek Lam Black Faille Checked Belted Dress in Black ($886)
Bardot often wore prints such as gingham. This ultra-flattering Derek Lam dress stays modern with an oversized print and sleek shape.
ASOS Midi Dress with Full Skirt and Belt in Pink ($40)
This simple fit-and-flare dress is an adaptable and feminine staple to add to your summer wardrobe.
RED Valentino Seersucker Sleeveless Dress in Confetti ($697)
Embody girlish charm in this pink seersucker number.
The mod squad aesthetic of the ‘60s was championed by this famous model and actress. Moffitt’s famous Vidal Sassoon bowl cut became du rigueur in the editorial world, while her modeling of the first-ever monokini made waves around the globe. Her sleek separates and graphic black-and-white wardrobe were ahead of their time, and still add modern sophistication to any ensemble.
Pixie Market Bianca Ruffled Black and White Off Shoulder Dress ($65)
For all your romantic summer needs—try this frock on for size.
Derek Lam 10 Crosby Checkerboard Knit Skirt in Grey/White ($395)
This checkerboard pencil skirt captures the ‘60s mod look while still being appropriate for the office.
The woman who actually gave the go-ahead on that monokini we mentioned? Vreeland. The famous style maven is still a source of inspiration for countless figures in the design world. This former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue saw no virtue in being bland. Vreeland was also notorious for her love of a certain hue: “All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me…they have no idea what I’m talking about.” Bonus: Wearing the bold hue may boost your chances for finding summer love.
ONE by Femme D’armes Bailey Gown in Crimson ($888)
Va va voom! This gown packs a major punch. Lace? Check. Crimson? Check. Thigh-high slit? Check.
Nancy Gonzalez Crocodile Wallet-on-a-Chain Crossbody Bag in Red ($1750)
The bold color and unique chain on this handbag make it anything but snoozy.
Zara High Heeled Singback Booties in Burgundy ($119)
If you’re looking for booties to carry you (stylishly) into the fall, we’ve got you covered.
Stella McCartney Twill Straight-Leg Cropped Trousers in Vermillion ($324)
Bright, cropped trousers are the right way to make a statement in the office.
This covergirl and actress embodied carefree style of the ‘70s. Many of the decade’s trends most remembered today were first debuted on this leading lady, from tall white patent boots to colorful flowing maxi dresses. She captured the hearts of the entire country, and the likes of Steve McQueen. Might we suggest featuring some of her greatest hits in your summer wardrobe? Try a swirling, colorful paisley or bandana-print to score instant cool-vibes. Middle part highly encouraged.
DKNY Silk Bandana-Print Pants in Black/White ($153)
Despite their bold paisley print, these pants are deceptively versatile and can be dressed up or down.