'60s French Films Are at the Core of My Summer Aesthetic—7 Trends I'm Copying

Actress Jane Birkin wearing a gingham minidress on set of film The Swimming Pool (aka La Piscine) in 1968 on the French Riviera.

(Image credit: Everett Collection)

I've always had a thing for old French movies, and the architecture, design, fashion, colors, and language all play a part in their appeal. If you ask me, the most alluring ones always take place in the summer, when the genre's iconic bright hues appear diluted by the sunshine over Saint-Tropez and the on-screen style consists mainly of capri pants, stark-white maillots, and hair accessories ranging from acetate headbands to mod bandanas. Picking just one decade would be hard, but with the 1960s being an option—a period that saw Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Marie Laforêt, and Romy Schneider grace the big screen with their royal presence—there really is no question. It's the winner by a clear mile.

Naturally, with summer underway, I've been busy refreshing my knowledge of classics from the era, like La Piscine (The Swimming Pool), Le Mépris (Contempt), and Plein Soleil (Purple Noon), in an effort to gather as much seasonal inspiration as possible, particularly in the fashion department. Since my forever aesthetic goals revolve around the women in these three films, stills from them make for the perfect mood-board starters as I continue to shape and perfect my summer 2024 wardrobe. If yours is similar, you've come to the right place. Scroll down to discover seven trends that I'll be borrowing from the stars of some of France's most epic vintage films, from gingham print to A-line skirts and so much more.

Gingham Print

Actress Jane Birkin wearing a gingham minidress on set of film The Swimming Pool (aka La Piscine) in 1968 on the French Riviera.

(Image credit: Everett Collection)

Though she isn't La Piscine's leading lady, Birkin has more than her fair share of iconic moments in Jacques Deray's 1969 film, plenty of which included enviable ensembles just like the ones Birkin donned off-screen in her everyday life. The above still features one such look. The French fashion darling is wearing a blue-and-white gingham minidress that's just as relevant in 2024 as it was back in the '60s. From High Sport to J.Crew, everyone's craving elevated takes on the picnic print this summer—myself included.


A-Line Skirts

Michel Piccoli talking to Brigitte Bardot as she's playing with sunglasses and wearing a striped henley shirt and A-line skirt in a scene from the film Contempt, 1963.

(Image credit: Embassy Pictures/Getty Images)

Everything Bardot wears in Le Mépris is as beautiful as the various backdrops in Jean-Luc Godard's film—from the stunning apartment the actress's character Camille and her husband Paul live in to Casa Malaparte, a seaside villa in Capri, Italy, where Simon Porte Jacquemus recently held his fall/winter 2024 show. One such fashion winner is the belted A-line skirt she dons with a striped, long-sleeve tee and flats. Elegant and effortless, the shapely skirt is a perfect choice for warm days when you want to look nice but can't bear to stress about putting together an outfit.


White Maillots

Romy Schneider on the set of La Piscine wearing a white one-piece swimsuit.

(Image credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

No matter the decade, there's nothing more classic than a white maillot in the summertime. You can wear it solo at the beach or pool, and it also acts as a perfect base, whether you want to toss on a cover-up or pareo skirt for a seaside lunch or put on jeans, linen trousers, or a billowy skirt for a day of exploring in your local city. If you're going the classic route, take a cue from Schneider's La Piscine character Marianne's playbook and opt for a simple, minimalistic option with a scoop neck and spaghetti straps. Just make sure the style you're buying is lined—we all know the pitfalls of wearing an unlined white swimsuit in the water.


Silk Nightgowns

Marie Laforêt laying in bed wearing a white silk slip nightgown in Plein Soleil (Purple Noon).

(Image credit: Moviestore/Shutterstock)

If you didn't already know, Plein Soleil aka Purple Noon is the first adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley and follows a young American named Tom Ripley to Italy, where he's been sent to return one Philippe Greenleaf back to San Francisco by Greenleaf's father. (If you've seen the 1999 version starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, this probably sounds familiar.) In the original, Paltrow's character is played by a gorgeously dressed Laforêt (Marge), who can be seen above sleeping lazily in a white silk nightgown that could easily be worn outside of the bedroom with a few accessories and a good pair of strappy kitten-heel sandals.


Black Bikinis

Romy Schneider laying on a white sofa wearing a black bikini while filming La Piscine (The Swimming Pool).

(Image credit: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)

If you already own a white one-piece swimsuit but don't possess a tiny black bikini, let Schneider's in La Piscine persuade you to add one into your swimwear collection immediately. Her character in the film wears a black, almost triangle-shaped top with low-rise, thick-strap bottoms—no bandeau tops or high-waisted bottoms in sight. This photo alone is the sole reason why I own a number of very similar cuts. It's just so chic and laissez-faire. I can't get enough.



Brigitte Bardot wearing a navy wide headband, Breton-stripe shirt, and navy blue cardigan on the set of Le Mépris (Contempt).

(Image credit: Marceau-Cocinor/Les Films Concordia/ Georges de Beauregard/Carlo Ponti/ Collection Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

French women loving stripes isn't exactly a groundbreaking discovery. While I usually trust the style tips of all women from the country, this isn't one that felt particularly alluring to me until I saw Bardot's character wearing a navy-and-white striped tee in Le Mépris paired with a thick blue headband, a matching cardigan, and a knee-length pencil skirt. The look made me immediately want to buy all of the ingredients and re-create it again and again.


Bandana Scarves

Romy Schneider laying by the pool in a black bikini and white bandana while filming La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) with Alain Delon.

(Image credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

One of my all-time favorite French-girl trends is the way they style silk scarves, specifically when they're worn like bandanas. In the summertime, my hairline is always getting too much color, so I'm constantly on the lookout for cool ways to cover up. Sadly, baseball caps and sun hats don't look as effortlessly chic on me as they do on Instagram, so I've had to seek out alternatives, thus the love of headscarves. Schneider has a plethora of head accessories throughout La Piscine, with my favorite being—shocker!—this bandana-style white scarf that she paired with the aforementioned black bikini.


Senior Fashion Editor

Eliza Huber is a New York City–based fashion editor who specializes in trend reporting, brand discovery, and celebrity style. She joined Who What Wear in 2021 after almost four years on the fashion editorial team at Refinery29, the job she took after graduating with a marketing degree from the University of Iowa. She has since launched two monthly columns, Let's Get a Room and Ways to Wear; profiled the likes of Dakota Fanning, Diane Kruger, Katie Holmes, and Sabrina Carpenter for WWW's monthly cover features; and reported on everything from the relationship between Formula One and fashion to the top trends from fashion month, season after season. Eliza now lives on the Upper West Side and spends her free time researching F1 fashion imagery for her side Instagram accounts @thepinnacleoffashion and @f1paddockfits, running in Central Park, and scouring eBay for '90s Prada and '80s Yves Saint Laurent.