Summer Styles with Staying Power

Sure, we all have our own personal style, but there are a few closet classics with universal and time-tested appeal. Here are 10 pieces made famous by stylish screen stars of the past half-century, and how to update and incorporate them into your own warm-weather wardrobe.

Closet Classics

Trends come and go each season, but these 10 summer staples have stuck around for years–even decades–without losing their allure. Made famous by style stars from Jackie O to Jean Seberg, the iconic items have true time-tested appeal. Whether you dress them up or down, they’ll keep you looking cool no matter how high the temperature gets this season. The best part: You can keep them in your warm-weather wardrobe for years to come.

A Striped Breton Top

French actress Jean Seberg made this top a classic in the 1960’s Jean-Luc Godard film, “Breathless.” But it was the one and only Coco Chanel who originally pilfered this look from the fishermen of the French Riviera back in the 1920’s. Typically designed with a wide bateau neckline in navy and white stripes and three-quarter length sleeves, this simple sailor tee has come back this season in many forms–from tank tops to long, fitted jersey dresses. Nearly a century after Chanel made it chic, it seems to be back on every designer’s It-List for summer.

How to Wear It: Classic and comfortable, the Breton is the perfect summertime top. Worn with a longer sleeve, it can ward off the chill of an evening breeze. The tapered waistline works well with shorts, jeans or a skirt to create a flattering silhouette.

A Trench

Women have been playing around with masculine, oversized proportions on their smaller, curvier frames forever. Just look at Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall.” But it was the ever elegant Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” who wore a trench as nonchalantly as a bathrobe. Now, that is the essence of chic. The trench is conservative, tailored and rigorously military to its core but it’s also highly versatile and sexy when worn the right way, like Hepburn did over an extravagant evening gown, wrapped and firmly tied around the waist, or tossed over the shoulders like a cape. A trench can not only protect and serve, it can instantly add an element of class and style authority.

How to Wear It: A lightweight summer trench in the classic khaki shade is a great way to stave off those summer showers. It also functions as the ideal evening coat. Toss it on over a pair of skinny jeans or a summer dress. This is a piece that takes you from day to night, and back.

White Jeans

Fitted white jeans are a staple in many women’s closets, but there is something about the way Kate Moss wears them that makes them look fresh and modern. Not too tight and worn a little short with a chunky belt at the hips, they take on a cool, rock n’ roll vibe.

How to Wear It: The white jean is one of the most versatile summer items to own year after year. Great for daytime with a t-shirt or printed hippie blouse yet chic enough to go out at night with a sexy beaded top.

A Ballet Flat

Audrey Hepburn’s chic silhouette in a pair of fitted black pedal-pushers and prim ballet flats in the 50’s film “Funny Face” has inspired women for decades to give up their uncomfortable stilettos and platforms in favor of streamlined comfort and a neat, elegant look.

How to Wear It: Ballet flats in all their iterations, bejeweled, leopard, studded or polka-dotted, not only make traveling comfortable and easy (just squish them together and go) they are also the perfect companion for jeans, shorts, minis and soft dresses.

A Black Swimsuit

Every woman needs a black swimsuit in her wardrobe. The beachy equivalent to the LBD (little black dress), a black suit is slimming and keeps you looking sleek in sand and surf. Stylish stars from Bridget Bardot in the 1950s to Demi Moore a half-century later (famously in “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”) have turned up in the black bikini.

How to Wear It: Whether you go for a one-piece or a bikini, choose a style that helps you exude confidence. A high-waisted bikini offers more coverage and a classic look, or pair it with a flirty cover-up. Another benefit of black: You can wear it with almost any color.

A White Button-Up Shirt

There is almost nothing more utilitarian and basic than a crisp, white shirt, yet it can still freshen up any look. Katherine Hepburn immortalized the white button down shirt as one of her signature style pieces. Worn simply or set off with loads of gold jewelry, the white shirt is one of the most versatile pieces you’ll own — and you can take it through almost every season.

How to Wear It: A white shirt has the uncanny ability to look good pressed and perfected, or wrinkled and lived-in, so it’s the ideal piece to take on any trip or weekend getaway. Tucked into jeans or thrown on over a tank and sleek black leggings, the great white shirt is an easy style staple.

A Boho Chic Dress

From the hippie heyday of the 70’s to the hipsters of today, the long boho-chic dress carries on in high style. The Olsen Twins revived hippie-dom with their long, ‘ray of light’ wavy locks, chiffon shirts and floor-sweeping skirts. Typically made with airy, lightweight fabrics, they move easily around your body and keep you cool on the hottest days.

How to Wear It: Keep the bohemian dress casual with flip flops or basic sandals and it can work easily for the beach and for brunch in the summer. Dress it up with jeweled flats or beaded jewelry and it can take you right into dinner. This versatile piece can also be tossed over a swimsuit for a glam cover-up.

A Straw Carry-All

Jane Birkin may have an Hermes bag named after her, but one of her more iconic style signatures was her straw summer basket tote. Colorful and casual, it’s perfect for summer strolling, and has a distinctly vintage look to it. Today’s version of straw baskets have a flatter, more trapezoid shape and are cheekily adorned with mirrors, pom-poms and woven flowers for added appeal.

How to Wear It: The straw basket is a great day bag, but also doubles as a chic beach bag. Wear it with your boho-chic dress or white jeans and a t-shirt.

Big, Black Shades

America’s original First Lady of Style, Jackie O, took cover behind huge black sunglasses in the 60’s and 70’s, proving that bigger is definitely better. As exaggerated as they were, they didn’t overpower her delicate features, and gave her a chic, glossy style.

How to Wear It: While the sunglasses of yesteryear were a style essential, today they are also a health essential, providing important protection against the harsh rays of the sun. Every woman needs a pair of great black shades, which shape and size you chose depends on the shape of your face. But take a lesson from Jackie: Don’t be timid when it comes to your accessories. Go big and bold for maximum impact.

Statement Jewelry

One of the quickest ways to transform any outfit in a jiffy is with jewelry, real or faux. But since faux is more fun, and definitely more affordable, feel free to pile it on. Sarah Jessica Parker, is a pro at this, making every look her own by accessorizing in unexpected ways with lots of colorful, layered pieces.

How to Wear It: Mix and match till you find a look that’s right for you and won’t overpower your outfits. Wearing one piece can also be enough if it’s big and bold. If you’re traveling, bring a handful of earrings, cuffs and cocktail rings. They can brighten up any look, and they’re so small they make for easy travel companions.

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Photo courtesy of Kristie Cory