A Return To Simplicity: Summer Style in Movies

I’ve made a habit of watching some of my all-time favourite summer movies this time of year and I feel compelled to have you join in the fun. So here are ten films which provide some good summer viewing, as well as some serious schooling in summer style. Relax and dress to feel good, and carry that feeling with you throughout the year.
 
Summer style - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash

Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in ‘A Bigger Splash”

 
Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash (2015)

Loosely based on Jacques Deray’s La piscine, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash also references Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 Viaggio in Italia. One of the looks worn by Tilda Swinton (an ample black and white checkered skirt and matching top), who plays the protagonist, Marianne, was in fact inspired by one of Ingrid Bergman’s outfits in Journey to Italy, said the costume designer Giulia Piersanti, who collaborated with Raf Simons and Dior to create something more modern and summery.

A rock star recovering from throat surgery on the island of Pantelleria, Italy, Marianne is often seen in effortless, oversized shirts over swimsuits and short pants, or shirt dresses, but does not forget to remind the viewer, and herself, that she’s a star, by wearing a couple of glamorous pieces (but keeping a neutral colour palette). She goes grocery shopping or to the piazza overly dressed, in a white flared skirt and black blouse ensemble or in an elegant white jumpsuit. However, she retains a sense of effortlessness that seems to set her apart without taking her out of place. Like a true star would. Marianne’s mirrored sunglasses have a story of their own, too.
 
Summer style in movies - Romy Schneider in La piscine

Romy Schneider and Alain Delon in “La piscine”

 

Romy Schneider in La piscine (1969)

André Courrèges designed the costumes for Romy Schneider in La piscine and they perfectly embody the best of 1960s style. His clothes are considered to be magical in their simplicity. In the ’60s, Courrèges became the man who put women in trousers: dispensed with front pleats and cuffs, side pockets, fly-fronts and even belt-tab waists. Romy’s wardrobe included both trousers and a trapeze-shaped dress, one of Courrèges’s signature designs, but how about those swimsuits? Whether one- or two-pieces, her bathing suits come in either black or white. Yes, there is such thing as a timeless swimsuit. Noteworthy mention: men can draw sartorial inspiration from the movie as well, both from Maurice Ronet and Alain Delon, their wardrobes ranging from swim trunks to classic grey suits.
 
Natasha Richardson in Armani-The Comfort of Strangers

Natasha Richardson in “The Comfort of Strangers”

 

Natasha Richardson in The Comfort of Strangers (1990)

The entire leading cast in Paul Schrader’s The Comfort of Strangers, from Natasha Richardson and Helen Mirren, to Rupert Evert and Christopher Walken, were dressed in Armani. But it is Natasha’s character’s wardrobe that truly takes you away, to a summer vacation in Venice (the location of the movie). It is a harmony in colour and fabric, and Mary looks at ease, free, like herself in her clothes. It’s a journey into the glorious Armani style of the 1990s and it’s irresistibly alluring – here is my article covering Richardson’s entire wardrobe.
 
Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill

Carey Lowell in “Licence to Kill”

 

Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill (1989)

Like The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) before it and Casino Royale (2006) after it, Licence to Kill introduced us to one of the best and one of my favourite James Bond girls, Carey Lowell. She saves James Bond’s back the first time they properly meet, wears her hair cut short and her Berretta up her not one, but two heart-stopping evening dresses and downs a vodka martini in one go, so wouldn’t you agree? Those two black gowns I mention above are indeed some notable fashion in film moments, but let us pause on this little greige dress for now. It’s summer, it’s hot. You can keep your cool and sense of style in this dress (as opposed to, say, cut-offs and tank top). And for that special occasion you might be attending this summmer, do check out Carey’s other dresses, too.
 
Summer style - Lauren Hutton in The Gambler

Lauren Hutton and James Caan in “The Gambler”

 

Lauren Hutton in The Gambler (1974)

But let’s face it, the cut-offs are very much part of summer style, too. They are even a classic of sorts – it’s denim, after all. And nobody does denim better than Lauren Hutton. In denim shorts and Hawaiian shirt tied at the waist, she embodies the pinnacle of cool American sportswear.
 
Summer style - Call Me By Your Name

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in “Call Me By Your Name”

 

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name (2017)

There’s much to be said about Call Me By Your Name, one of the best films of last year. And the sense of style exhibited by the protagonists, Elio and Oliver, is one of them, emphasized by the overall aesthetic and settings of the movie. A great immersion into a sun-dappled Italian summer in the 80s – “Somewhere in Northern Italy”, we’re told in the opening credits. Eighties preppy style, Ralph Lauren shirts, pastel colours, striped t-shirts, polos, jean shorts, swim trunks, boat shoes, classic sunglasses. It’s simple, timeless summer style, and I don’t mind the eighties accents at all, quite the contrary, especially that they are very subtle. And, frankly, men today could do with a looser shirt fit, especially in the summer.

There is much more meaning in these clothes than what meets the eye, as they are woven into the narrative, reading into Oliver’s self-confidence and American-ness, or into Elio’s youthfulness and age of carefree thinking and self-discovery. The beauty of these wardrobes however truly is in their complete ease, catering to the best summer impulses, like jumping in the nearest body of water, reading a book on the lounge or taking the bike into the cobbled-street town. “I wanted to communicate a sense of summer heat and sensuality very subtly”, said costume designer Giulia Piersanti, a long-time friend of Luca Guadagnino, at her second collaboration with the director.
 
Summer style in movies - Jean Seberg in Bonjour Tristesse

Jean Seberg and David Niven in “Bonjour tristesse”

 

Jean Seberg in Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Givenchy made Jean Seberg’s gowns for the movie based on Françoise Sagan’s novel by the same name, Bonjour Tristesse. And may I say that Cécile’s black cocktail dress overshadows Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina black dress designed by the same Givenchy? Seeing it next to a man’s tuxedo proves its flawlessness. Be that as it may, it’s the shirts I want to talk about. Because even if we all do need an elegant summer dress in our wardrobes, what summer truly calls for is the carefree, coastal living that Seberg so effortlessly embodies in her bare feet, short hair-cut and passion for denim shirts stolen from her dad and which she wears tied at the waist with everything from one-piece bathing suits to white capri pants or shorts.

In his book, The Films of My Life, François Truffaut wrote: “When Jean Seberg is on screen you can’t look at anything else. Her every movement is graceful, each glance is precise. The shape of her head, her silhouette, her walk, everything is perfect; this kind of sex appeal hasn’t been seen on the screen.” It’s when Seberg is in her simplest outfits that she’s the most attractive and that’s the Cécile described by Truffaut.
 
Summer style in movies - Alain Delon in Plein soleil

Alain Delon in “Plein soleil”

 

Alain Delon in Plein soleil (1960)

Summer style does not mean just jeans, khakis, shorts and plain t-shirts, and nobody is on an endless vacation. And no one does smart summer style better than Alain Delon in Plein soleil, where he embodies easy elegance – appreciating the classic codes of menswear, but with a relaxed, even rebellious feel. But I believe that it is these beltless pleated grey trousers, white shirt and white suede loafers that represent the height of men’s summer style. Nobody has embodied French style like Delon in the 1960s. His sartorial portrayal of Tom Ripley is as relevant today as ever.
 
Summer style in movies - Keanu Reeves in Point Break

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in “Point Break”

 

Keanu Reeves in Point Break (1991)

Keanu Reeves in white t-shirt, blue jeans and bare feet. Enough said.
 
Summer style in movies - Thelma and Louise

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in “Thelma and Louise”

 

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (1991)

I do believe that Keanu Reeves in white t-shirt and blue jeans in Break Point qualifies as inspiration for men and women alike, but given my love for, in my opinion, the two most democratic clothing items, jeans and t-shirts, I had to include Thelma and Louise on the list. With their disheveled and dusty looks, weather-beaten tan, high waist blue jeans, white or graphic rock’n roll tank tops (their t-shirts become symbols of rediscovered sisterhood), cowboy boots, neckerchief made of the sleeves of a denim shirt, and cat-eye sunglasses, they “become more and more natural, but more and more beautiful as it goes on and by the end… just these mythical looking creatures”, as director Ridley Scott said of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’ characters. It’s very simple, free-spirited, sexy, and timeless. Summer at its best.
 
photo credit: 1-Frenesy Film Company, Cota Film, StudioCanal / 2-Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie (SNC), Tritone Cinematografica / 3-Erre Produzioni / 4-United Artists / 5-Paramount Pictures / 6-Frenesy Film Company, La Cinéfacture, RT Features / 7-Wheel Productions / 8-Robert et Raymond Hakim, Paris Film, Paritalia / 9-Largo Entertainment, JVC Entertainment Networks / 10-Pathé Entertainment

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