Ask anyone close to me what *pumps me up* when it comes to fashion, and nine times out of 10 you'll hear something along the lines of either “an all-white outfit” and/or “nostalgic style.” While I consider myself a modern woman, I still can't let go of my good old-fashioned throwback. And now that the warmer months are here, I find myself clicking through the internet in search of retro inspiration for my favorite summer staple: white denim. My go-to suspects for vintage white jeans outfits include a sprinkling of the expected (Yoko Ono, Bianca Jagger, Francoise Hardy, Stevie Nicks) and a mix of the more niche (Tina Chow, Donyale Luna, Anne Wiazemsky). There are few if any requisites for catching my attention; it can be an aesthetic that's minimalist, romantic, groovy, or somewhere in between — just something that feels original and expressive is what I’m after, nothing overly trendy.
If any of the above speaks to your personal style as well, I find that many great outfits can be built around a single staple item. In my case, the white denim in question is from NY-based brand Still Here and is made of 100% upcycled fibers repurposed from post consumer clothing; they are synthetic free, un-dyed and completely compostable. I challenged myself to channel the women whose style I admire and put together five white denim outfits for summer, ranging from Bohemian to preppy. I wanted to prove to myself that with a little fresh inspiration, it’s possible to make the pieces already sitting in my closet feel new and unexpected. And since I’m finally starting to break out the pieces that have been sitting in my closet over the last year, there was no better time to re-meet my wardrobe.
Style icons Jackie O and Jane Birkin in white summer denim.
Below, let this by-no-means-exhaustive list of looks serve as a brief and fun way to kick off the sun-filled season and hopefully inspire more effortless white denim looks for the future.
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French Chic Francoise Hardy
The Inspiration: Francoise Hardy in Greece
French singer-songwriter Francoise Hardy is the epitome of effortlessly cool. Her bangs, for starters, are enough to make me consider chopping my hair again. But beyond the French fringe, I've always appreciated her mix of rock n' roll with laidback separates. This sleeveless knit top paired with white denim would be perfect for dinner al fresco after a day on the beach.
Simply Elegant Jackie O
The Inspiration: Jacqueline Onassis in the Mediterranean
I can't think of a more relaxed afternoon summer ensemble than a silky headscarf worn with a classic tee, white jeans, and sleek flip-flops. It's elegant yet understated and would look great on anyone, particularly Jacqueline Onassis who inspired the look.
Bohemian-Cool Angela Davis
The Inspiration: Angela Davis in France
Scholar and activist Angela Davis is an icon in just about every sense of the term. Her transformative work and advocacy for racial justice are unparalleled. Her personal wardrobe was and has always been expressive and individualistic, something worth taking a cue from no doubt. Reach for a vintage blouse to wear with your white jeans and add in a retro accessory, like tinted aviators.
Travel-Ready Anna Karina
The Inspiration: Anna Karina in Cannes
Anna Karina is one of my favorite French New Wave actors and this white jean outfit of hers feels perfect for a travel day — polished but ultimately relaxed. Style a short-sleeve top with white jeans and accessorize with a hat, handbag, and ballet flats. Et voila!
Romantic Jane Birkin
The Inspiration: Jane Birkin in Cannes
I couldn't do a summer throwback story without nodding to Jane Birkin! While I didn't have a white lace crop quite like hers lying around, a lace blouse that can be tied at the waist should emulate the aesthetic just fine. Finish off the outfit with a straw bag, belt, and white denim.