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Summer style icons: Princess Leia, Sofia Coppola or Nancy from EastEnders?

Chloë Sevigny: ‘She makes terrible clothes look amazing’

Style-wise I am the opposite of King Midas: all clothes look terrible as soon as I put them on. I could wear the most expensive piece of Chanel couture ever created and somehow I would make it look like bargain basement Jane Norman. This is not an exaggeration, or self-deprecation: last year I spent an absolute fortune on some YSL ankle boots and the first time I wore them out a (very fashion-aware) friend said, “Ooh, your boots – Primark?”

She wore some of the ugliest, cheapest clothes … Chloë Sevigny. Photograph: Tammie Arroyo/Alpha

Thus, I have enormous admiration for those who somehow manage the reverse: to make terrible clothes look amazing. Hence, my fascination with Chloë Sevigny. These days it is generally accepted that Sevigny is a style icon, and she is given high fashion by designers accordingly. But my favourite Sevigny era is the 90s, when she really did wear some of the ugliest, cheapest clothes in the world, and yet always looked amazing. Eighties blazers with giant shoulder pads, denim waistcoats, hotpants that never quite fitted right, cropped tops, shapeless tartan dresses – and every time, she made them look like something you needed to own right now, if only you could find the rubbish bag Chloë pulled it out of. For a try-hard like myself, there will always be something so enviably cool about someone who looks like they couldn’t care less what you think of their ugly bomber jacket, and that, coupled with my sudden weird nostalgia for 90s fashion, makes 90s Sevigny my fashion icon for the summer. And the tragic thing is, I won’t look any worse in Chloë’s cropped tops than I would in Chanel couture. Hadley Freeman

A mix of sports luxe and futuristic chic … Jaden Smith. Photograph: Alexandra Wyman/Invision for Talent Resources/AP Images

Jaden Smith: ‘No regular snotty-nosed Minecraft player’

It’s hard to explain why a 36-year-old man (me) would have a 16-year-old as a stylistic touchstone. But Jaden Smith is no regular snotty-nosed Minecraft player. Neither is he a super-precocious, creepily fashion-forward celebrity sprog like Suri Cruise or any one of the Beckham kids. Instead, Jaden’s clothes are decidedly on-point – a mix of sports luxe and futuristic chic. He likes to pair sharply cut tops with loose-fitting trousers. He’s able to do his own take on summer chic (hooded T-shirts, quarter-length shorts) without descending into flip-flops and confusion like the rest of us. It’s a multi-textured look that references Hedi Slimane’s designs for Saint Laurent, Drake’s emo-hop look, Kanye West’s utility wear and the sleek monochrome of the xx. It’s an always surprising mismatch of styles that feels very current. In fact his own tellingly named fashion line MSFTS does just that. It is also a slightly comic look. It’s a look that says: “I might be the son of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air but I could also be in a tonal post-industrial band featured in the pages of Wire magazine.”

Jaden’s avant-garde tendencies are not limited to his choice of clothes, however. You just need to look at his now sadly defunct Twitter account to see evidence of this. It featured missives like “how can mirrors be real if our eyes aren’t real” and “most trees are blue” which suggest a career in dystopic haiku writing is not far away. Still, the fact that he has also been papped wearing a dress, an Iron Man outfit and went to his prom in an all-white Batman costume suggests a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously. A son who would make proud a father whose best known maxim is, “Wickey wickey waa waa West”. Priya Elan

‘The white polo-neck is this year’s haute look’ … Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Photograph: Allstar/LucasFilm

Princess Leia: ‘An ultra political, badass chick in a man’s world’

It is a truism generally acknowledged that women of my generation owe their early feminist awakening, however begrudgingly, to Margaret Thatcher’s ascendancy in 1979. I beg to differ. Two years before Mrs T, there was Princess Leia: an ultra political, badass chick in a man’s world, charming when it suited her but on the whole stroppily determined and not scared of making a few enemies. Leia may have been a princess, but she never let that define or limit her. She had little truck with simpering or waving. Watch the film now and it is striking how little she smiles: instead she has a frowny, concentrating face that you don’t see so much in modern Hollywood starlets.

And then there was her hair, which was seriously fancy in all its bonkers Rapunzel-meets-cinnamon-bun majesty. Nearly four decades before other women of Hollywood began pointing out that they were More Than A Dress, Carrie Fisher’s Leia was like: I do my hair like this and then I will go out and bring peace to a troubled galaxy, so watch and learn, suckers. Well, that was the message my four-year-old self took from the film in 1977 and I will always be grateful for it.

It’s not just because JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set for release later this year, or because this year’s Secret Cinema production is the second instalment of the original Lucas trilogy, that Leia is an icon for this summer. Her complicated, twisty hair style is Coachella 2015 through and through. The white polo neck is this year’s haute look, seen everywhere from the Céline catwalk to Kim Kardashian. And the space age is the era to namedrop ever since Nicolas Ghesquière showed Louis Vuitton in Bob Spring’s UFO palace and Raf Simons went head-to-head with a takeover of Cannes spaceship-mansion Les Palais Bulles. Frankly, the Princess Leia look couldn’t be any more now. Luke who? The force is strong with this one this summer, actually, Darth. Jess Cartner-Morley

Yves Saint Laurent: ‘A bit unisex, a bit 70s, but ultimately timeless’

His style really bloomed in the heat … Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech in 1972. Photograph: Reginald Gray/Conde Nast Archive/Corbis

The 70s always look like they had great summers – and they were even better when spent in Marrakech at a villa with Yves Saint Laurent. I love Saint Laurent’s personal style – the hair, the specs, the slightly silly grin – and it really bloomed in the heat. From the mid-60s, he travelled there every year, staying first at his house Dar el Hanch and later in the Villa Oasis at Jardin Majorelle, the garden that he and his partner Pierre Bergé had long admired. They eventually bought it in 1980, and set about renovating it.

Morocco is having a moment this year with David Beckham staging his 40th birthday party there, and Kate Moss using it as a backdrop to her latest shoot in Vogue. But, more to the point, I just went there on holiday and, after a visit to the Jardin, I fell for Yves all over again. The bright blue walls, exotic pink flowers and a room full of the designer’s vibrant “love” collages did its work.

Fun was had on these trips and you can feel it. Fellow guests on Yves’ holidays numbered Bergé, Bianca Jagger, Talitha Getty and Andy Warhol, who was photographed wearing his trademark black polo neck. But Saint Laurent’s style beat all his guests. As a fellow sun worshipper, I love the way he embraces the heat, and looks great in terrace-ready outfits like white jeans, top button undone, and sunglasses. In tight T-shirts – with an Yves Saint Laurent logo – and a medallion. Or dressed up and photographed by Patrick Lichfield, in high-waisted jeans, billowing black shirt and fuscia scarf.

Although there are stacks of snaps of him hanging out on cushions with Betty Catroux or laughing with Loulou de la Falaise, it’s an image of him alone on a rooftop, dressed in a chambray shirt, faded flares and sneakers that really sticks out for me, for its simplicity. It looks just like what I want to wear right now – simple, easy, a bit unisex, a bit 70s but ultimately timeless. I’ll be dressing like this all summer in the hope I can bring a little bit of the Majorelle look into London 2015. Lauren Cochrane

Everything is intelligent, unassuming and just right … Sofia Coppola. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Sofia Coppola: ‘Confidence and a quiet, understated elegance’

The outbreak of barely-there, half-arsed dresses on the red carpet of late makes me love Sofia Coppola’s pared-back style even more. The 44-year-old has a confidence, a quiet, understated elegance – being one of a handful of female directors in Hollywood, she stands out for her award-winning achievements – and doesn’t need shouty clothes and selfies to make an impression.

From the oversized, mannish shirt to the slightly undone hair, Coppola’s gentlewoman style is carefully considered, but never try-hard. Everything is intelligent, unassuming and just right. The perfect black trousers, the shoes you can walk in and the “do not disturb” sunglasses – all the under-the-radar essentials grownup women want to wear in real life.

Cool, calm and uncluttered are three things a woman over 50 wants from her summer wardrobe, and if that involves being a bit covered-up, then all well and good. Coppola’s modern, ageless style appeals to women of all ages. Relaxed, slightly tomboyish and consistently chic, the only thing barely there is the perfect no-makeup makeup. Coppola has said that she never planned to be in film and wanted to be a magazine editor or art director – and there is definitely an air of the French Voguette about her look; acquired during summers spent interning at Chanel as a teenager, or time spent at a Parisian pied-a-terre with Thomas Mars, her French, indie rocker husband, no doubt. Sofia Coppola would rather pay attention to detail than be the centre of attention. Alyson Walsh

Alyson Walsh is the author of Style Forever: the grownup guide to looking fabulous. She blogs as thatsnotmyage.com

Of course it helps no end that she’s very fit … Nancy Carter. Photograph: Ray Burmiston/BBC

Nancy Carter: ‘A soap character who made me reassess my image’

It was actually on Christmas Day, when numerous relationships crumbled in the Queen Vic, that Nancy Carter’s sportswear first came into its own. Historically a day where drama is in direct correlation to the number of sequins you’re wearing, Nancy remained calm and defiant in a striped sports shirt and gold hoops.

Her look centres around various American sports: softball, baseball and basketball. Often lazily described as a tomboy, she has a style that is far more considered. She pre-emptively tapped into “lad-y” wear, this summer’s take on nu-lad, and has done so by borrowing from the boys. I don’t know whether she actually plays any sport, but does it matter?

For me the look works because it’s comfy but also cuts a dynamic silhouette. From her hair, expensive Hollywood blonde, which she fixes like a bow on a box, to the baggy baseball shorts billowing in the fictional winds of E20, it’s borderline uniform. And the good news is that it’s easy enough to poach elements of it in your day-to-day summer wardrobe. Eugenia Kim sells expensive, straw baseball caps. American Apparel sells homage-y unisex baseball tops. Nike Respect have the shorts and provided you pull your socks mid-calf high, you can ally yourself with any brand (I prefer Nike socks).

It’s the first time a soap character has made me reassess my image – and never more so than now as we enter summer, and out come my oversized vests and sliders. Of course it helps no end that she’s also very fit. Morwenna Ferrier

She mixes classic and new without trying too hard … Kangana Ranaut. Photograph: Yogen Shah/India Today Group/Getty Images

Kangana Ranaut: ‘In a world of Rita Oras, she’s the Rihanna’

Bollywood is a great source for style inspiration, but mostly for an imaginary mood board. For your imaginary wedding. Funded by your imaginary billionaire oil magnate father. But, sometimes there are notes to be taken for smart casual summerwear, too. Kangana Ranaut is a rare act – in a climate where the mash of “traditional” and “western” looks are often overthought and styled to death, Ranaut shines without trying. In a world of Rita Oras, she’s the Rihanna.

I’m particularly obsessed with her salwar kameez styles. Whether it’s a mono-colour tunic and salwar or a long summery kameez with black trousers, she’s understated enough to mix classic and new without trying too hard. When you’re not skinny and/or rich, it can feel futile taking inspiration from willowy, preened actresses, but the beauty of a salwar suit is that they suit virtually everyone. And they are cheap. Around this time of year, all the styles are lightweight enough to be worn on hot days. You don’t need to worry about not having Pilates arms, or Spanx lines, or any other body paranoia – just whack on some sunglasses, drape your dupatta liberally, and you’re a confident Lahori socialite. Sara Ilyas

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