Sun and Sand in Cannes: A Look Back at Casual Celebrity Style at the Film Festival

Brigitte Bardot, 1955. Photo: Zola Bela / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The Côte d’Azur, a little piece of paradise where the golden sun hits waters of an indescribable blue, was made fashionable in the interwar period by American expatriates, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and their circle of friends who included Pablo Picasso, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and various members of the Ballets Russes. Filmdom claimed a spot in the South of France in the late 1940s with the establishment of what is now the Cannes Film Festival, where stars twinkle in the sky and red carpet.

Celebrities…they’re not just like us, but even A-listers are susceptible to the pull of sand and sea—whether for pleasure, publicity, or a combination of the two. When I hear the word “Cannes,” the first image that comes to mind is an 18-year-old Brigitte Bardot charming the press in a a teeny-weeny two-piece. In a case of incredible synchronicity, the bikini and the film festival both debuted in 1946. But hers isn’t the only head-turning, off-the-carpet look to admire. The selection of archival images below offers a study in casual seaside chic. Based on them, an imaginary packing list would include some denim, a bathing suit and sandals, straw hat and bag, and a sweater for breezy days. Madras might be optional, but sunscreen’s a must.

The (Re) Birth of Venus

Brigitte Bardot in a teen y bikini at her first Cannes Film Festival, 1953.Photo:  Watford / Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Après Art, Film

Foujita painting  Keiko Kishi , star of Snow Country, on the beach at Cannes, 1958.Photo: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Pablo Picasso at the Cannes Film Festival, 1957. Photo: Bob Hope / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix via Getty Images

A Day at the Beach

Actors Dominique Wilms and Pablito Calvo of Miracle of Marcelino, 1955.  Photo: Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Leslie Carron, 1953.Photo: Watford / Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Summer Dress-ing

Actors Nanette Senghor and Iba Gueye at Cannes, 1962.Photo by Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Mona Doll in a pretty summer dress, 1959.Photo: Daniel Fallot / INA via Getty Images

Tee Time

Dustin Hoffman and his Anne Byrne, 1975.Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Geraldine Danon, 1984. Photo by Jean-Marc Zaorski / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Maria Schneider, 1975. Photo: Bertrand Laforet / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Pas de deux

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, 1974. Photo: Gilbert Giribaldi / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Actors André Dussolier and Marthe Keller, 1975.Photo: Michel Ginfray / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Image
Twins Jean-Paul and Jean-Pierre Janssen, 1967. Photo: Keystone-France / Getty Images
Elsa Baeza and her pet Afghan, 1969. Photo: Keystone-France / Getty Images

Easy Breezy

Patrick Dewaere and Arielle Besse, 1981. Photo Jean-Louis Urli / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Actors Timothy Bottoms and Diane Varsi at Cannes in 1971. Photo: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Carole André, 1970. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Greta Scacchi, 1986. Photo: Richard Blanshard / Getty Images
Fabien Ferreux and Benoit Ferreux, 1971. Photo: Reginald Gray / WWD / Penske Media via Getty Images
Johnny Hallyday, Elke Sommer, and ith Francois Chalais, 1962.Photo: Daniel Fallot / INA via Getty Images
Actress Pascale Petit in gingham, 1959. Photo: Gilbert Tourte / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images


Dorothy Dandridge on the Riviera, 1957.Photo: Bettmann
Mercedes Moline, 1962. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Maria Luz in a printed maillot, 1963. Photo: Daniel Fallot / INA via Getty Images
Musician Lola Braxton, 1958. Photo: Eric Harlow / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix / Getty Images

Sweater Weather

Eddie Constantine with a leading lady, 1957. Photo: Gilbert Tourte / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Geraldine Chaplin, 1966, France. Photo: Keystone-France / Getty Images
 Joan Baez, 1971.Photo: STR / AFP via Getty Images