VINTAGE STYLE: Audrey Hepburn

VINTAGE STYLE ICONS: Audrey Hepburn

It’s been fifty five years since the release of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), a film adaptation of the wonderful short story by Truman Capote. The movie stars none other than Audrey Hepburn in possibly her most iconic role. Here we are going to focus on her style, not just in the movie but throughout her career.

A BIT ABOUT AUDREY

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Audrey Ruston was born in Belgium, 1929 into a reasonably wealthy family. She and her family spent time in London and Brussels where she learned to speak many languages, including English. At the age of five, she attended a Kent boarding school to help strengthen her English.

In the 1930s, Audrey’s father divorced her mother causing the most, “Traumatic event,” of Audrey’s life.

As the War was announced in 1939, Audrey’s mother relocated the family to the Arnhem in the Netherlands. She believed they would be safe there. However, this wasn’t the case.

As a young girl, she witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews. Later she stated, “More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.”

FREEDOM

After D-Day, conditions became unbearable and Arnhem was subsequently destroyed during Operation Market Garden. The Dutch famine followed in the winter of 1944 and the Germans blocked the Dutch people’s resupply routes. Due to this, Audrey developed acute anæmia, respiratory problems and edema as a result of malnutrition.

In May 1945, Allies liberated the Netherlands with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. They  began the distribution of food and other essentials such as tobacco. Audrey later stated, “Freedom has a special smell to me – the smell of British petrol and British cigarettes. When I ran out to welcome the soldiers, I inhaled their petrol fumes as if it were a priceless perfume and I demanded a cigarette, even though it made me choke.”

GIGI

Actress Audrey Hepburn poses in character in her Broadway debut "Gigi," on November 28, 1951, in New York City.
Actress Audrey Hepburn poses in character in her Broadway debut Gigi, on November 28, 1951, in New York City.

Later, Audrey moved to Amsterdam and studied ballet. To assist in her family’s financial struggle, she also worked as a chorus girl where she performed in small theatre roles and later in a film. It was during the filming of Monte Carlo Baby, she was spotted by French novelist Colette in Monaco.

Colette immediately decided to cast Hepburn stating, “That’s my Gigi.”  Audrey would go on to play the title role in the Broadway hit. Audrey had never spoken on stage and required private coaching. This was the beginning of her acting career. 

Sources – Wikipedia

EVERYDAY FASHION

Hepburn, Audrey

Audrey was always seen to be as somewhat of a tomboy. Due to her slim figure and short hair, she stood out from the Hollywood bombshells. She appealed to those who weren’t interested in the Marilyn Monroe’s of the industry.

Audrey’s personal style consisted primarily of basic wardrobe essentials such as shirts, slacks and plain block colours. These were often complemented by accessories or bold makeup.

Audrey Hepburn on a boat on a lake in Bürgenstock (Switzerland), in August 1954 © Hans Gerber
Hepburn on a boat on a lake in Bürgenstock (Switzerland), August 1954 © Hans Gerber
Audrey Hepburn, 1954.
Audrey Hepburn, 1954.

MOVIE STYLE & GIVENCHY

Most of Audrey’s costumes were similar to her own wardrobe in that it wasn’t too extravagant. For example, her casual outfits in Sabrina were simple yet effective. Nothing too sensual but they definitely gave Audrey sex appeal.

Audrey Hepburn behind the scenes of Sabrina, 1954.
Audrey Hepburn behind the scenes of Sabrina, 1954.

Her chic, simplistic and classy style is what made Audrey’s roles so suited to her. There was nothing out of character in her movies. She always looked so comfortable, especially in the black capri pants and jumper. So Parisian, dah-ling!

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, 1957. The Director, Stanley Donen stated, "She was wonderful.... We only had one disagreement.... On “Funny Face,” there was a scene where she danced in a black slacks and top. She said [I want to wear] black socks and I said no, white socks. She said it will ruin [the uniformity]. You can’t have white socks. I made a test with her in the white socks and she kept saying black socks. We were right up to the moment of starting the sequence. I went into her dressing room and said, “Audrey. We are never going to agree — you will have to wear the white socks.” She said all right. When the rushes came in she wrote me a little note: “Dear Stanley, you were right about the socks.” She was glorious looking. She was a lovely, lovely person. We stayed friends."
Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, 1957. The Director, Stanley Donen stated, “She was wonderful…. We only had one disagreement…. On Funny Face, there was a scene where she danced in a black slacks and top. She said [I want to wear] black socks and I said no, white socks. She said it will ruin [the uniformity]. You can’t have white socks. I made a test with her in the white socks and she kept saying black socks. We were right up to the moment of starting the sequence. I went into her dressing room and said, “Audrey. We are never going to agree — you will have to wear the white socks.” She said all right. When the rushes came in she wrote me a little note: “Dear Stanley, you were right about the socks.” She was glorious looking. She was a lovely, lovely person. We stayed friends.”

HUBERT AND AUDREY

The majority of her costumes were designed by none other than Hubert de Givenchy. He worked on a large bulk of her movies, on her request and she would later call him her best friend.

The costumes he designed for Audrey seemed to be just that. With all of the outfits suiting her superbly they couldn’t have been for just anyone.

Givenchy stated after her death,”She gave life to the clothes – she had a way of installing herself in them, that I have seen in no one else since… [they] just adapted to her. Something magic happened. Suddenly she felt good – you could feel her excitement, her joy.”

Many of the famous costumes Audrey had adorned included this beautiful ball gown in Sabrina and the famous wedding dress in Funny Face to name only a few.

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Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in a promotional still for Sabrina, 1954.
Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Paris When It Sizzles, 1964.
Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Paris When It Sizzles, 1964.
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Hubert de Givenchy and Hepburn during the filming of Funny Face, 1957.

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – LBD

You say Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Audrey Hepburn and most people think of this image:

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Audrey Hepburn in a promotional still for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961.

The dress seen above and the opening scene of the movie were originally was designed by Givenchy. However, this iconic dress had a few issues.

Givenchy not only chose the dress for Holly Golightly, but also added the right accessories to match. This included a pearl choker of many strands, a foot long cigarette holder, a large black hat and opera gloves which not only, “Visually defined the character but indelibly linked Audrey with her.”

Breakfast at Tiffany's promotional still.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s promotional still.

But the original dress design would be a problem. The studio felt as if it was too risky due to the slit exposing a considerable amount of leg. They insisted it be sewn up. The lower half of the dress was re-designed by Edith Head. The original hand-stitched dress is currently in Givenchy’s private archive. A copy of the dress was kept by Audrey which is on display at The Museum of Film in Madrid.

Another copy was auctioned at Christie’s in December 2006. Unbelievably, none of the actual dresses created by Givenchy were used in either the movie or the promotional photographs but the concept was always there. The actual dresses used in the movie, created by Edith Head, were destroyed by herself and Audrey at Western Costume in California after shooting the film.

The movie saw Audrey’s personal style shine through with simple gowns but a few bold accessories such as earrings, pearls and hats.

Sources – Wikipedia

ICON

Audrey Hepburn wearing hat and dress designed by Givenchy (for a fashion editorial) at her house in Switzerland, in February 1962. Photo Howell Conant
Audrey Hepburn wearing hat and dress designed by Givenchy (for a fashion editorial) at her house in Switzerland, in February 1962. Photo Howell Conant.

Audrey Hepburn is known not only for her movies, her humanitarian work but also as a fashion icon. Her wardrobe has created the backbone for many styles over the years, especially in her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This movie re-wrote the rules of film and fashion and has become a famous image across the world.

Owner of this little blog! A lover of coffee, Disney and old stuff, blogging about my loves, passions and opinions.

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