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Here Are the Style Essentials of the Greatest Fashion Icon

Feature Image: Audrey Hepburn's style in Charade, 1963. She wears a red wool coat with a cool leopard print hat.

This is the complete story of the collection that Audrey Hepburn accumulated during her days as a star actress. Her pieces were mostly made by Givenchy. Here’s a look into her fashion.

As a child, I adored cinema. The sound and stage, frame by frame graced by costumes brought a nostalgic air. Yes, my preference was for the classics. From stars of the 50s through to the 60s. I was particularly fond of Gene Kelly, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn. These stars were great actors. Also, they were well-known for their influence on contemporary fashion. For example, Marlon Brando’s 501 jeans in The Wild One changed the look of a rebel forever. But, I find that every Audrey Hepburn dress still tells a story. It is a story of how women’s fashion changed.

And there is a good reason for that.

Her boyish looks with effortless glamor had drew in all. She had the kind of candidness found in the girl next door. Her films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady (1964) showed her to be a celebrity of the people. 

Audrey Hepburn had a clean-cut look and embodied minimalism. This characterized her look. Also, her dresses drew attention to her slender frame. Also, she popularized clean black leggings and black capri pants (shown below.) She was daring with fashion and it reflected in her movie outfits.

Sabrina is Audrey Hepburn's first collaboration with Givenchy. In this picture, she wears a black coat that matched the Parisienne standards of Audrey Hepburn's style.
Source: A scene from Sabrina

In fact, Hubert de Givenchy designed all her movie outfits and leisurewear. In this blog, we will talk about the association between these two giants of fashion.

Sabrina: Introducing Fashion in Films

For Sabrina (1954), Audrey got to select her wardrobe. In fact, prior to the film she had won the Oscar for Roman Holiday. This allowed Audrey Hepburn to choose her couturier. So, she decided on wearing a real Parisienne dress. This shocked the wardrobe supervisor, Edith Head. She wanted to dress a leading lady in her Parisian fashion designs.

She sought Balenciaga’s help. However, Balenciaga, already hassled with a collection, directed her to Hubert de Givenchy. But, Givenchy expected a certain “Mrs. Hepburn.”

He thought it would be Katharine Hepburn, a sensation of the time. Instead, walked in a slim and tall Audrey Hepburn. Givenchy, who had expected Katharine Hepburn. He asked her to pick up something off the rack as he was busy. Givenchy was also making a fashion collection at the time.

Background of Audrey’s Fascination with Givenchy

Some context would help here:

Audrey Hepburn was already a fan at the time. In fact, she had splurged some of her Roman Holiday pay cheque on a Givenchy coat. Such was Givenchy’s repute that he had already dressed Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, and Grace Kelly. Yet, Audrey and Givenchy’s association led to a long-time friendship of 40 years. This formed the basis for every Audrey Hepburn dress in the movies.

So, she asked Givenchy if she could try on the dresses already made for his collection. Upon trying them on, she exclaimed, “It’s exactly what I need!” So, they decided to change the evening dress from Sabrina. Its black jersey was now switched to white organza to fit the summer ball.

She tried on the dresses — “It’s exactly what I need!” — and they fit her, too. (Givenchy’s interview with The New York Times)

Funny Face: Audrey Hepburn’s Style Through The Ages

In their next collaboration, the fashion designer had to dress Audrey as Jo Stockton. Jo is a young bookseller who ventures to Paris. Givenchy worked with Edith Head on this film as well, but this time he got credits for his work. In fact, he designed everything from elegant Parisian wear to the iconic all-black outfit. The black outfit consisted of the following:

  • Black cigarette pants
  • Flats
  • A black polo neck
Funny Face was a milestone in fashion. An entertaining film with tasteful costumes, Audrey Hepburn's style and outfits included cigarette pants and top. An all black killer!

The Legacy of Funny Face’s Costume Design

Funny Face is a favorite among avid viewers of fashion movies. It has a simple formula and showcases a famous Audrey Hepburn outfit. A Cinderella story that showcases Jo Stockton, turning from bookseller to runway model. All this happens following a meeting with Dick Avery (inspired by Richard Avedon.) Richard Avedon didn’t only inspire the character, he also contributed to the film.

What’s more, Funny Face formalized the working relationship between the two. The film secured an Oscar for Best Costume Design. But, Edith Head snubbed Givenchy in the acceptance speech. This led to Audrey Hepburn commissioning Givenchy her screen looks from then on.

This resulted in a wardrobe that is still talked about 70 years on. In particular, the Funny Face outfit that cemented Hepburn’s status as a fashion muse was the all-black outfit. “Banish the black!” Prescott declared in the film. Thanks to Audrey Hepburn’s daring nature, nobody heeded that advice.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Little Black Dress

The highlight of Audrey Hepburn's style. This Audrey Hepburn dress was in every wardrobe in the US. It is the black dress from breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961.
Source: Corbis via Getty Images

For most film enthusiasts, this film cements her status as a style icon. She had already become something of a phenomenon. But with Givenchy’s fashion designs, she turned into the people’s fashion queen.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was based on a Truman Capote novel. Holly Golightly is a southern belle who lives off rich men. She is an eccentric sociality with a tasteful wardrobe. Whereas, Paul, a struggling writer, falls for her.

Earlier, Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the role. But Blake Edwards thought Audrey fit the role perfectly. Which she did, thus, got an Oscar nomination for her portrayal as Holly Golightly.

Also, it helps that her rendition of Moon River is poignant. Apart from the glamor, there is a level of sensuousness in her portrayal. Her fashion pieces showcase those traits.

Here is famous fashion collection from the movie:

  • LBDs or the little black Audrey Hepburn dress
  • The cat-eye sunglasses
  • The pink princess outfit
  • The famed trench coat

But the most famous of them all is the little black dress. In fact, it has a Wikipedia page dedicated to it. Such is the allure of the minimalistic monochrome gown.

The original black dress might be Coco Chanel’s brainchild. But Givenchy’s sharp rendition fit Audrey Hepburn’s nonchalance in the film. That is what worked.

The Famous Audrey Hepburn Dress: The Little Black Dress

It is an Italian satin sheath evening gown. Christie’s describes it as a sleeveless, floor-length gown. It comes with matching pair of gloves. The look gets described by many as “Parisian” and quite feminine.

The little black dress came with the following accompaniments:

  • The cigarette holder
  • A pearl choker
  • Opera gloves.

These became her style essentials. The whole fashion outfit created an indelible impression in the viewer’s mind.

This gown was open at the back to accentuate Hepburn’s features. One was that she was lean and the dress showcased her lean shoulder blades. Of course, Givenchy dressed her for the part. But he also created a true Audrey Hepburn dress.

Charade, 1963

Charade is a 1963, Stanley Donen, film that spans three genres: thriller, romance, and comedy. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The age difference between the two was 25 years. This made him uncomfortable. To meet him halfway, the screenwriters added dialogue where he would comment on his age. Whereas, Audrey acts the role of pursuer.

Audrey Hepburn plays the role of Regina Lampert. Regina is on the trail for her dead husband. But she is being followed by three strange men linked with the murder.

Givenchy dresses her for the part with deep sensitivity, reflecting Audrey Hepburn’s style and fashion. The pieces seem to suit Audrey’s off-screen persona too. For instance, the red wool cocoon coat with a funnel collar works with a leopard print hat.

This is one key piece in the film. Other fashion outfits are:

  • Straight-cut mustard-yellow coat
  • 1960s ski outfit
  • A simple raincoat is worn with a headscarf

In short, this makes up Regina Lampert’s stylish pieces in her wardrobe in this Stanley Donen film. The colorful costumes highlight the dynamism of this thriller and Regina’s search.

A Mutual Love for Fashion

So, what happened between the two, you might ask? Well, they coexisted in their passion for fashion. Having a mutual love for upscale brands and fashion design, Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy clicked.

She fell in love with his collection, turning from fan to Givenchy’s favorite. Their friendship lasted a long 40 years, until, the death of Audrey in 1989. It is quite common for celebrities to fall in love with a fashion designer’s collection. They were always looking at her design choices to find classic style tips to steal.

Such was the case here. She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on collections that were high in demand. But the worth of these items goes up in value. They hold their resale value because of the name attached to it. Even their friendship holds its value through its cultural significance. In fact, its essence travels through Audrey Hepburn’s style and chic.

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