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Style Icon Audrey Hepburn


Back in the early 1950’s Hollywood glamour was all about curves galore, often twined with perfectly-set blonde locks, and then came Audrey. A stick-thin brunette she was almost the antithesis of the current Hollywood style. Spotted in a bit part for ‘The Lavender Hill Mob,’ she landed the stage role of ‘Gigi,’ and from then on Audrey Hepburn had indeed arrived.

Patty Fox, author of ‘Star Style: Hollywood Legends As Fashion Icons,’ comments: “Audrey Hepburn was extremely important as far as style in Hollywood, because when she first came to Hollywood she was a totally different look. The look back then was more voluptuous, blonde and of course she was flat-chested, super-thin, dark hair, bushy eyebrows, almost a scrawny look, with that long, thin neck that she had. As a ballerina that was coveted but in Hollywood it wasn’t really a look. In fact, in the studio they were talking about making a prosthesis for her shoulders, so that her neck would look shorter. It wasn’t a trend back then to see the clavicles and to see the bones, but Audrey had such a strong personal identity with her style that she said; this is me – this is who I am, so we are not going to change the way I look.”

‘Gigi’ certainly got Audrey noticed and it wasn’t long{mosimage} before she was cast opposite Gregory Peck in ‘Roman Holiday.’ It was this film that continued to cement Audrey’s distinctive sense of style. Hollywood stylist Edith Head wanted to create an image of a young woman that everyone could relate to, so for her ‘about town’ scenes Audrey wore – a flared skirt, white bobby socks and flat shoes. Audrey contributed with her own ideas by adding a wide waist-cinching leather belt and a cropped hair-cut. It was a look that was copied the world over.

‘Roman Holiday’ rewarded Audrey with her very first Oscar and her popularity was such that the studio bosses dare not interfere with her image from thereon in. Radiating a freshness and a natural spirit Audrey was living proof that you didn’t have to be voluptuous, or blonde to be considered beautiful.

{mosimage}Stella Bruzzi, author of ‘Undressing Cinema,’ comments: “Hepburn became a star straight away because she received an Oscar for ‘Roman Holiday.’ The studios basically realized what they had on their hands was a marketable commodity, so they didn’t impose changes on Hepburn from then on. They didn’t need to as Hepburn was an instant star.”

From the very beginning Audrey was very aware of her on-screen image and her stardom gave her even more control. While filming in France, Audrey became aware of an up and coming designer – Hubert de Givenchy, and against the wishes of Edith Head she wanted to wear his creations in her next film – Sabrina. Audrey stated her case to the director – Billy Wilder, and he agreed to the use of Givenchy’s gowns.

Stella Bruzzi: “Hepburn changed the way Hollywood films used designers because the use of Givenchy was seen to be such a success. Other people became associated with fashion designers, particularly Gilbert Adrian, for example, who was both a costume designer and fashion designer, and designed for actresses like Joan Crawford. Jean Louis, who did gowns for Marilyn Monroe, but it was Audrey that actually made Givenchy famous. She was his muse, and so from then on it was much more common to see fashion designers used in film.”

“In a way you can chart the demise of the big costume{mosimage} designer to that period. Costume designers now go and select clothes, so for the Gwyneth Paltrow movie ‘Great Expectations,’ they will go and select a whole load of Calvin Klein and Donna Karan clothes, rather than actually make them. Edith Head in the 1950’s and 60’s made the clothes. She would have designers and cutters and they would be specially made for the film. Hence – Hepburn’s affiliation to Givenchy did change things.”

Off-screen Audrey’s look was more natural and casual. She would take a classic item like a man’s white shirt, wrap the tails around her waist and then tie them at the back. Even in a simple cashmere jumper and jeans she looked effortlessly chic; a combination of her graceful posture – she had been trained as a ballet dancer, lean physique and inner beauty.

{mosimage}‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ may not have been Audrey’s best role but it’s probably her most famous. She play’s a character that is actually more low-life in the book than on-screen. Audrey wins the audience over as Holly Golightly by combining a chic and desirable look; the little black dresses, the pearls, big dark shades and whipped-up hair, with a character that is both vulnerable and aspirational. As Holly Golightly she yearns for a better life – something that the majority of audiences can readily associate with. All the while she looks incredibly elegant and it would be no surprise to learn that her style in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is largely responsible for the ‘little black dress’ phenomenon.

The chic outfits, the gamine hair-styles, the individual and yet elegant style, the skinny frame, the collaboration with Givenchy, all this and more created the look that was Audrey Hepburn. Those who knew her say that she was ‘captivating’ and that ‘you couldn’t take your eyes off her,’ while her son Sean simply said; “her style was a reflection of something that came from within.” 


Star Style: Hollywood Legends As Fashion Icons by Patty Fox

Undressing Cinema by Stella Bruzzi

Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer

Audrey Style by Pamela Clarke Keogh


Puttin’ On the Style – Audrey Hepburn, introduced by Robert Lindsay, Radio 2

By Jo Iles



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