Audrey Hepburn – the Quintessential Style Icon
“Some people dream of having a big swimming pool – with me, its closets.” Audrey Hepburn. Hubert de Givenchy thought of her as “a gift from on high”, Mary Quant described her as the “most stylish woman who ever lived” and Steven Spielberg considered her to be an angel. With elegance so timeless that it still holds sway over us all; there is no denying that Audrey Hepburn is the quintessential style icon.
Born the daughter of a Dutch baroness and an English banker in 1929, Audrey Hepburn arrived in London at the age of sixteen with hopes of pursuing a career in ballet. Sadly her dream of dancing at Covent Garden was never realised, but the move had opened up a world of possibility. Hepburn began to audition for a number of small acting parts and it was whilst working on a Broadway version of ‘Gigi’ in 1951 that she was offered a part alongside Gregory Peck in ‘Roman Holiday’. Hepburn’s portrayal of the young Princess Ann lit up the screen, and despite the fact that her slender figure and flat chest were in stark contrast to the then prevailing standards of female beauty, her evanescent image bewitched audiences. Female cinema-goers the world over began to imitate her short hair style, tied white shirt and long, full skirt. Over the coming years, Hepburn would establish herself as one of the most admired and emulated women of the century.
It would be impossible to discuss Hepburn’s style without paying homage to the French designer with whom she collaborated for almost all of her films. Hubert de Givenchy opened his first Parisian couture house in 1952; a year later Audrey Hepburn appeared on his doorstep. Givenchy was busy preparing his autumn/winter collection when Hepburn called upon him, and she was left to search through the previous seasons collections alone. Hepburn borrowed just three pieces from Givenchy’s spring/summer collection of 1953 to wear in ‘Sabrina’, her second big screen production. Givenchy’s simple geometric designs perfectly complimented Hepburn’s boyish physique and these three items were enough to dazzle audiences around the world. Of this first meeting, Givenchy would later recall that “She knew exactly what she wanted. She knew perfectly her visage and her body, their fine points and their faults”. Over the decades that followed Givenchy’s creations became part of her Hepburn’s signature look, both on and off the screen, and their friendship remained constant until the end of her life. Together they created the very essence of elegance.
With an innate knowledge of her flaws and attributes, Hepburn developed a unique style which perfectly complimented her personality and remained loyal to it throughout the seasons. Over the years she would be responsible for bringing the little black dress, ballet flats, toreador pants and the black turtleneck to the forefront of fashion; all items of such simplicity that they still seem modern today. Standing at 5ft7′ and weighing a mere 110lbs for most of her adult life, one of the great secrets of Hepburn’s elegance was her extraordinary ability to exploit her strong points to maximum advantage. During the four decades of his association with Hepburn, Givenchy never once had to modify the mannequin which he had made for her at their first meeting in 1954; her shape and size remained consistent throughout her life. Whilst most of us can only dream of possessing Hepburn’s naturally slender frame, there are number of key looks which can be adapted to suit all figures – the clinched waist, the three quarter sleeve, the trench coat and the tied neck scarf.
Audrey Hepburn died of cancer in 1993, aged 64, having devoted much of her adult life to helping underprivileged children in the Third World. She is perhaps most fondly remembered for her role in the film which provided the little black dress with all manner of sophisticated connotations – Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. The captivating image of Hepburn lingering in her Givenchy dress, complete with white gloves and beehive hairdo, is one which has sealed her reputation as a fashion goddess. In fact, it is with some thanks to Hepburn that the little back dress remains an enduring classic to this day. The epitome of style, Audrey Hepburn has inspired generations of women across the globe. With her charm, grace and understated glamour, she is universally regarded as one of the 20th century’s best-loved fashion and film icons.
Audrey Hepburn on Wikipedia