When I think of a style icon, I picture someone who lives and breathes fashion. A star who dresses for fashion; they do not care so much if they look sexy or beautiful. I almost imagine the MET and the icon being the trendsetter who turns up in the most avant-garde outfit that they could find.
Audrey Hepburn however, believed that her look was attainable – “Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses and the little sleeveless dress”.
In her first few films, she was the charming, hopeless romantic who fell in love with men almost twice her age. The elegance and sophistication that she bestowed, meant that this factor was irrelevant. After creating Roman Holiday, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Sabrina; the chauffeur’s daughter who is besotted with one of her next door neighbours. In true Hollywood romance, her character Sabrina is whisked away to Paris and transforms from awkward girl, to confident woman. Both brothers from next door fall for her and she herself becomes puzzled with her feelings.
For this film, it was Audrey who tracked down the relatively unknown Givenchy. He confused her for Katherine Hepburn when they arranged to meet. After realising this mistake, he declared that he did not have time and so she asked if she could browse through his last season’s collection and managed to find three dresses. These dresses that she then adorned in Sabrina produced a look so noticeable, that Givenchy and Audrey joined together and redefined style.
The creator and the muse; two people who shared the same fashion views and made admirers worldwide, want to emulate Hepburn’s entire appearance. Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are in my opinion, two movies that capture their creativity the most. Who can forget seeing Audrey step out of the limo in her long gown holding a pretzel – suddenly food that now seems so chic.
Truman Capote wanted Marilyn for the part and did not like the way that Paramount was glamorising his book. Despite there being obvious differences (the narrator went from homosexual to Holly’s love interest), both have been successful with their audiences. According to the book: Audrey: Her Real Story, Audrey said that “the part needed an extrovert, and that’s not me”.
Whilst many were unsure – including her, the role today of Holly Golightly could not be pictured in anybody else’s shoes. Her mature yet innocent charisma allowed people to feel adoration for a character who was a ‘call girl’ and in search of a rich man. Her style became iconic; from her opening scenes, her fancy hats and big sunglasses, right through to her trench coach and pigtails.
When discussing her style, one has to note her beauty. Amongst the YouTube tutorials for contour, eyebrows and ‘Instagram makeup’, a video on how to achieve her look as Holly, can still have hits reaching over a million. The makeup artist Lisa Eldridge has made two videos on Audrey’s makeup and both have been incredibly popular. I for one have reproduced her eyeliner and pink cheeks on many occasions.
Throughout each decade, Audrey easily waltzed through with her own sense of style infused with the modern trends. She supported the 1940’s bold brow and overdrawn lip and was photographed in the 60’s with mod makeup which entailed wearing a light colour on your eyelid, with a much darker, contrasting shade in your crease.
What Audrey had (she was not so keen and the war played a part) was a body that was designed for fashion. She may have been too tall for ballet, but she certainly could blend in to a catwalk and be the centre of a runway. Givenchy tailored clothes for her frame which is one reason that they worked so well together.
It was known that she was not a ‘classic beauty’. She did not have Sophia Loren’s curves or Rita Hayworth’s hair. Nonetheless, her features were striking and this uniqueness that perhaps Grace Kelly is nearest to, set her apart from the stereotypes of the Golden Age glamour.
I remember standing out at a popular cosmetics counter because those I was working with, opted for an edgy all black outfit, where as I put on her Sabrina costume of a black shirt and black Capri pants. At the time, I queried if I appeared too covered up and unsexy. Now however, I proudly think back to that moment and appreciate that my 20-year-old self, wanted to be like an Old Hollywood star and not a modern reality T.V personality.
They say that there is a huge difference between having style and being trendy. Audrey Hepburn had style and this is why I believe that her look will continue for generations to come. It is simple, minimal and classic. There is something attractive about a woman who has an effortless vibe.
Collectively, she amongst other items, made ballet shoes, trench coats, button-down shirts, plaid shirts and cropped trousers, an essential part of a female’s wardrobe. Universally, these choices are forever a staple; can you imagine the day when a white shirt and pair of flat shoes are not featured on the high street?
Other stars, who started at the same time, could not continue to smash box office. Neither did they receive the opportunity to feature in such variety. Originally, she began playing similar roles as a young, uninsured girl. She was typecast as a woman who would changed her appearance whilst falling in love. This ideal soon shifted and she broke-out with films like My Fair Lady, Wait until Dark and The Nun’s Story.
Altogether, I would summarise her as an enchanting beauty both inside and out. She survived a tough upbringing, two failed marriages and yet not once did she lose her appeal. It would be a struggle to find a person who worked with her, that did not have a nice word to say. My mother adored her and I too have become enamoured. She played my favourite character and made Breakfast at Tiffany’s my most prized film. Audrey Hepburn is the style icon who made fashion attainable.
Who is your fashion icon and do you have a favourite Audrey Hepburn film and look?
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