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Audrey Hepburn

by our Style Guru Pat Jacobs

This is part of our recurring series of famous women who greatly influenced not just the entertainment world, but also had a tremendous impact on the fashion of everyday women as well.

Let's look at one of our all-time favorites:


She's been described as the most stylish woman who ever lived (and I agree). And even now, 16 years after her death (1993, at age 63; from cancer, I believe), her style (and films) lives on. There have been countless books, several art exhibits, and even a commercial (for The Gap) that featured Hepburn in one of the most memorable scenes from 'Funny Face' (1957), where she's wearing black tight pants, a high-necked sweater, white socks, and flat ballet shoes. She's sitting in a Parisian nightclub, declares she needs to dance, and proceeds to do so - to 'Dressed In Black' by AC/DC .(No, this wasn't the film's original tune). And it works!

My favorite Hepburn film, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961), has a number of memorable fashion moments. The opening was superb; there's Hepburn walking alone on Fifth Avenue, very early in the morning.

Audrey Hepburn She's in a beautiful long, slim, black dress, hair streaked and in a beehive 'do, big black oversize sunglasses, holding a paper cup of coffee and nibbling a Danish roll from a paper bag-with long black gloves on! (She even made the food a fashion statement as she looks yearningly in Tiffany's display window!) Upon this movie's release, thousands of women started wearing black evening dresses and oversized dark sunglasses.

I absolutely loved the outfit she wore during the 'prison visit' scene; her character, Holly Golightly, was 'the tomato' who unknowingly transfers mob information to a crime boss in jail. For this endeavor, there was a fabulous huge black hat with a wide rim, flowing scarf tied around it, another black dress, a little past the knees, and of course, those black oversize sunglasses.

There was also the white robe and the big white shirt she wore in the film, and the scene where she's sitting in the window, wearing a sweater and pants, hair wrapped in a towel, singing 'Moon River', and of course, the party scene ( with that cigarette holder!).

Some other great fashion moments are: from 'How To Steal A Million' , first scene: She's in head-to-toe white-suit, sunglasses, and shoes-driving a red sports car.

'Funny Face' - There she was at the Louvre museum, emerging in a flaming red dress and starts walking down the steps ('take the picture!'), with her arms held high, carrying a matching red (silk or chiffon, perhaps?) wrap.

'Paris When It Sizzles' - Everything she wore here was a fashion statement!

'Charade' - Daytime ensemble with three-quarter bracelet sleeves, white gloves, and white pillbox hat. And in the opening, the hooded ski outfit!

'Two For The Road' - This was memorable because Hepburn played an ordinary housewife, thus she wore less formal, 'regular' clothes (jeans, sweaters, sneakers). And still looked fantastic!

'Always' - The big white sweater and white pants. Splendid!

'My Fair Lady' - The outfit she wore to the races. It was absolutely stunning!

"Roman Holiday" - This was Hepburn's film debut, and also the first time she and the legendary costume designer Edith Head worked together. The movie was a huge success and the fashion world would never be the same; women everywhere copied her short gamine hair cut, long, full skirt paired with a man's white shirt, belt, and low sandals.

By 1950s standards, Audrey Hepburn seemed too tall and too skinny (Her naturally very thin frame was said to be the result of childhood malnutrition). She was also flat-chested, had large hands and feet, stood five feet seven inches, and weighed only 110 lbs. for most of her adult life. (Remember, this was the era of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Kim Novak, Gina Lollobrigida, and Jayne Mansfield, among others; Busty women ruled!).

But her 'liabilities' made Hepburn a standout among moviegoers. Men AND women, were captivated by her graceful, slender figure, movements, and perfect posture (she originally wanted to be a ballerina and spent years training, but was considered too tall. The training still paid off!). She also projected an air of elegance and sophistication without being 'snooty' about it (Her mother was a real life baroness!).

Hepburn herself knew what her flaws were, as well as her strong points and always made the most of her assets.

Audrey Hepburn's greatest weapon of all, the reason behind her timeless fashion appeal was Hubert de Givenchy , the French designer with whom she collaborated on the clothes worn both on and off-screen.

The duo created a fashion/film union that has yet to be matched. The designer had found the perfect interpreter of his style, and the "Audrey Hepburn Look" was created.

After "Sabrina", Hepburn's partnership with Givenchy would be lifelong; Besides "Funny Face", he designed her wardrobe for "Love In The Afternoon", "Breakfast At Tiffany's", "Paris When It Sizzles", "Charade", "How To Steal A Million", among other films (he also created the dress for Hepburn's second wedding, her sons' christenings, and their christening gowns, her evening gowns for Oscar ceremonies or special openings, and many other occasions).

Even in later years, during her humanity missions to the East or Africa, Hepburn remained impeccably dressed in simple outfits of line trousers, T-shirts, and sneakers (She loved high fashion, but preferred casual, comfortable clothes).

Audrey Hepburn never followed trends or jumped on the fad bandwagon; she knew what looked good on her.  Basically wore one style all her life, and even now, she's still a harbinger of what good taste is. And the little black dresses, "Breakfast At Tiffany's" sunglasses, head scarfs, and the capri pants, among other items, are now retro chic, and will still be fashionable in years to come.