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Audrey Hepburn, La Reine Mere of Fashion

Updated on November 8, 2010
The Princess of  "Roman Holiday"
The Princess of "Roman Holiday"

Breakfast At Tiffany's

Audrey in a Hubert de Givenchy gown.
Audrey in a Hubert de Givenchy gown.
A "Breakfast At Tiffany's" collage.
A "Breakfast At Tiffany's" collage.

Audrey Hepburn became a sensation upon the release of her 1953 film, Roman Holiday. The twenty-four year old actress from England and Holland won an Oscar, as well as, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for her leading role as a sheltered princess who finds love and maturity while on royal tour in Rome.

The films which followed were equally captivating to her audience, in terms of star-appeal and fashion-audacieux; yet, it was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, produced eight years later, in 1961, which really established Audrey Hepburn as a deva.

The aesthetic details of the opening scene - the deserted ambience at dawn along Fifth Avenue; a beautiful, young lady gazing into Tiffany’s window, having her breakfast from a pastry bag and a paper cup, these are a testament to the superior crew that created this film.

The beautiful lady is Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a transplant from the south, who has transformed herself into a sophisticated, city girl: she has the Central Park, east apartment; a polished accent; diamonds and all ~ plus, an orange tabby with no name.

With leading man, George Peppard.
With leading man, George Peppard.
Holly and "Fred" are kindered souls, and as most soul-mates, have trouble winding up together.
Holly and "Fred" are kindered souls, and as most soul-mates, have trouble winding up together.


Based on the novella by Truman Capote, the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was met with a torrent of abjectivity.


At the time, people with 1950’s sensibilities were shocked over the theme of a young lady living on her own in New York City. Words such as “prostitute” were uttered to describe the type of girl Hepburn would play in this film. Completely un-conterminous with the persona Hepburn wanted to emulate, she herself also protested some of the more steamy, original scenes.


Along with these complications of script and other details and obstacles, producers had to find ways of fitting the movie into standards of acceptability. In stark contrast to the strict codes of the day, the “p”-word claim goes largely unnoticed today. Holly is just a girl struggling to let go of her past, while both hanging onto her real sense-of-self and molding an identity.


Yet, as Holly, and her audience learn, the past is never really cast away completely. For Holly, her attempts at letting go are accompanied by shocks of loss and grief: the very things at which she had been working so hard to avoid.



Holly and her cat called simply, "Cat".
Holly and her cat called simply, "Cat".
Fifth Avenue, Musing
Fifth Avenue, Musing

George Peppard, as Holly’s neighbor, Paul, or “Fred”, as Holly insists upon calling him, helps Holly define the values of real love versus money and a rich and dashing, but ultimately unreliable, fiancé.


This is a love story and a coming-of-age story nestled in glamour!


The 1961 film proved to be inspiration for later films, such as Hepburn’s own, Charade, (1963), in which she plays a similar role but in Paris, where, this time, Cary Grant is the rescuer; and Jon Voight’s Midnight Cowboy,(1969), the male counterpart to this school-of-life depiction, though from a harsher milieu in the streets of New York.


By the time Audrey Hepburn made Breakfast At Tiffany’s, her remarkable friendship with Hubert de Givenchy was firmly established, and the two were not only friends, but a dynamic fashion-duo.

"Sabrina"

The black dress that Audrey found while rifling through Givenchy's collection.
The black dress that Audrey found while rifling through Givenchy's collection.
Audrey and Givency in Paris.
Audrey and Givency in Paris.

It all began with a little black dress, the one that Audrey wears in Sabrina. The twenty-four year old Audrey was unleashed by the film’s producers to find a dress in Paris for her role as the ingenue, Sabrina. When Hubert de Givenchy was presented with this young, waif of a girl, named Audrey Hepburn, not Katherine Hepburn, he was surprised and rather abashed.


However, Audrey persisted and won Givenchy over with her exuberant charm. The budding actress then tried on a number of les vetements from the designer’s own collection, ending with a black dress; the item Audrey settled on was simple and elegant, with a broad neckline, tied at the shoulders and cinched at the waist. Givenchy and his assistants were transfixed by the girl’s expedient taste and her brilliant metamorphosis. The little black dress, fresh from the haute couture, Paris fashion house of de Givenchy, became Sabrina, which became Audrey, which became Givenchy!


A far cry from the Edith Head designs of pre-Audrey fashion, all of Audrey Hepburn’s films following Sabarina would feature Hubert de Givenchy as wardrobe director.


"Funny Face", about a girl who blossoms in Paris.
"Funny Face", about a girl who blossoms in Paris.
"Funny Face"
"Funny Face"
With Peter O'Toole in "How To Steal A Million"
With Peter O'Toole in "How To Steal A Million"
The Poster for "How To Steal A Million"
The Poster for "How To Steal A Million"
The classic Audrey
The classic Audrey


By the way, in How To Steal A Million, (1966), Hepburn’s leading man, the dashing Peter O’Toole, mentions Givenchy in a witty quip, pronouncing the French name with a definite soft-g: jhee-‘voh(n)-shee, cleverly informing us how to pronounce the now madly popular Givenchy.

In Love In The Afternoon,(1957), wearing chic, charming Givenchy dresses, Hepburn plays, Ariane, a precocious girl studying music at the Conservatory in Paris. Gary Cooper is an American playboy, and even though he is much too old for Audrey, this romantic comedy is a favorite, featuring a cast of well-heeled characters, including the great French actor, Maurice Chevalier.

Audrey Hepburn made twenty-seven films from 1948 to 1989, defining generations to come in terms of women’s fashion. She brought an artistic flair to the cashmere sweater and skinny pants, with Sabrina as well as Funny Face. (1957). In Charade, with dapper, comedic Cary Grant, as her leading man, Audrey is sophisticated, independent, smart and fun ~ with a little help from Givenchy, of course!


Audrey’s face has become synonymous with, not only, black, slim pants worn ala ballet flats; haute couture, chic dresses and Hollywood stardom; but her enchanting, soulful eyes; a delightful grin and an extraordinarily charming spirit have also become familiar, endearing rememberances to a world of movie fans and fashionistas.


She is at once large-hearted and effervescent; passionate and thoughtful; worldly and otherworldly; yet she holds a reserve of mystery, which is altogether her own.


She is a classic.



In later years, Audrey Hepburn blessed us all with her apotheosis of humanitarianism by giving of herself to impoverished countries, mainly to children, with her selfless, philanthropic service.


Among her many career awards, Audrey was also honored with the 1992 Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.









La Reine Mere!
La Reine Mere!
The "Charade" poster, 1966.
The "Charade" poster, 1966.
In "Sabrina", wearing a Givency 'wedding dress', William Holden by her side.
In "Sabrina", wearing a Givency 'wedding dress', William Holden by her side.
From "How To Steal A Million", with glitter eyelids.
From "How To Steal A Million", with glitter eyelids.

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    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, tracykarl, for this beautiful hub about a beautiful lady. Audrey Hepburn was always the epitome of class and elegance.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      "The epitome of class and elegance" ~ absolutely!! I love her, too, and can watch her movies again and again. Thanks for the nice compliments;)

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

      This woman was truly beautiful.......... inside and out! This was great! Kaie

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks so much, Kaie. It's true, she was beautiful inside and out. I always feel her spirit is still with us!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      I was her contemporary and was flattered that many folks thought I looked like her when her films began to appear. I loved her even more for her marvelous spirit. She was a self-giving lady and even in her last times when unwell herself, she was administering to poverty-stricken children in third-world countries through UNICEF. Her story is quite inspiring, from her youth in war-torn Europe, through her amazing career and into her private retirement. Well worth honoring. Thank you for it, Tracy!

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Nellieanna, for your invaluable input!! I knew that Audrey was in Europe quite a bit and thought that she lived there at the end of her life. You do look like her ~ I can see the resemblance ~ the qualities of outer beauty as well as inner beauty:)

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Yes, Tracy - she was born and grew up in Central Europe. Thank you for the lovely compliment!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great tribute to a true star

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, ethel. It is a tribute! And all of her films are tributes ~ Thanks for reading:)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      My fourteen year old daughter and her friend adore Audrey Hepburn and her fashion sense. They dress like her all the time and it's beautiful. Very nice Audrey Hepburn tribute!

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Katie, That's nice to hear! Your daughter has excellent taste:) Does she like Audrey-movies, too? I think that I fell in love with Roman Holiday and Charade when I was still a teenager ~

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      tracykarl99,

      Voted up and beautiful. Words cannot express how much I adore this lady.

      I admired her when she was young and I adored her with her humanitarianism. A true American super star, someone to forever to look up to.

      Her light, her charm, her inner and outer beauty. My idol.

      Thank you!

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      She was wonderful, wasn't she! And definitely "someone to look up to"! Thanks for your warm praise and accolades, Goldie!:)

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi tracykarl99,

      Always have and still do love watching Audrey Hepburn so I really enjoyed this beautiful tribute not only to a great actress but a wonderful person.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, Seeker! I love Audrey too, so it was a complete pleasure gathering information and writing this hub about her.

      Good to see you here:)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Voted up and awesome. I have loved Audrey since I was a girl - what a woman to emulate. She was a humanist, she was elegant, and she was one great actress. I just love to look at her.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, dolores, for the nice accolades! It's always nice to know another true fan of Audrey's! She was a classic for sure; thus, we can watch her films again and again. One can't say that of many films today! (Well, maybe a few) :)

    • Ebower profile image

      Erin Bower 6 years ago from Georgia

      I love Audrey because of her grace, beauty, style, and acting flair. I didn't know the controversial background of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. Thanks for enlightening me! Great hub! I voted it up and beautiful!

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks so much ~ Audrey was all of those things and more. I've read that she was just as wonderful in person as she was in the parts that she played! I appreciate the vote up, thanks:)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I enjoyed your remarkable tribute to the lovely Audrey Hepburn. The pictures are exquisite and your biography or shall we say filmography is flawless. Thank you for this treasure of a Hub. It is very good. :D

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, James. Really enjoyed putting this hub together! I adore Audrey Hepburn and every film that she made. Thanks so much for your nice comments, and I like the term, 'filmography' - very clever!;)

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 5 years ago

      A classic indeed! I've loved her and her style for years, especially the little black dress. She always had such dignity and grace, no matter what she wore.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes, Audrey certainly had lovely style and the kind of grace that people love. She always came off as very warm. Thank you for stopping by and reading.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I did not see any of her movies and I only saw her through my mom but she was very beautiful for any time and she had such grace I have never seen in another star to equal. Wonderfully arranged tribute.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Jackie, I hope you can see some of Audrey's movies now. They're all good, but especially Roman Holiday, Breakfast At Tiffany's, How To Steal A Million, Charade, and I absolutely *adore* Love In The Afternoon with Gary Cooper, who was a bit too old for her - but still, she was fabulous! Thanks so much. :)

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      My daughter absolutely loves Audrey Hepburn and has developed a dress sense and style all her own. She loves hats.

      Audrey has been a great role model and actress.

      Great hub to a great artiste. Voted up and beautiful.

    • profile image

      Davidwork 5 years ago

      "The Royal Mother of Fashion, eh? Hmm, I'm not sure the late Ms. Hepburn would have liked being called a mother...

      A wonderful hub, constructed with great enthusiasm, and attention to detail about Ms. Hepburn's career, personality and style; and again, a very detailed and eloquent review of one of her films.

      I like Audrey Hepburn, she was very stylish and

      elegant, and I have five of her films, Roman Holiday, Sabrina,Funny Face, Breakfast At Tiffany's and My Fair Lady, but as you will have gathered, Grace Kelly is my personal favourite.

      As you will be aware, she witnessed and endured a lot of suffering in occupied Holland during World War II; this was largely responsible for her dedication to refugees in later years.

      Hub voted up.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      molometer - Thanks so much for stopping by! I am always glad to see budding fashionistas inspired by Audrey! Thank you for the vote up. Oh and hats are beautiful! ~ :)

      David - I don't see why Audrey would balk at being called a mother as it is a wonderful title and she was indeed a mother of two sons and very proud of them. And yes she did witness and endure a lot of suffering during WWII. Perhaps that is why she was so strong as well as compassionate! Thanks ~ :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      She is the epitome of elegance and I have loved watching her in films. This was a fun post to read and do some remembering of her work in films. It is also nice to know of her philanthropic efforts and her awards. Pinning this to my fashions board.

    • tracykarl99 profile image
      Author

      Tracy 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Peggy! Glad you enjoyed this. I love Audrey and can watch her movies over and over. :)

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