The legacy of Audrey Hepburn’s is strongly linked to her participation in the 1961 film adaptation Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Hepburn and fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy teamed up to create two of the black dresses he provided for her character, Holly Golightly.
One of these dresses is a black cloqué silk with a slightly flared frilly skirt, which Audrey wore with a wide-brimmed hat with an enormous cream silk bow and low-heeled alligator shoes, long gloves and again, oversized sunglasses. Most memorably shown while hailing a taxicab on her way to Sing-Sing.
Edith Head had been hired as the movie’s set costume designer. It was Head’s vision, for instance, to have Hepburn modelling a man’s white tuxedo shirt and eye mask to bed. Even her bouffant, backcombed hair style, by Grazia de Rossi, launched a fashion trend.
For the 1991 September Issue of Vogue Italia, model Christy Turlington is transformed into Holly Golightly’s character. She had the privilege to wear the exact same Givenchy design shown above, including the matching hat and gloves. The editorial was photographed by Steven Meisel with the assistance of fashion editor André Leon Talley, hair stylist Oribe and makeup artist Francois Nars.
The second, and perhaps most memorable of Givenchy’s designs can be first seen on film in the opening credits sequence. Hepburn is standing outside the Tiffany’s Jewellery store wearing a black satin gown with long black satin gloves, large tortoiseshell Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses, a Tiffany necklace of strands of pearls and a diamante hair ornament. Three copies of this gown were made: one is held at Maison Givenchy, one at the Museum of Costume in Madrid, and one was given to Audrey. Costume designer Renie Conley remembered observing Edith Head taking one of Givenchy’s gowns apart to create a copy. “It was full of horsehair stuffing and lead weights to make it fall a certain way.”
Years later, for the 2006 November edition of Harper’s Bazaar, actress Natalie Portman imitates Ms Golightly by wearing this very same dress designed by Givenchy. Often referred to as the modern-day Hepburn, she was photographed by Peter Lindbergh to help promote the dress’ upcoming sale.
“I did feel very elegant suddenly,” Portman tells the magazine. “I mean, you can’t possibly measure up to Audrey Hepburn; there’s no comparison. But the elegance that she exuded was transmitted to the dress, you know, the feeling, the emotion of it.”
The dress was sold to the highest bidder at Christie’s auction house in London. It was expected to fetch as much as $130,000. It sold for US$923,187, making it one of the most expensive pieces in film memorabilia. Proceeds from the dress went to the City of Joy Aid charity, which provides aid to India’s poor. A charity that perhaps fits Ms Hepburn’s humanitarian work as much as the dress fit her.