Breakfast at Tiffany's Dress Image via filmonic.com Breakfast at Tiffany's Dress Image via filmonic.com

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy

One thing I took away from the Audrey Hepburn photography exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, aside from her overwhelming beauty and kindness that she possessed was Audrey Hepburn's love for clothing by the designer Hubert de Givenchy. I knew already that her famous black dress (worn when she played the part of Holly Golightly in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's) was originally designed by Givenchy yet I did not realise that this dress was just a small page in a long story of fashion collaborations between the Hollywood star and French designer. The exhibition highlighted how Givenchy was behind many of the iconic images of Hepburn and how together they created her iconic status.

Hepburn in Givenchy in a photograph on display at the National Portrait Gallery - Image via artfund.org Hepburn in Givenchy in a photograph on display at the National Portrait Gallery -
Image via artfund.org

Givenchy first worked with Hepburn on the set of the 1954 film Sabrina, the film in which Hepburn portrays a dowdy teenager who goes to Paris and transforms into a lady of elegance and class. After turning down designs by Paramount's costume designer Edith Head, Hepburn instead requested to wear 'a real Paris dress' for the part. Hepburn was referred to the French designer Hubert de Givenchy and although he initially turned her down due to the fact he was short on sewers and trying to finalise a collection, Hepburn requested to view the collection he was working on and ended up choosing all of Givenchy's designs for the character's Paris wardrobe. Amongst the outfits chosen was a black satin boat neck dress which was made her an instant style icon and began Hepburn's iconic association with 'little black dresses'.

Hepburn dressed in Givenchy and photographed by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1964 Image via rareaudreyhepburn.com Hepburn dressed in Givenchy and photographed by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1964
Image via rareaudreyhepburn.com

Audrey Hepburn in her 'lucky' Oscar dress, designed by Edith Head for the film Roman Holiday and altered by Givenchy for the 1954 Academy Awards Image via usatoday.com Audrey Hepburn in her 'lucky' Oscar dress, designed by Edith Head for the film Roman Holiday and altered by Givenchy for the 1954 Academy Awards
Image via usatoday.com

Givenchy and Hepburn then went on to co-design all of her outfits for her character Jo Stockton in the 1957 film Funny Face (the musical in which she acted opposite Fred Astaire), including the stunning wedding dress she wears towards the end of the film. As Givenchy was given no credit for his designs in the film Sabrina (soul credit instead was given to Edith Head), Hepburn made sure he was given full credit in Funny Face and he even went on to be nominated (jointly with Edith Head) for an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy for her wedding to Andrea Dotti in 1969 Image via glamour.com Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy for her wedding to Andrea Dotti in 1969
Image via glamour.com

Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in the 1954 film Sabrina Image via chaos-mag.com Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in the 1954 film Sabrina
Image via chaos-mag.com

Hepburn and Givenchy then went on to work together for the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's, which permanently placed Hepburn high in Hollywood fashion history due to the black dress that Hepburn wore in the opening scene of the film and became one of the most iconic dresses in film history. The original three dresses made by Givenchy for her character were presented to Paramount by Hepburn yet were deemed not suitable for the movie as the length was too short and showed too much leg. The lower half of the dress was then re-designed by Edith Head and new dresses were made for the film which meant none of the original Givenchy made three dresses were ever used in the film or promotional photography. The altered dresses that were actually worn for the film were reputedly destroyed by Head and Hepburn after shooting and out of the three original Givenchy made dresses one is still owned by Givenchy archives, one is now housed in The Museum of Film in Madrid and one was sold at auction in 2006 by Christie's for an incredible £467,200.

Audrey Hepburn in one of the designs by Givenchy for the film Funny Face Image via theguardian.com Audrey Hepburn in one of the designs by Givenchy for the film Funny Face
Image via theguardian.com

Ever since their first meeting in the 1950s Givenchy and Hepburn became lifelong friends, she once described him as her 'best friend' and he said that he saw her as a 'sister'. Hepburn always favoured his designs for her films and outside of the films as well. From Cecil Beaton photo shoots for Vogue to award ceremonies, Hepburn was rarely seen in any other designer. In 1954 Givenchy adapted Hepburn's dress designed by Edith Head from the film Roman Holiday for the Academy Awards in which Hepburn won an Oscar. The dress is today deemed one of the best Oscars dresses in history and it actually went up for auction in 2011, selling for £84,000. Naturally Hepburn also chose Givenchy as her designer for her wedding outfit she wore to marry her second husband Andrea Dotti in 1969 and right up until her death in 1993 she favoured Givenchy's designs above all others.

It's a story of great friendship and a partnership that enabled Audrey Hepburn to become one of the best loved Hollywood icons of all time, her grace, class and beauty was enhanced by the clothing designed by Hubert de Givenchy and together they created a style icon. Many photographs of the collaborations between Hepburn and Givenchy can be seen at Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon which is on at the National Portrait Gallery until 18th October 2015.

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