The woman who made Audrey Hepburn - and me - look good

Thanks to the Google doodle above, that celebrated the 116th anniversary of her birth, I learned of Edith Head. The short, bespectacled costume designer who won 8 Academy Awards. More than any other woman in history.

She designed the beautifully tailored outfits for Bette Davis in All About Eve, Kim Novak in Vertigo, Tippi Hedren in The Birds and Marnie, and perhaps most famously for Audrey Hepburn in the films  Funny Face, Sabrina, and Roman Holiday. Lest we overlook that Edith Head had a role in re-making the little black dresses for Breakfast at Tiffany's.


The original little-black-dresses from Givenchy showed too much of Hepburn's spindly white legs, and the producers felt that too much skin was on display. The good people at Paramount asked Edith Head to re-model the skirts, keep the style exactly as Givenchy had designed them, but make the skirts longer for Hepburn. It would be interesting to see if this was from a modesty standpoint, or because Hepburn had shockingly thin limbs. In Breakfast at Tiffany's, Hepburn is seen in fitted jeans, but in that scene her shape is obscured by the guitar that she plays.

Here is a charming little video on how Edith Head transformed Hepburn from princess to 'an ordinary girl' in Roman Holiday

                          

Edith Head has even made me look good!  Yes, yours truly, the average girl who is writing this post.  My all-time favourite handbag, is made with a picture from the most glitzy scene in Roman Holiday.

My Audrey bag
A stickler like Edith Head, who was known for having needle-sharp eyes made sure that the tiara suited Audrey's heart-shaped face and perfectly reflected the pattern of Hepburn's 'princess dress'.  While I am quite the rag-muffin and sometimes found in shabby attire, this handbag of mine always gives some luster and sparkle to any ensemble of mine.  Today, I wore it with jeans, and to a fancy dinner I might wear it with a little black dress. The pains that Edith Head took to create Audrey's Princess Ann look were captured on film, and nowadays pictures of Audrey in royal finery and dripping jewels are used in modern t-shirts, cushions and wall-hangings. And even on my handbag. Thanks, Edith. 

When planning this post, I was debating whether or not to use the title, 'the woman who made Audrey Hepburn a fashion icon'. But no, that honour belongs to Hubert de Givenchy who designed the black evening dress for Audrey's Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was the dress that gave Audrey Hepburn her je-ne-sais-quoi.

The cut-out black décolleté at the back of the dress showed off Audrey's gamine shoulders.  The round black satin that draped around her neck has always reminded me of a jewellery stand, the type that is found in front windows and is used as a foil for diamonds or pearls. The black satin showcased Audrey's features, as her elfin face truly stands out.

I'm not alone in thinking that the Givenchy dress stole the show... A survey conducted in 2010 by LOVEFiLM, Hepburn's little black dress was chosen as the best dress ever worn by a woman in a film.

Comments

  1. Hi,
    I get Google alerts on my mother. FYI, she was a dancer and by no means had 'spindly' legs - or arms for that matter - quite to the contrary. Never heard the story of Head lengthening Hubert's dress...
    Best,
    Sean Hepburn Ferrer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mr Hepburn Ferrer,

      Thank you so much for you comment. I'm delighted that you took time to visit my blog.

      There was absolutely no disregard for your dear mother when I wrote 'spindly'. She's the person in history that I would most like to emulate. In fact, in my book, as a modern girl the word means 'slim' and 'trim'. Perhaps if I change the adjective to 'slim', would be more suitable? I also did some ballet dancing, and my friend Elizabeth said that I have 'spindly' legs. I took it as a great complement.

      Here is a link to the site with notes on Edith Head 're-designing' the Hubert de Givenchy dress, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Givenchy_dress_of_Audrey_Hepburn
      Here are the relevant lines from that article. "Audrey took two copies of the dress back to Paramount, but the dresses, which revealed a considerable amount of Audrey's leg, were not suitable for the movie and the lower half of the dress was redesigned by Edith Head."

      Mr Hepburn Ferrer, is the above not actually true? In my post above, I avoided using the word 're-designed', as this gives the impressions that the original Givenchy design was replaced with a completely new design. Instead, I chose 're-model', as this is like 'modify' and 'make alterations'. I am confused on one point, if Head did not lengthen the dresses, then how did she modify them to obscure the legs?

      I very much look forward to hearing from you,
      Warmest Wishes, and Best to you, too,

      Mary

      Delete

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