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10 Oct

Audrey Hepburn and Her Iconic Givenchy Dress

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It’s happened many times (but probably not as wide reaching inf this case) when a film or television episode has a character that influences fashion choices for thousands of women for many years after the event. Example being: that black dress every girl has in her wardrobe.

Audrey Hepburn Givenchy dress

Audrey Hepburn’s iconic black dress. Image credit: fanpop.com

The most iconic of all dresses has to be the Givenchy dress that Audrey Hepburn wears in the opening of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the 1961 romantic comedy. Almost everybody has either seen this dress or heard of it and most women want to have their own version of it. In 2010, the dress was actually chosen as being the best dress to have ever been worn in a movie by a woman. Audrey Hepburn made the LBD the fashion staple that every woman now wants to have.  Of course, Audrey Hepburn was a fashion icon, because the white dress that she wore in My Fair Lady received sixth place in the same award.

Design, Givenchy and Audrey

Little Black Dress Givenchy

Audrey Hepburn

The dress was designed by the French label Givenchy.  Hubert de Givenchy considered Audrey Hepburn to be one of his closest friends, even once describing her as his little sister.  It is an evening gown, with no sleeves, reaching all the way down to the ground.  The bodice is fitted and the décolleté is cut out.  The skirt gathers at the waist and is slit right up to the thigh on one side.  At the back, the neckline is quite open, leaving the shoulders uncovered.  The design of the dress was meant to be Parisian and ultra feminine and most people would agree that the dress fits this brief.

Fashion Statement

Whether Givenchy intended to create a fashion statement that still exists today or not is unclear, but the reality is that every woman now owns a little black dress.  Naturally, you have to remember that Audrey Hepburn was an incredibly beautiful woman who would look great in a sack of potatoes and that she accessorised the dress just right.  But, with a little black dress, any accessories are good.

Iconic Style

Audrey Hepburn beauty

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn

This dress is the first real little black dress and considering how important this style now is, it is important to recognize its history. As stated, it was designed by Givenchy for the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s. However, the dress that we can see in the movie is actually not the original design. Givenchy had designed two for the movie, but both dresses showed far too much of Audrey’s leg. Hence, Edith Head redesigned the bottom part of the dress.

Historic Price Tag

Breakfast at Tiffany

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Music

Givenchy still owns the original dress, which was stitched by hand.  He had made two copies for Audrey Hepburn, the first being on display at the Museum of Film in Madrid.  The second copy was auctioned at Christie’s for a hefty sum.  In fact, not only was this the first little black dress, it was probably also the most expensive. One of the reasons why the price was so high was because it was also worn by Natalie Portman for a cover photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. 

The dress went to a private bidder for £467,200, around eight times more as what Christie’s had expected.  The money was used charitably and allowed the building of a school in Calcutta.  Ironically, the owner of the dress before the auction was Dominique Lapierre, a friend of Givenchy, who had received the dress as a gift.  He was overwhelmed with the support received in the auction and immensely thankful for the fact that an item that was in essence but a piece of  black cloth, was able to provide bricks and mortar for a school in Calcutta.