Though today we think of Audrey Hepburn as a bona fide Hollywood legend, she wasn’t always held in high esteem by the powers that be.
When William Wyler wanted a not-too-sexy starlet for his 1953 picture “Roman Holiday,” he denigrated the then-unknown Hepburn, crassly saying she was “perfect” because the actress’ petite form lacked traditionally womanly charms.
But perceptions of the slim ingenue changed when she appeared in the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Suddenly, Hepburn looked sleek and sophisticated, thanks in no small part to the highly tailored little black dress, throat-clutching pearls, and oversized sunglasses she wore.
That dress, the one that helped solidify her fame, was the brainchild of none other than Hubert de Givenchy, founder of the legendary fashion house of Givenchy. He passed away this week at the age of 91.
Beginning his career in post-World War II, Givenchy created haute couture that caught the eye of numerous luminaries. Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor loved his designs.
Powerful women such as Princess Grace of Monaco, Jackie Kennedy, and Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran also sought out his dresses. But he was most remembered for his work with Hepburn.
Ironically enough, Givenchy wasn’t the designer who invented the little black dress. That honor went to Coco Chanel.
Also, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” wasn’t the first Hepburn film he designed for. He initially met her when fitting her for Billy Wilder’s “Sabrina,” the 1953 title that went on to win an Oscar.
But something about that particular iteration of the little black dress caught the public imagination. It also cemented a long-running friendship between the designer and the Hollywood star.
“Everyone wants to look beautiful, and at least I feel beautiful when I’m in his clothes and they give me great confidence, which is very helpful,” Hepburn once said. “When you’re making a movie or have a difficult scene, at least you know you look right.”
“Le Grand Hubert” (as the nearly six-and-a-half-foot tall designer would come to be known) worked his trade from 1952 until 1988 when he sold the house of Givenchy to the fashion conglomerate LVMH. Though three decades have since passed, his designs remain as timelessly classic as they did when first released.
“He revolutionized international fashion with the timelessly stylish looks he created for Audrey Hepburn, his great friend and muse for over 40 years,” the house of Givenchy said in a statement. “His work remains as relevant today as it was then.”
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