I’d like to focus now on Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly as fashion icons. Unfortunately, many people remember them only for that and not for their acting skills, but it’s a worthy subject to talk about. They certainly inspired many top models, photographers, designers, etc.
Of course, Audrey and Grace are two different women types. Audrey was a brunette and Grace a blond. We can see Grace Kelly’s German origins in her blue eyes, blond hair (as just mentioned) and her squared jaw. An elegant squared jaw! Audrey’s features are more delicate. We remember she was quite skinny because she suffered from malnutrition during war and used to do ballet. She was NOT anorexic. Stop thinking that people!
However, both can be remembered for their oh so beautiful eyes and their lovely smiles. They were almost as much taller, but Audrey was the tallest one with her 1m70. Grace was 1m69. Both were also born in 1929. Seems that people born this year were dedicated to be beautiful. The gorgeous Jean Simmons is another actress who was born in 1929.
So, with their great beauty, they were quite easy on the eyes and became the perfect top models.
Even if her parents were opposed to the idea, Grace always wanted to be an actress. she succeed to be accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Thanks to that, she had the chance to play in theatre productions and television shows. But, the interesting part here, is that, while studying acting, Grace Kelly also worked as a model to pay her classes and her room. She appeared for the first time in a film in 1951 at the age of 22: 14 Hours. Her part is quite small and she’ll be more remembered for her second film High Noon.
Grace only starred in a total of 11 films (five only in 1954, which is quite impressive). She had the chance to work with some of the best movie directors (she was a favourite of Alfred Hitchcock) and be dressed by some of Hollywood’s best movie designers. But most of all, Grace Kelly was a favourite of Edith Head and Helen Rose (who also designed her notorious wedding dress).
Helen Rose first dressed her for Mogambo (John Ford, 1953). We all remember this lilac dress she wears during an evening dinner or this cute pink shirt. Grace was dressed by Helen Rose a second time when she starred in The Swan. Here, Helen had to design real princess cloths for her, as she was playing the role of Princess Alexandra. However, this film proves us that Grace could be as much good looking in an evening gown as in a fencing uniform. Grace wears many white clothes in this film, but overall, my favourite one is the white dress she wears during the ball scene. A dress that looks incredibly light and that makes her look like an angle. The lace design is incredible.
Before creating her wedding dress, Helen Rose dressed Grace Kelly for her last film, High Society (Charles Walter, 1956). The variety of clothes is not as much impressive as the one in To Catch a Thief, but Helen Rose allowed us to see Grace on many fashion angles. The white bathrobe she wears is very similar to Katharine Hepburn’s one in The Philadelphia Story (designed by Adrian). High Society might be the best work Helen Rose did for Grace Kelly (except her wedding dress).
A very special thing about High Society is the fact that Grace is first introduced to us wearing very ordinary clothes: a beige pair of pants and a beige shirt. However, these remains elegant as they were perfectly cut to fit Grace’s body forms. In a way, those clothes prove us that people from the high society won’t necessarily wear diamonds and satin while they are in the privacy of their home. But this ensemble is soon forgotten due to the beautiful dresses Grace will wear for the rest of the film. We remember that stunning blue dress she wears to welcome Frank Sinatra and Celest Holmes, or this evening dress with golden flowers, her white wedding dress, so lovely. She wears it with this very pretty hat. I must admit I’m rather jealous of her white bathing suit. I mean, they don’t make bathing suits like that anymore. Finally, I also love the white coat she wears when she goes out with Frank Sinatra. With that large cowl, it becomes a very stylized coat. So, as we can see, Grace mostly wears white and blue in High Society, two colors that surely suited her well! As a wedding present, MGM gave those dresses to Grace so she could take them in her wedding trousseau and continue to wear them during her new princess life. Lucky gal!
Edith Head first dressed Grace Kelly in Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954). Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock and Edith Head: that was a powerful team! In Rear Window, Grace wears a total of five ensembles. Her character, Lisa Freemont, works for a fashion magazine. She is known as “that Lisa Freemont who never wear the same dress twice”. Lisa Freemont certainly knows how to impress with her distinguished dressing style, not to mention that she has the chance to wear those for free (!) In Rear Window, there’s an opposite effect to High Society, moving from the most beautiful dress to the lot to a simple pair of jeans and a red shirt at the end of the film. I think the black and white dress Grace wears in her first scene would be my favourite one worn by her in a film. We then see her in a green tailor. What I like the most about this ensemble is the little white hat adorned with a veil. Unfortunately, she doesn’t wear it for a very long time. The black dress is much sober, but very chic of course. It’s the kind of dress that is good for many occasions. That white dress with a floral pattern she wears during the climax might be the loveliest one of the lot. But we see that, from the beginning until the end of the film, we move from the most sophisticated dress, to something very simple, but that still highlights Grace’s charm and beauty.
What we see in The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954) is very different. As a matter of fact, Grace doesn’t wear very glamorous clothes in this film. However, those were well chosen because they illustrate her character’s situation very well. We see her wearing beautiful dresses only during that flashback scene and at the end. The first one is white, the second one is black. She wears a beautiful pearl necklace with the black one. I always thought that pearls suited Grace very well.
Then, Edith Head dressed Grace for The Bridges at Toko-Ri. However, her part in this film is so small that we don’t really have time to focus on her clothes. Once again, those remains very simple. The most chic ensemble she wears is that dark blue dress that she wears during the dinner scene, always with a pretty pearl necklace.
Finally, Edith Head’s last collaboration with Grace Kelly (on a film) probably was the most impressive one. Yes, Edith certainly had a great fun on the set of To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)! We first see Grace in this film during a beach scene. She wears a beautiful yellow bathing suit that shines under the sun. But she also wears sunglasses, making her look like a very mysterious lady. However, when she is “officially” introduced to us, Grace wears a long blue chiffon dress. The variety of dresses worn by Grace in this film is quite impressive! Naming them all would be too long, so here are some pictures with a little description for each one:
If Helen Rose had the chance to design Grace Kelly’s wedding dress, Edith Head is also remembered for having created her blue Oscar dress (blue definitely is Grace’s colour), the one she wore when she won the Oscar for her brilliant performance in The Country Girl.
During her life as a princess, Grace continued to wear very sophisticated ensembles, especially because she had to attend many galas, ceremonies, etc., but also because she had good fashion tastes. Grace had the reputation to always wear white gloves. That was sort of her fashion trademark. Except being a talented actress, a responsible princess and a beautiful lady, Grace will always be remembered as one of the most well dressed women ever. Hermès even named one of their creations “The Kelly Bag” after a picture of her wearing this bag appeared in the Life Magazine, making every lady asking for a “Kelly” bag at Hermès boutiques.
A few years ago I had the chance to see a Grace Kelly exhibition at the McCord Museum in Montreal. This exhibition was mostly focussed on fashion, proving us, again, that it was an important part of her life. I had the chance to see some of her film costumes, her Oscar dress, her Oscar!, and many dressed she wore during her princess life. The most impressive one was a large pink hoop skirt dress.
Audrey was a star with a new style. Unlike Marilyn Monroe, another icon from the 50’s, she didn’t have some very prominent forms. She had a boyish look, but this one mixed with her gorgeous eyes created that very feminine charm.
We’ll still focus on two designers for our exploration of Audrey Hepburn’s fashion: Edith Head (again) and, of course, Hubert de Givenchy. The first one Audrey Hepburn worked with was Edith Head for Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953). This was an important film for Audrey as it putted her on the map. Before that, she wasn’t very well known, but her lovely portrayal of Princess Ann made her won an Oscar and a place among the icons of the silver screen. Edith Head did an amazing job on this film, knowing how to create clothes that perfectly suited Audrey. To hide her too apparent clavicle, Edith Head made her worn a little scarf. Her princess dress at the beginning of the film apparently was Disney’s inspiration for Belle’s dress in Beauty and the Beast.
Sabrina’s costumes were both created by Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy, but this last one was uncredited. However, this was the beginning of a long an important collaboration between the actress and the French designer. A funny anecdote on IMDB informs us that Givenchy thought he was about to work with KATHARINE Hepburn. He had never heard of Audrey Hepburn before when they were introduced. The costumes credits for this film remains somehow ambiguous. Edith Head won an Oscar for the costumes, but not Givenchy. Head was known as the official costume designer for the film. In a 1974’s interview, Head claimed that she created the dresses inspired by some Givenchy’s designs. However, after Head’s death, Givenchy said that the black cocktail dress was produced under Head’s supervision at Paramount studios, but it was his design. That precise cocktail dress became a fashion sensation when the film was released and was known as the “Sabrina neckline”. (IMDB)
Givenchy and Head worked again together for Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1957). It’s interesting to know that Audrey was one of Richard Alvedon’s inspirations. This fashion photographer inspired the story of Funny Face. Luckily, this time, Givenchy was credited. Edith Head designed most of the film’s costumes, but the costumed worn by Audrey during the Paris’ photoshop were all created by Givenchy. Funny Face certainly is an iconic film for the world of fashion in cinema. It’s a film about Fashion. As Jo Stockton, a simple librarian, she becomes a model for Quality Magazine. Most of the film takes place in Paris the city of fashion. The photo shot scene allows us to see a wonderful variety of costumes designed by Givenchy, making it a very colourful scene. We won’t forget either this black suit she wears during the strange dance scene, worn with white sockets. If blue was Grace Kelly’s colour, black was a colour that always suite Audrey perfectly. And that started with Givenchy and his Sabrina’s cocktail dress.
Audrey Hepburn worked exclusively with Givenchy for the beautiful film Love in the Afternoon (Billy Wilder, 1957). This film proves us that Givenchy was the one who knew perfectly how to dress Audrey and make her a fashion icon. Givenchy’s creations are always very simple, but very classy. He doesn’t need to be extravagant to impress the spectator’s eyes. Colours worn by Audrey in this film mostly are black and white, the ultimate “class colours”. The black dress she wears when she meets Gary Cooper for the first time make us think of the cocktail one in Sabrina. She also makes her wear some original hats that add a touch of fantasy to the sobriety of those black dresses.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) remains Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic film and that was probably due to the costumes created by Givenchy. Those are the ultimate example of what “being classy” means. If Funny Face and Love in the Afternoon take place in Paris, this one takes place in New-York, another fashion city. Oh, how many women tried to impersonate this style, the long black dress worn with black gloves, this long cigarette, this pearl necklace and his little tiara? Pictures of people copying this style aren’t rare. It’s probably one of the most influencing styles of movie history. We are also seduced by this large hat embellished by a white “suivez-moi-jeune-homme”. A touch of fantasy is added to the film when Audrey wears a pink dress.
Finally, the costumes designed by Givenchy for Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963), Paris When it Sizzles (Richard Quine, 1964) and How to Steal a Million (William Wyler, 1966) were much more colourful than the previous ones. However, these remains simple, with plain colours. Charade allows us to realize that red is also a colour that suits Audrey pretty well. Also, thanks to this film that she’ll start wearing those famous long coats with big buttons. We remember How to Steal a Million’s costumes particularly for this strange white hat worn with big white glasses, giving to Audrey a sort of futuristic style. There’s a scene where Audrey is dressed as a maid with old and seedy clothes. When Peter O’Toole sees her with those clothes, he tells her “That does it. For one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off”.
Aside from being dressed by Givenchy for her movie roles, Audrey sometimes became a model to present his collections. She loved working with him and, according to her, he was the best. It’s to him that we own the “Audrey Hepburn’s style”, the one that inspired many other fashion designers, the one everybody still try to impersonate today. If Edith Head designed Grace Kelly’s blue Oscar dress, it’s Givenchy who designed Audrey Hepburn’s one when she won her Oscar for Roman Holiday. Yes, the collaboration between Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy probably is one of the best the fashion world ever knew. This, of course, also created a beautiful friendship between the twos.
Even I tend to be inspired by Audrey and Grace for my dressing style. Well, the best I can. Just take a look at those examples.
Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly will always be remembered as some of the most well dressed women. They inspired people from their debut on the screen in the 50s and still do today. Sometimes, I see people in the street that are so not well dress. It’s their business, but maybe they know nothing about Audrey or Grace…
And you, who inspires you the most?
I’ll leave you on that! 😉