Givenchy and Audrey
Apr 10, 2015 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Fashion is nothing without its muse. Throughout history there have been some pretty great pairings, but my favorite duo will always be Givenchy and Audrey. The French designer and the Belgium-born actress first met during the production of Sabrina, the Billy Wilder film that cemented her place in cinematic history. Givenchy would go on to dress Audrey for seven more films, but his reach went beyond the silver screen and into her closet at home. Audrey out and about was just as captivating and stylish as Audrey in the movies – making her an icon and Givenchy a legend. Let’s hop back to the moment when they first met to put this storied friendship into perspective.
Hot off the heels of Roman Holiday, a twenty-something Audrey was placed inside the Hollywood talent machine. A new movie was in the works (Sabrina) and Edith Head was set to design her complete wardrobe. But then Wilder (or according to some sources – Audrey herself) made the fateful call to use a French designer for all of Sabrina’s post-Paris fashions. In 1953 a young Givenchy (only a few years older than Audrey) met with his future muse. However, the introduction was not without humor!
When Givenchy received a phone call from a close friend that Hepburn wanted to meet with him he assumed it was with the more established Katharine. Keep in mind that Roman Holiday hadn’t been released yet, so Audrey wasn’t the powerhouse name we know and love today. Dressed in a very quirky ensemble, she wasn’t exhibiting that quintessential “it” girl style during her first impression with the designer. Yet there was something in her charisma, smile, and spirit that inspired Givenchy almost at once. But his role in Sabrina wasn’t settled just yet – when Audrey came to him he was the “hot new Paris designer” and had a fashion show to prepare for (including his luxury ready-to-wear line – a first in the circle of couturiers). Our daring actress wouldn’t take no for an answer, trying on items off the rack to complete her transformation into the chauffeur’s daughter. Audrey’s determination and keen sense of self worked well with Givenchy’s natural talent. Their collaboration that day in his light-filled studio would set the stage for decades of continued friendship and support.
Because they both were fresh, emerging talents they were able to grow together. In addition, Audrey and Hubert were highly organized, creative, and loyal. Their growing fan bases and social circles overlapped to benefit them both. Whose creation did Audrey wear to accept her Oscar in 1954? Givenchy, of course. When you look at all the big moments in her life as an actress and as a woman (she wore Givenchy in her wedding to Mel Ferrer as well), her dear friend was there. Three years after her Oscar win, they created a fragrance together – L’Interdit (The Forbidden). Now you gotta have a solid foundation to tackle that kind of a project and stay close! That same year, Givenchy’s wedding gown design for Funny Face went on to set the tone for the entire wedding season (no small feat).
But if you want to talk about “setting the tone” – look no further than the little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Funny tidbit (which I never knew): the dress we know and love may not be the original. Audrey took two copies of the dress to the studio, but the story is that censors thought it revealed too much leg. So in a twist of fate, Edith Head went on to redesign the bottom portion of the dress. I can’t find a lot of independent research on this – anyone with insights, please leave a comment…
Audrey stated that she felt most at ease in Givenchy’s creations, that “Givenchy’s lovely simple clothes [gave me] the feeling of being whoever I played.” And for Holly Golightly that went beyond just the dress to include selecting key accessories: over-sized sunglasses, silk gloves, and pearls. It’s without question – this is the cocktail dress admired around the world.
“The little black dress is the hardest thing to realize, because you must keep it simple.” – Hubert de Givenchy, in the Independent, 2010
While their friendship is one of my favorites in the vintage world, there’s something else quite extraordinary that came from this collaboration. Givenchy wasn’t just a designer for the stars, his ready wear collection caused a sensation in the mid-century establishment. In a time when Dior lured us back to ultra-feminine silhouettes with his New Look, Givenchy challenged with simplicity and flexibility. Clean lines that didn’t require corsets and shapes that encouraged movement – these are the things that mattered to Givenchy. He is quoted as telling Drusilla Beyfus, former Vogue features editor, “If a woman moves well her gestures will be natural and she will be happy.” Watch How to Steal a Million with new eyes and take a moment to appreciate Audrey’s movements – you’ll see his words come to life on screen. I adore that their friendship was genuine, but also admire that for two figures so tall in the world of fashion and acting, they never lost sight of being honest about what mattered. To that point, I encourage you to read Givenchy’s interview discussing his friendship with Audrey.
Cause A Frockus would like to thank the people who post their images to the public domain.
For our readers: Do you think there are any modern fashion/acting duo’s that match the awesomeness of Givenchy and Audrey? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…