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How to Dress Like Audrey Hepburn

By Guan Tan

 
Felicia Yap
 

As Christmas looms, a number of us are perhaps shopping around for a festive outfit. It's also no coincidence that come every December, e-commerce sites publish curated collections of metallic blouses, slinky dresses and towering heels. It must be that liquid gold and silver outfits complement the Christmas tree's baubles. For a week, we change our wardrobes – and personalities – to suit the gregarious gatherings and dinners. Which leads us to the question, 'Where is personal style and identity in the advent of festivities?'

It wasn't too many years ago that a London-based fashion writer and I exchanged a brief conversation about this subject matter. "What do you wear for wedding dinners?" he asked me. I gestured at my white and cream get-up for that day. I returned him the question and he replied, "Same." 

The subject of style in fashion is a paradoxical one. On one end, it's a word for newness and changing trends on the runway, i.e. "That's last season's style." On another, it's a timeless concept that is unchanging and revered, like "Audrey Hepburn's style". 

The British actress's style was adored by the fashion industry of her time, and particularly Parisian couturier Hubert de Givenchy who designed for her – not the other way round, Hepburn did not have to fit into his designs per se. A commanding personality like Hepburn's is perhaps hard to come by. It stems from a sense of identity and knowing oneself. Her style also happens to be a mirror of Britain in the '60s – the mods, jazz and pop art. Her look was clean-cut and had an incredible sense of freedom – found in the otherwise male cigarette pants and the movement her clothes endowed her with. 

 

Capris

When the 1950s turned, pants trickled down from high fashion – a trend Coco Chanel set in motion – to popular culture. Females wore cigarette pants and capris. In it was a strong sense of freedom and movement. You'd find that in Hepburn's images from her 1957 film, Funny Face.  

 

Breton Stripes

The Breton stripes came from menswear, in particular, the French marines' uniform in the mid-1800s. Later it was made fashionable by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, out of her own lifestyle and love for yachting. In Hepburn's time, these stripes were brought back into the limelight by the fifties' French subculture, the Beatniks and existentialists.

 

Boat Neck

Another French influence, the boat neck was a defining characteristic of the traditional Breton shirt. Its wider neckline meant that wearers could pull it over their heads easily. With Hepburn, she made it her own, wearing t-shirts, blouses, dresses and gowns with boat necklines. The pool of fabric around her neck crowned her face.

 

Penny Loafers & Ballet Flats

This enduring impression of Hepburn in penny loafers must be from her film, Funny Face, where she danced in white socks and the masculine shoes. These shoes came into fashion when the American brand, G.H. Bass shoe company released their penny loafers. Later in Hepburn's time, women wore their mini skirts with tights and penny loafers, brogues and oxfords. Otherwise, Hepburn's often spotted in black ballet flats – a look borrowed from the French Beatniks. 

 

Dresses & Gowns

There were a few defining dresses in her formal wear repertoire. The most recognisable was, perhaps, the black prom dress that Hepburn wore in the opening sequence to the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Later, Hubert de Givenchy repeatedly dressed her. Yet, Hepburn's style was retained in the many different creations – a boat neck, a nipped natural waistline and a tulip-shaped or trapeze silhouette. She may have attended numerous events on different occasions and contexts, but Hepburn's personal style was never once compromised.