Whenever there is a poll, or a book, or a TV programme which looks at the most stylish women from over the past 100 years or so, one thing for certain is that Audrey Hepburn will be in there somewhere.
Twenty-five years after her death, her face adorns thousands of posters in thousands of homes and her distinctive ‘look’ is still copied and admired to this day. For me, her style has made a deep impression.
To my eyes her élan emanates from that late 1950s ‘Euro Chic’ look seen in countless French and Italian films of that period, and of course that is what appeals to those of a Modernist persuasion among us.
Audrey Kathleen Ruston (her father later adopted and added the name Hepburn) was born in Brussels in 1929, and lived briefly in England, before settling in Arnhem in Holland, which was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. Her time there very tough, with relatives being executed and food in very short supply.
Surviving the war she moved to Amsterdam to study ballet and as was soon picking up small film and theatrical roles before moving to London and then the United States to further her career.
The first sight of her that many will remember is of her riding on a motor scooter along with Gregory Peck in the 1953 film ‘Roman Holiday.’ Hepburn plays Princess Ann who arrives in Rome as part of a regal European tour. Rebelling against the tight control around her royal life, she escapes one night from her court and is found and looked after by a newspaperman played by Peck. Their adventures and burgeoning romance is played out with the sights and sounds of Rome as the backdrop.
However, perhaps the most famous of her roles is that of Holly Golightly in film Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ from 1961. Based on the novella by Truman Capote, Hepburn she plays wild socialite who leads a devil may care existence in bustling New York before seeing the error of her ways and finally settling down with George Peppard.
The simple and yet elegant clothes that Hepburn wore in the film, came from a combination of Hubert de Givenchy and legendary film costume designer Edith Head, and include the classic little black dress and a trench coat, which remain timeless classics that can still be seen in many high street stores to this day.
Recently, huge crowds gathered at an auction of Hepburn’s clothes, both worn on and off screen, along with scripts and other memorabilia from her life. I went along to one of the viewing days and in everything on display, there was an overwhelming sense of style in all of it.
Hepburn semi retired from film work in 1967 and began a role as an ambassador for the charity UNICEF. She worked tirelessly, remembering her own hardships from the war.
Sadly, she discovered she was suffering from stomach cancer in 1992 and in January 1993 she died at home is Switzerland.
Gone, but most certainly not forgotten
The Mumper of SE5