At dawn, 5th avenue in New York City is quiet. A taxi stops in front of the Tiffany boutique and Audrey Hepburn gets out. Dressed in a black sheath dress of utmost simplicity, she takes a bite of her croissant while gazing at the jewellery behind the shop window. This legendary satin dress is a masterpiece of Hubert de Givenchy, tailor-made for the actress. Apart from the chic attire, Holly Golightly – Hepburn’s character in the film – is also accessorised with a Tiffany necklace, richly ornate with multiple rows of pearls as well as a brooch in her hair. Released in 1961, the Blake Edwards film has since become the epitome of cinematography and fashion in the 1960s.
Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress
Inspired by Coco Chanel, the concept of the “little black dress” emerged in the 1920s. Hubert de Givenchy based his design on this timeless piece of unquestionable elegance and fabricated a sheath dress with minimalist cuts on the back for Breakfast at Tiffany’s and its lifelong muse. Riccardo Tisci, former creative director of Givenchy, described the dress as a perfect example of 1960s style: chic at the front, delicate, sensual and Parisian at the back. Even if our morning outfits are not as eccentric as that of Holly Golightly, this emblematic robe etches in our minds the idea that the “little black dress” will never be out of fashion. Another dress, also by Hubert de Givenchy, appeared later in the film. Black, sleeveless and made of winkled silk, Audrey Hepburn paired it with a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of black opera gloves.
The role of Holly Golightly
When Truman Capote was writing the script of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he had never thought of choosing Audrey Hepburn for role of Holly. Instead, the screenwriter had Marilyn Monroe in mind, intending to recreate the image of a call girl. However, Blake Edwards eventually opted for Audrey Hepburn since Marilyn Monroe turned down the offer. After having played the role of a princess in Roman Holiday and the daughter of a driver in Sabrina, the actress welcomed with open arms the opportunity to expose her talents through a rather unique role. From what she said, it was pleasurable to “move away from the traditional feminine roles of princesses or nuns.” In order to add a bit of eccentricity in Holly, Audrey Hepburn dyed several strands of her hair blond. The character organises extravagant soirées in her apartment and would not hesitate to go all out every time. The Givenchy black dress not only hints at her glamorous personality from the start of the film, but its constant appearance in later scenes, though adorned with different jewels, highlights the change of her mood.
Three pieces of this iconic black dress can be found in different places around the world: one is kept in the archive of Givenchy, the other is exhibited in the Museum of Garment in Madrid and the last one was sold at a Christie’s auction for more than 607,000 Euros in 2006. The sum is so far the highest for a dress seen in film, and the profits were donated by Givenchy to Cité de la joie to help raise funds for children in Kolkata.
Previously published on Vogue Paris
EditorFloriane Reynaud Translation: Marco Lee
CreditParamount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images