Hubert de Givenchy And Audrey Hepburn: A Fashionable Friendship

audrey hepburn breakfast at tiffanys

by Katie Rosseinsky |

From her chic ensembles in Sabrina to the ballerina wedding gown in Funny Face to that little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, our idea of Audrey Hepburn as a style icon both on screen and off is inextricably linked to the vision of legendary couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who has died at the age of 91.

One of fashion and film’s most enduring partnerships – and a defining friendship for both parties – began in the summer of 1953, when Givenchy, then 26 years old and rushing to prepare his fourth collection, received a phone call, informing him that a ‘Miss Hepburn’ had arrived in Paris and wished to meet with him. Reminiscing years later, the designer admitted he’d assumed it would be Katharine Hepburn – by far the more established star at the time – not the ingénue who arrived at his Rue Alfred de Vigny studio wearing a straw hat, t-shirt and ballerina pumps.

Audrey, who’d recently wrapped Roman Holiday, was preparing for her next role in Sabrina, a Cinderella-esque romance with a plot that hinges upon her character’s returning from Paris as a sophisticated leading lady, an on-screen transformation which would require a wardrobe upgrade to make it all the more striking. With legendary costume designer Edith Head already on board for the film (she’d previously dressed the rising star as a European princess in Roman Holiday), Audrey had asked the studio if she could wear a ‘real’ Parisian dress, by a real Parisian designer. They’d demurred, initially pointing her in the direction of master couturier Cristobal Balenciaga, but at just a few weeks away from his next presentation, it was decided that the maestro shouldn’t be disturbed.

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy couture for Sabrina
Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy couture for Sabrina ©Shutterstock

Too preoccupied with his impending show to design anything especially for the actress, Givenchy did present her with a rail of samples from a past collection, encouraging her to try on anything that caught her eye. The three pieces that she picked – a white strapless ballgown embellished with beaded flowers, a double-breasted skirt suit and a black evening dress with an eye-catching neckline – were eventually immortalised as part of Sabrina’s wardrobe.

Givenchy received no official credit for his influence upon Sabrina (Edith Head eventually won an Oscar for her Costume Design; indeed, it was only years after Head's death that Givenchy revealed the LBD in *Sabrina *had been his design, recreated in the Paramount workshop), but the meeting changed the course of his career. Hepburn henceforth added a very important caveat to every contract she’d sign: that Givenchy would be involved in dressing her for every film she appeared in. ‘His are the only clothes in which I am myself,’ she later remarked. Givenchy and Hepburn's working relationship persisted until the actress eventually stepped away from the movies to concentrate upon charity work, but she still wore her friend's designs until the end of her life. Givenchy's often groundbreaking, always sophisticated designs had the power to turn the actress from ingenue to icon.

In the gallery below, you’ll find a selection of Audrey’s most memorable Givenchy outfits, on screen and off...

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

Funny Face

Just one of many brilliant fashion moments in *Funny Face *is this striking strapless gown and matching shawl worn by Audrey in the film's photoshoot montage.

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