Style Icon: Audrey Hepburn
To celebrate what would have been her 87th birthday, we're taking a look back at the humanitarian efforts and style legacy of style icon Audrey Hepburn.
Words by Olivia Girling
From starring alongside Gregory Peck in her breakthrough film, Roman Holiday, to achieving her status of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Audrey Hepburn had an incredibly diverse life, for which she will, undoubtedly, be remembered.
Having been incredibly active during what is known as the Hollywood Golden Age, Hepburn was ranked as the third greatest female screen legend in Hollywood, as well as being added to acting halls of fame, creating a legacy in the film, fashion, and activism worlds.
Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium on May 4th 1929 to her English father and Dutch mother. Her father was constantly moving for work, and consequently Hepburn travelled with him and was able to learn to speak five languages; French, Spanish, Italian, and obviously, English and Dutch.
During World War 2, her mother moved Hepburn back to the Dutch city of Arnhem in the hope that she would be safe. It was here that Hepburn began taking ballet classes and quickly became her tutor's star pupil. Hepburn eventually made her film debut in 1948 by playing an air hostess in Dutch in Seven Lessons, an educational travel film.
Later that year, she decided to move to London to accept a ballet scholarship in Notting Hill, but ultimately, despite her incredible talent, Hepburn's height and weak constitution following wartime malnutrition, made her unfit to become a professional ballet dancer, so she decided to concentrate more on an acting career.
It wasn't until 1953 that Hepburn was given her first starring film role as Princess Anne in Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. By sporting striped neckerchiefs with white shirts and capri pants, to the princess's elegant gowns and dazzling tiaras, Hepburn's starring role explored her sweet nature whilst also giving her the breakthrough she needed - proven by the fact that she succeeded in winning an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
Following the success of her Hollywood starting-point, Hepburn went on to perform on Broadway in the fantasy play Ondine, for which she won a Tony Award, as well as receiving Golden Globe nominations for her role as Natasha Rostova in War and Peace (1956).
In 1957, Hepburn was cast as amateur philosopher Jo Stockton in the Paramount musical Funny Face alongside Fred Astaire.
Although her character thought the fashion business was 'nonsense', Stockton's costumes were elegant and ladylike, as if she thought fashion was anything but nonsense; polka dot scarves tied around her head, flowing calf-length skirts and long beige trench coats, not that dissimilar to the fashion sense of the actress herself.
Breakfast at Tiffany's is regarded as Hepburn's most memorable and recognisable role of all time, even though she named it one of her most challenging, considering she was an introvert required to be playing an extrovert. Her character, Holly Golightly's, in black dress with a thigh split designed by Givenchy, is cited as one of the most iconic items of clothing of the entire twentieth century, as well as being the most famous Little Black Dress of all time!
Along with a string of pearls, a wide-brimmed hat and over-sized sunglasses, this has become the iconic Audrey Hepburn look which has been replicated thousands of times since the film's release in 1961.
Although she continued to act, by appearing in major Hollywood films such as My Fair Lady, Hepburn began to find herself more and more interested in humanitarian efforts in some of the poorest communities in the world including Africa, South America and Asia. From 1988 onwards, Hepburn took part in field missions for UNICEF to Ethiopia, Turkey and Guatemala, building school houses and helping to provide clean water.
Through her status as a famous Hollywood actress she was able to project her message and reach a wider audience; "These are not natural disasters but man-made tragedies for which there is only one man-made solution - peace". And people listened.
Hepburn tragically passed away of appendiceal cancer in January 1993 at the age of 63, four months after returning from a UNICEF mission to Somalia. However, throughout her life she was an icon in every sense of the word - from her casual every day style of black jersey tops with capri pants, to her characters' elegant gowns and slip dresses, she was a fashion icon; from her countless UNICEF humanitarian efforts across the world to her determination in both her acting and dancing career, she was a business icon. In every way, she will be remembered.
Her style will live on forever, as will her efforts in life, and everything in between.
Copy Her Style
To get Audrey Hepburn's relaxed and casual 1950s style, opt for ankle-grazing trousers and long-sleeved tops in a dark colour palette, with a cinched in waist and broad shoulders. But if you're looking for a more feminine look, how about adopting some of her characters' outfits? Holly Golightly's LBD and sunglasses, or Eliza Doolittle's wide-brimmed hats and silk pink dresses!