A modern muse: The enduring appeal of Audrey Hepburn


An employee poses in front of a black satin cocktail gown adorned with feathers by Givenchy Couture, with a reserve price of £50,000 - £80,000

More than 50 years after her iconic turn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s style is attracting the attention of a new generation of fashion lovers.

A collection of the actress’s little black dresses, trench coats and a sleeping mask are among thousands of personal items on display at Christie’s in central London.

Almost 500 lots are to be sold in the coming weeks, but it was not only potential buyers browsing the auction house as the exhibition opened on Saturday.

A younger generation – many born after Hepburn’s death nearly 25 years ago – are turning out to see the clothes worn by the 20th Century muse.

Adrian Hume-Sayer, director of private collections at Christie’s, said a huge part of Hepburn’s fanbase was born after she died.

But what is it about her style that appeals to the millennial fashionista?

“Everyone says how wearable the clothes are today – that cleanness of line, the simplicity, that she really made her own,” Mr Hume-Sayer said.

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Margreet and Henry were some of the younger admirers at the collection

For 23-year-old Margreet Mateboer, who travelled from the Netherlands to see the collection, there is something “relatable” about Hepburn.

Margreet, whose first experience of Hepburn was when she watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s aged 12, said: “She was very humble and human.

“She was glamorous, but not in a diva kind of way.”

And if she could take home one item from the sale?

“The brown shearling sheepskin jacket she wore in Wait until Dark… I’d wear that.”

Accompanying Margreet was Henry Wilkinson, an aspiring costume designer in London, whose first introduction to Audrey Hepburn was seeing the 1964 comedy My Fair Lady.

“That was 10 years ago, but it still resonates with me,” the 20-year-old said.

Henry said Hepburn had been modern for her time, adding that she avoided wearing heels and would often look quite “boyish and wear trousers”.

Indeed, many of Hepburn’s clothes on display would not look out of place on nearby Oxford Street.

A black mini dress adorned with feathers appears alongside a fur-trimmed wool coat and sequin-adorned jacket.

“She worked with what she had,” Henry said.

“And this stuff is relatively attainable”.

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Reuters

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It is true that while there are designer pieces from Givency and Valentino, there are also simple cotton dresses and ballet pumps.

The majority of accessories – which include a diamante-encrusted serpent belt – are costume jewellery and not of the quality you might expect of a Hollywood actress.

“She owned very little real jewellery,” said Mr Hume-Sayer.

“She was not interested in it. That lack of ostentation (showed) her humbleness. She was incredibly grounded.”

Items on sale include annotated scripts, posed portraits and a personalised Cartier swizzle stick – or cocktail stirrer – with a reserve price of £2,000-£3,000.

It is hoped some of the items will find their way into the hands of younger fans.

“(Her sons) were keen for us to make as many small lots as possible, to make it as accessible as we can,” said Mr Hume-Sayer.

Happy bidding.

The collection is open to the public in King St London, free of charge, until Tuesday 26 September.



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