13 December 2009

Can You Own A Hepburn?


Little Black Dress: How to Steal a Million

Are you in need of a new ensemble for your sojourn in Rome? Or perhaps some loungewear for serenading the moon on your fire escape? Today in London, Kerry Taylor Auctions will sell off an important collection of Audrey Hepburn clothing during its Passion for Fashion sale. The collection has been widely publicized and anticipated across the globe.

For a woman who saw herself as "too skinny, too flat and too tall," Hepburn played a major part in the way women looked and behaved in the 20th century. From ballet flats to skinny black jeans, Hepburn's wardrobe staples continue to influence another generation of fashion. In 2006, Gap went so far as to have Hepburn star in a commercial by using old film footage for its line of skinny black pants, similar to the ones she wore in the film Funny Face.

During a time when the feminine ideal was "the perfect size 10," Hepburn broke the mold of what it means to be feminine. She sported a pixie-like frame among voluptuous contemporaries like Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. McCall's claimed that she had "all the curves of a piece of melba toast viewed from the side." And playwright Anita Loos once quipped, "Her hat size is bigger than her waist!" Despite the jokes and criticisms, many women still saw Hepburn as a symbol of elegance and grace.

The auction collection contains 40 lots and is the product of a lifelong hand-me-down tradition. Hepburn, who hated to waste anything, would send her old clothing to her former neighbor and lifelong friend, Tanja Star-Busmann. "Over the years a cavalcade of boxes filled to the brim with haute couture gowns and divine little cocktail ensembles arrived at my door. Unpacking them was always like Christmas, a thousand times over," Star-Busmann wrote in the auction catalog.

The auction also tells the story of Hepburn's lifelong friendship and devotion to designer Hubert Givenchy. Almost half of the collection consists of Givenchy originals, many haute couture and inspired by the actress. Instead of trying to hide Hepburn's petite frame behind bustles of fabric, Givenchy embraced her slender figure and emphasized it with clean lines and form-fitting silhouettes.

Many of the high-ticket items are Givenchy haute-couture gowns, including the black lace cocktail dress Hepburn wore in How to Steal a Million and the black silk dress worn to promote Paris When it Sizzles, which looks like the cocktail-length version of the famous gown worn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. One gown, which was worn during the opera scene of Love in the Afternoon, was sent to Star-Busmann shortly after she gave birth to her daughter with a note from Hepburn saying she thought the dress might remind Star-Busmann "what it was like to have a waistline again."

"It has been the most amazing experience to work with this collection," said Kerry Taylor in an e-mail. "We had an exhibition of the pieces at Sotheby's Paris and in two days 2300 people visited the exhibition."

Star-Busmann plans to donate 50 percent of the proceeds to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund.

The Associated Press reports that the cocktail dress Hepburn wore in How to Steal a Million sold for nearly $100,000 -- more than three times what was predicted. The auctioneer told the AP Tuesday's sale brought in a total of $437,000.

No comments:

Post a Comment