One sunny Saturday in July, my Mum and I visited the National Portrait Gallery in London to see an Audrey Hepburn exhibition. Audrey was a fashion and film star and according to People’s magazine one of the top 50 most beautiful women in the world. Perhaps what made her so beautiful was her innocence, shyness and vulnerability; she never saw herself as beautiful.
Audrey Hepburn by Bud Fraker, for ‘Sabrina’, Paramount Pictures, 1954
The exhibition documents the film stars life through more than 70 images, many previously unseen – consisting of photographs, film stills and vintage magazine covers. Also displayed are a pair of her leather ballet shoes.
Audrey Hepburn on location in Africa for The Nun’s Story by Leo Fuchs, 1958 ©Leo Fuchs
Audrey died in 1993 in Switzerland with her two sons and partner by her side. Now, over 20 years later – she still remains an incredible icon; as an actress, a fasionista and a humanitarian for her work with UNICEF which she became a special ambassador of in 1988. She is a truly inspirational woman and a positive role model for women everywhere. After her death, Italian shoe designer, Salvatore Ferrugamo created a ballet pump style shoe named after her.
Audrey was born in 1929 in Belgium, although through her father she was a British Citizen. She was an accomplished ballet dancer who was dancing by the age of 5, however her ballet teachers deemed her too tall to make a profession of it.
Dance recital photograph by Manon van Suchtelen, 1942 ©Reserved
Her father abandoned the family when she was young and he and her mother later divorced in 1935. In 1937 Audrey and her mother moved to Kent where she attended a small private school in Eltham. Upon the breakout of World War 2, Audrey and her mother fled to her mother’s native country, the Netherlands; falsely believing that they would be safer there. Audrey adopted a Dutch name so as to not stand out. They lived in Arnhem which I myself have visited and seen the bridge that was the centre of the battle of Arnhem; see previous blog. Audrey danced to raise money for the Dutch resistance and couriered letters for them. Times were hard with problems with supplies getting through and Audrey suffered malnutrition as well as depression. This perhaps inspired her later work with UNICEF. After the war they moved to Amsterdam. She then travelled to London where she continued with her study of ballet and also did some modelling. In 1948 she became a chorus girl in London’s West End.
She had numerous small film roles during the early 50’s as well as becoming the face of Lux soap. The first thing people probably remember her for was her performance in Gigi on Broadway in 1951. In 1953 she landed the lead role in a film called Roman Holiday for which she received numerous awards and this could be said to have launched her career.
For me one of her most famous roles was as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s which was at the height of Audrey’s career in 1961. There were people that thought her taking this role was risky due to the characters loose morals. The film is about transformation and the American dream and of course Audrey’s own life can be seen to have followed a Cinderella theme as did many of her film roles.
Image courtesy of The Daily Mail
Her relationship with Givenchy, the Parisian courtier began with the film Sabrina, when pre-production in 1953 she visited him in Paris and used some of his samples for her character in the film. He was never given credit for Sabrina but Audrey made sure his name was always mentioned on her future films. She had a unique style and knew what features she wanted to emphasis; as Chanel says ‘Fashion changes, but style endures’. What began as a business relationship became much more than that and they remained friends right up until her death. She often described him as her psychiatrist. My favourite picture from the exhibition was this one of her in a pink Givenchy dress.
Audrey Hepburn photographed wearing Givenchy by Norman Parkinson, 1955 © Norman Parkinson Ltd/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive
For this day I wore a pair of wide leg trousers from Oasis. These form part of their current collection which is a collaboration with the V&A museum (a museum close to my heart since the Alexander McQueen exhibition and Shoes: Pleasure and Pain ). The museum gave Oasis some historical prints from its archives for them to bring to life in a new collection. This particular print is an 18th century print by London-based designer, William Kilburn. I coordinated this with a simple pink vest top from Oasis as I wanted the trousers to be the stand out piece of the outfit. For shoes I matched the background navy colour with these navy, suede Mary Janes which my Mum kindly treated me to in M&S on one of our shopping trips. I like to match shoes and bag and this navy Hobo, also from Oasis is stylish as well as practical – with room for all your bits and bobs. The outfit was finished off with my tribute to Audrey Hepburn – a small tiara like the one Holly wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Unfortunately I didn’t quite master the beehive to match.
I wanted to also share my Mum’s outfit of the day as I thought that she looked great too. She wore some beautiful LK Bennett shoes with an M&S blue broderie anglaise dress and accessorized with a LK Bennett clutch bag.
After the exhibition; we continued the glamour and got a black cab to Doubletree by Hilton, Westminster hotel where we enjoyed a pink afternoon tea. We were greeted with pink champagne and our tea was then brought out in a wooden box which didn’t really have the same appeal as the tiered cake stands which are usually provided. Unfortunately this was not one of my favourite teas – being somewhat of an afternoon tea queen as there were only a few sandwiches and the cakes were not really to my taste. The pink theme was consistent however, as along with the usual assortment of sandwiches and scones, there was a pink cone with cream in it, a tart with a pink macaroon on and a champagne truffle sprinkled with pink sugar. I have to admit it was good value for money given that it was under £30 for the two of us.
All in all we had a lovely day as we always do when we get together.
There are many famous quotes from Audrey, my favourite being ‘nothing is impossible, even the word says I’m possible.’ My inspiration for the title of this blog came from the quote ‘I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.’ If this quote isn’t a mantra for all women to live their lives by then I don’t know what is.
The Audrey exhibition runs until 18th October and is definitely worth a visit.