Audrey Hepburn  Breakfast At Tiffany's, 1961
To be sold on behalf of City of Joy Aid
Audrey Hepburn Breakfast At Tiffany's, 1961

Audrey Hepburn Breakfast At Tiffany's, 1961
An evening gown of black Italian satin designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the 1961 Paramount film Breakfast At Tiffany's, the sleeveless, floor-length gown with fitted bodice embellished at the back with distinctive cut-out décolleté, the skirt slightly gathered at the waist and slit to the thigh on one side, labelled inside on the waistband Givenchy; accompanied by a pair of black elbow-length gloves [made later]; an envelope addressed in Givenchy's hand to Monsieur Dominique Lapierre in Paris; and a the November 2006 U.S. edition of Harper's Bazaar magazine, the cover featuring Natalie Portman modelling the dress in this lot (4)
BAILEY, Sarah The Million Dollar Dress in Harpers Bazaar Magazine, November, 2006
NOURMAND, Tony Audrey Hepburn - The Paramount Years London: Westbourne Press Ltd. 2006, pp. 94-127
HEPBURN FERRER, Sean Audrey Hepburn An Elegant Spirit - A Son Remembers London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 2003 pp.155-160
ETHERINGTON-SMITH, Meredith The Ultimate Little Black Dress 2006 FINE COLLINS, Amy When Hubert Met Audrey in Vanity Fair, December, 1995
Breakfast At Tiffany's Paramount programme ..For Invitational Preview
Further details
Christie's would like to thank Mark Wanamaker of Bison Archives for his assistance with their research into this lot.

Mannequin supplied by Adel Rootstein.

Lot Essay

This dress has been given by Hubert de Givenchy to his friends Monsieur and Madame Dominique Lapierre to raise funds for their charity City of Joy Aid. In a recent interview with Harper's Bazaar, Givenchy told Sarah Bailey that since Audrey's death in 1993, he had donated key pieces from his collection to raise money for disadvantaged children around the world... in an attempt to continue the spirit of his late friend's work for UNICEF. When he recently dined with French writer Dominque Lapierre, whose 'City of Joy Aid' charity has been providing aid to the poorest of the poor in India for 25 years, Givenchy decided it was time to release the last Holly Golightly dress for auction - his own....

Meredith Etherington-Smith in her recent article THE ULTIMATE LITTLE BLACK DRESS gives the historical background to this dress: The opening scene of Breakfast At Tiffany's, featuring Audrey Hepburn walking along having breakfast in her night-before iconic little black dress is one of the great fashion moments in cinema history. Givenchy's inspiration for the dress has its roots in another iconic fashion moment, more than forty years before. This was in 1925 when Chanel produced a collection of boyish 'garconne' dresses, many of which were black. These tubular, minimalist little black dresses drew the comment from Harper's Bazaar at the time that Chanel had created 'the little black dress, the Ford motor car of the season.' The little black dress has been fashion's Ford ever since, appearing in all sorts of guises from military inspired (think Bette Davis or Joan Crawford) neo-romantic (think Delphine Seyrig's fluted black chiffon Chanel dress in Annee Derniere a Marienbad) to punk (think of Versace's safety-pin headliner which launched Liz Hurley). Beyond the vagaries of trend or fashion every single designer has his own take on the basic formula. Little. Black. Dress. For my money, Givenchy's version for Holly Golightly is one of the very best.

Audrey and Givenchy's legendery partnership is considered to be of the most important fashion pairings ever... The relationship between the designer Hubert de Givenchy and the actress Audrey Hepburn is fortunately well documented. Hepburn obviously felt completely indebted to Givenchy. In interviews she described him as ...a personality-maker and a ..psychiatrist... She credited him with providing her with a look that gave her the confidence to act ...It enormous help to know that I looked the part...Then the rest wasn't so tough anymore. Givenchy's lovely simple clothes [gave me] the feeling of being whoever I played...

Givenchy and Hepburn first met in 1953, when she was, as she described herself: ...a skinny little nobody.... She had just completed her first big film Roman Holiday which was still unreleased, and was about to begin her next, highly significant, follow-up film Sabrina. The film, to be directed by the genius Billy Wilder, a romantic comedy about a chauffeur's daughter who returns home from a trip to Paris so sophisticated and wordly, that she charms her father's millionaire employee's two eligible sons, proved to be the perfect vehicle for the Givenchy/Hepburn collaboration. Although it was Billy Wilder who told the legendary Hollywood wardrobe diva Edith Head, that Hepburn was to be sent overseas to buy original couture from a Parisian designer for the film's title role, the idea for this had according to Wilder, come from Audrey herself. She told a journalist on the set of Sabrina...."Clothes are positively a passion with me...I love them to the point where it is practically a vice..."

From the start, Audrey had apparently favoured Givenchy as her Parisian designer of choice. Three years older than Hepburn, at 26, Hubert de Givenchy was in Hepburn's view the: ....newest, youngest, most exciting couturier.. in Paris. Perhaps not surprisingly, when Givenchy was told that 'Miss Hepburn' had arrived in Paris and wantd to see him - he had assumed that it was Katharine Hepburn. Frantically busy with his forthcoming new collection, his initial reaction to Audrey's request to help with her next film, had been to decline. However, he found himself charmed by Audrey. Dreda Mele, the directrice of Givenchy at the time, who witnessed Audrey's first meeting with Givenchy, described how Hepburn ....was like the arrival of a summer flower. She was 'lumineuse'-radiant, in both a physical and a spiritual sense...Though she came to Givenchy out of the blue there is no doubt they were made to meet. Audrey was always very definite in her taste and look. She came to him because she was attracted by the image he could give her. And she entered that image totally. She entered into his dream, too...they were made for each other...

Givenchy himself recalled how when Audrey first tried on some of his clothes, samples from the previous season's collection, spring/summer '53:..."She gave a life to the clothes - she had a way of installing herself in them, that I have seen in no one else since...[they] just adapted to her. Something magic happened. Suddenly she felt good - you could feel her excitement, her joy".... Their resulting collaboration was a triumph. Ernest Lehman, who revised the screenplay during the troubled shooting on Sabrina, described how Audrey's flawless Givenchy wardrobe set her style for the rest of her career: ..The way Audrey looked in 'Sabrina' had an effect on the roles she later played. It's fair to say that if she had never gone to Paris she wouldn't have had that role in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'...

According to Hubert de Givenchy the dress in this lot is one of three made for Audrey Hepburn, for what can be described as her most captivating and acclaimed role as the provocative and ...capricous New York playgirl...Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany's. One of the three is presently in the Givenchy archives in Paris, this dress came from Givenchy's own private collection, and the third is part of the collection of the Museum of Costume in Madrid. It is normal practice for several examples of a film's leading star's key costume to be made. Often the number is higher than three, although in the past, and certainly in this instance, meticulous wardrobe records of the exact numbers were not kept.

The dress in this lot, like the one in Madrid's Costume Museum, has a thigh-length split on the left-hand side, unlike the dress worn by Hepburn in the film's opening scene, where the skirt is complete. The dress featured in the film's famous poster artwork [see lot 109] also shows a slit, although knee-length, similarly on the left-hand side. This suggests that the two dresses with the slits were designed by Givenchy with this feature, specifically for eye-catching publicity purposes.

In the recent interview with Hubert de Givenchy for Harper's Bazaar the dress' significance takes historic proportions: ...Even for the great couturier himself, the Holly Golightly black dress somehow crystallizes the ultimate Audrey moment: "It was a perfect dress for her". That opening sequence image ...of Hepburn as Holly Golightly - pearls roped around her neck, a beehive, the perfect long black dress - drinking from a paper cup of coffee on Fifth Avenue in the early hours... is described as: of the most potent fashion moments in movie history...

It is Breakfast At Tiffany's which in the words of art consultant Andreas Timmer is ...Commonly regarded as Hepburn's signature piece.... The film's mesmerising opening sequence ...sets the tone for the movie. A beautiful woman dressed in a stunning evening gown [emerging] from a yellow cab in the early morning hours to look at Tiffany's display windows... Holly later explains...that she goes to Tiffany when she suffers one of her periodic panic attacks, which she calls 'the mean reds'....

Audrey as Holly Golightly in that opening sequence, became not only the definitive image of Breakfast At Tiffany's but of timeless elegance and unrivalled style. The importance of this film to the actress is described by Audrey's son Sean Hepburn Ferrer in his memoir of his mother thus: ....Every actor has a film whose chemistry is so strong that it is forever a reference point in their career. 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' would be it for my mother...

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