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Breakfast At Tiffany’s At 60: Audrey Hepburn’s Iconic LBD, The Calcutta Story, And Natalie Portman’s Look


With unforgettable instrumental notes of Moon River playing in the backdrop - the song composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, the lone yellow taxi in the frame of Breakfast at Tiffany's against a grey backdrop of buildings, is probably one of the most poetic opening frames. The frame absolutely captures the essence of the girl in her black dress, who steps out of the yellow taxi, all alone in the posh locality, looking chic but with humble bagel and coffee in her hand. She stares through the glass window, fascinated by exquisite and expensive jewellery display. While, she marvels at those jewellery pieces, the strands of pearls effortlessly dangling at the back of her neck, itself make her intriguing. The black dress with a moon-cut back in the early New York morning, also shows the girl, as somewhat detached from the conventional dressing, but so consumed by what's her take on upmarket.

That girl in the black dress and pearls is none other than the iconic Holly Golightly, a character created by Truman Capote in his book with the same title, and the role of Holly Golightly was performed decades ago, by Audrey Hepburn. If Holly Golightly became one of the most extraordinary cinematic characters, her black dress is preserved as among the most treasured costume heirlooms from the movies. Talking about her dress, it was a powerful number, for the dress conveyed a lot about Holly Golightly. Throughout the movie, Holly is shown as a character, who at once is vulnerable and naïve and in another instance is, sprightly and a brilliant conversationalist. And this power dress on this girl eating bagel and sipping coffee (her breakfast) innocently, while radiating grandeur, showed how she masked her vulnerability with this statuesque satin outfit, dazzling jewels, and a pair of huge black shades. This fashionable moment in the movie is one of the most talked-about till today, with Beyoncé being the latest diva to redefine the black dress look recently via her Instagram feed. And with the movie celebrating its 60th anniversary, let's know a little more about her little black dress (LBD).

Taking reference from the book first, the narrator describes, Holly Golightly's look as, "she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes." And Audrey Hepburn's look in the movie was straight out from the book, except that there is a long story behind her dress. So, as we know, Audrey Hepburn and fashion designer, Givenchy shared a close friendship and the designer considered the actress, his muse. In 1961, Givenchy designed the little black dress for the opening scene of the movie. Audrey Hepburn took two copies of the black dress to Paramount but since it was an LBD, it was not considered suitable for the movie. So, while the upper part of the dress was created by Givenchy, the lower part of the black column dress was re-designed by costume designer Edith Head. However, it was majorly a Givenchy creation and one of his most memorable ones too but neither of the actual Givenchy dresses were used in the movie or promotional photography.

But here's another interesting fact, in 2006, one of the original black dresses created by Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn was worn by the Black Swan actress Natalie Portman for the cover of Harper's Bazaar. This dress was auctioned at Christie's in London for approx. $923,187. The money raised in the auction of the black dress was directed towards building a school for destitute children in Calcutta. Givenchy, had actually donated this dress to Dominique Lapierre, who is known for his famous book City of Joy, and his wife to raise funds for the charity.

Givenchy actually created three versions of this dress - one of which is in the archives of House of Givenchy, the other one is at the Garment Museum in Madrid, and the third was auctioned at Christie's. May we have more redefining moments of this legendary outfit and the movie remains forever in our heart.

Story first published: Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 21:00 [IST]
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