How Givenchy's 'little black dress' became one of the great fashion moments in cinema history

When Audrey Hepburn wore Hubert de Givenchy's little black dress for the opening scene of Blake Edwards’ romantic comedy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the world went into a frenzy. The sleeveless, floor-length gown, with the skirt slightly gathered at the waist along with a slit to the thigh on one side, is now labeled as one of the greatest fashion moments in the history of cinema. But the question is, what makes the black dress so special?

The dress marked as one of the most iconic scenes in Hollywood (Facebook)

When Givenchy first decided to design the little black dress, he drew inspiration from the 1925 Chanel collection of 'garconne' dresses, many of which happened to be black. The dress became a popular hit and was even categorized as "the little black dress, the Ford motor car of the season" by Harper Bazaar. Even though many do not know what had been the inspiration behind Givenchy's idea for the dress, one thing that stood out at that time was the friendship which had developed between Audrey and him. 

"I think one can assume that the look of the dress was a result of conversations between the two," Sarah Hodgson of Wallace & Hodgson, Entertainment Memorabilia Specialists, told Meaww. The two shared a personal bond which is hard to find and somewhere along the line, the friendship turned Audrey to be the muse for many of Givenchy's collections. "I dressed many other actresses, but I never made such a friendship, had such close collaboration with anyone," Givenchy said in an interview to 'Le Temps'. 

One could say that the friendship between Audrey and Givenchy can be credited for the flawless dress (Facebook)

Even Audrey never shied away from talking about the understanding she and Givenchy had. Referring to him as "personality-maker" and a "psychiatrist", in simple words Audrey summed up how he was able to connect with her like no other designer ever did. The two worked together for the first time during 'Sabrina'. The movie proved to be the start of a friendship and fashion collaboration which is still talked about. 

When Givenchy was chosen to design the black dress for the movie, Audrey believed that there could not have been a better designer for the task. Someone who knew her so well and had an eye for perfection was the best person to judge what would suit Audrey and her character for 'Breakfast at Tiffany'. The dress perfectly sums up Audrey's character, Holly Golightly; a woman who is a mix of fun and self-worth. 

"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..." Audrey said at that time. While the pair went on to be noted as the masterminds behind the movie's iconic scene, all thanks to the dress, little did they that one day it would be known as the most iconic dress. 

There were three little black dresses made for Audrey  (Facebook)

"It’s hard to know if, at the time, either Givenchy or Hepburn would realize the iconic status that the look created in that opening sequence would acquire," Sarah told Meaww. "Probably not, but one can say for certain that the dress held great significance for Givenchy personally, given that he held onto it after the film’s production, and kept it until he decided to donate it to his great friend Dominique Lapierre to raise funds for the charity City of Joy Aid." 

Out of the three dresses that were created by Givenchy for Audrey, one copy of the dress is on display at the Museum of Film in Madrid, while another is in Givenchy's private archive and the third one was used for the charity event. Till date, there are many who pay a visit to the museum just to see the dress in person. Even though it has been decades since Audrey was first seen on the screen with the dress, the little black dress still holds a significant status in the world of fashion. 

You can see the iconic scene from the movie below: 

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Prerna Nambiar


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