Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fashion in Films (Audrey Hepburn Classics): How to Steal a Million

Simon: "Yes that's fine, that does it."
Nicole: "Does what?"
Simon: "Well for one thing it gives Givenchy a night off." 

     When Audrey Hepburn's character, Nicole Bonnet, was planning how to steal the Cellini Venus statue with Simon Dermott, played by Peter O' Toole, from a Paris museum to help conceal her father's art forgeries, Simon duly noted the incredible amount of Givenchy that Nicole wore. The Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn movie-costume-design collaboration, relationship, and friendship was well established by the time How to Steal a Million was filmed. And like any other designer-and-actress-relationship (Natalie Portman with Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, Karl Lagerfeld with Blake Lively, Elle Fanning with Marc Jacobs) the Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn dynamic was one that flourished even off the big screen. As a matter of fact, when Givenchy first heard word of a Miss Hepburn stopping by his atelier to pick out some dresses for an upcoming Hollywood film, he was expecting to meet the other Hepburn -- Katherine Hepburn. 

     Audrey Hepburn first met Hubert de Givenchy when she was sent to Paris by director Billy Wilder to pick out some designer originals for the second major film that she was just cast in, Sabrina. Audrey just finished shooting Roman Holiday, the film that catapulted her to movie stardom and earned her her first Academy Award, and since the movie would not be released in America for a month, the young actress named Audrey Hepburn was relatively unknown, which explains Givenchy's innocent mistake of expecting the other famous Hepburn. From that initial meeting, Audrey who was 24 years old, and Hubert 26, bloomed a friendship that lasted for a lifetime. In each other they found someone who loved clothes as much as themselves and a friendship that would extend beyond films and fashion. 

     When I first watched How to Steal a Million the one scene that really stayed with me was when Nicole Bonnet was meeting Simon Dermott at his hotel bar at the Ritz to propose a museum heist. The camera scans Audrey from the ground up wearing black leather pumps, black textured stockings, a delicate black lace Givenchy dress with a matching 3/4 length lace jacket and a mask. The lace mask was beautifully wrapped over her face and around her super mod-60s hair do and it absolutely did not hide the gorgeous and sparkling eye make up and diamond statement earrings that accompanied the entire look. The intent of this scene was for Nicole to be incognito so she could discuss something very confidential without raising any suspicion, but if I was in that bar at the same moment of their meeting, my attention would be completely on her because she looked so stunning. 

     Every single look in this film, minus her faux museum cleaning lady outfit, was pure Givenchy and it's absolutely heaven. The first time Audrey's character Nicole Bonnet came on screen driving a red Autobianchi Bianchina Special Cabriolet, she was decked out from head to toe in a creamy white Givenchy ensemble -- white skirt, blouse, coat, gloves, stockings, shoes, scarf, hat, belt, and even stockings. The entire ensemble had a very British-Mod-60s feel to it (the movie was filmed in 1966 afterall) but once she stripped off the layers of outerwear and accessories inside the house, a beautiful peplum-like blouse is revealed which was cinched at the waist to accentuate her impossibly small waist, and a skirt that came just below the knee. I really can't think of anyone else that can pull off such a bold Givenchy look like this other than Audrey. The rest of the outfits in the film incorporated a little more color -- a pink coat, a yellowish and citrus green skirt suits, a navy double breasted coat -- and a lot more accessories and other assortment of hats which she is famously known for. 

     The comedy, wit, and storyline of this romantic comedy about an art museum heist is very classic Audrey, but it's really the clothes in her movies that always leave a lasting impression and never stops inspiring me. Apparently that black lace Givenchy creation that I love so much was sold in a London auction for $100,000 (holy crap!) Why can't we go back to the time when glamour and grandeur was deemed normal in everyday dressing? When dressing was actually regarded an art instead of just comfort? Why can't we have both? Maybe a hotel bar rendezvous while wearing conspicuous Givenchy lace masks should be in order. We'll all definitely look like we're up to no good. 

Love, KB

almost thirty years after they first met
Audrey Hepburn seen here walking with Hubert de Givenchy
along the Seine in Paris

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