I’ve wanted to do something with cinema on here for a while. If you don’t already know, I studied film in university – in fact, it was my minor. I love the movies, and every aspect of filmmaking is interesting to me. But this is a fashion blog, not a movie blog, so I didn’t want to get too heavy into film theory, technology or business. What’s the best way to marry these two interests of mine?
I had the idea to start creating occasional posts about the fashion in movies, from my personal favourites to the most iconic costumes of all time. If this sounds appealing to anyone following the blog, let me know. I’m really excited to do these!
I will still be doing outfit posts, but if I decide to continue with these Cinema Style articles, they will be coming every few weeks.
Without further ado, I bring you the first episode! And what better way to open up the series than with one of my favourite movies.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Released in 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was directed by Blake Edwards and based on the book by Truman Capote. The movies starts Audrey Hepburn as the flighty, larger-than-life Holly Golightly, a socialite looking to date the richest men she can find. George Peppard plays Paul Varjack, a writer who moves into Holly’s building. Shenanigans ensue, truths are revealed, declarations are made.
Let me be clear: this, like many others, is not a movie without faults. Mickey Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi is, in a word, problematic.
But, when I was younger, this was my ultimate favourite movie. I had a huge crush on George Peppard and was deeply dismayed to discover this movie had been made 50 years ago and Peppard had died in 1994. Why did I have such a crush on him? He was handsome, he was a writer, and he wore the most beautiful suits.
As you can see, I’ve always had my priorities straight.
The costuming in this film is a time capsule of 1960s style with fabulous party wear for Holly. We’re talking dramatic hats, prints and a good pair on sunnies.
Of course, we’re also talking that black dress from the opening scene. With a dress that classically beautiful, it comes as little surprise that the principal costume designer for Hepburn was Mr. Hubert de Givenchy himself.
You’ve probably heard of Givenchy the brand before.
The man Givenchy founded the fashion house in 1952, and since then it has been a stable in the French couture scene. Among his achievements, Givenchy is credited with creating the balloon coat and the baby doll dress. Hepburn was one of his regular clients and a friend.
Even if you’ve never seen the film, you could probably call up that famous opening image of Hepburn munching on a danish outside of Tiffany’s in that black dress with the pearls and sunglasses. When I first saw that scene, I wanted to be her, standing on that corner in New York, wearing that dress. I could never be her, though, and one of the (many) reasons for that is Givenchy designed the dress especially for Hepburn. She was able to keep it after filming and the dress eventually sold at Christie’s for $900,000 in 2006.
Another notable Givenchy piece is the bright orange peacoat seen on Holly when she and Paul are galavanting around New York City. The double-breasted coat was widely copied following the release of the film. Orange can be a tricky colour, but of course Hepburn pulls it off so well. (And it looks good in Technicolor.)
Aside from the gorgeous Givenchy pieces, recognition needs to be given to costume supervisor Edith Head, and if you haven’t heard of her yet, you’re about to.
Over her decades-long career, Head won a record eight Academy Awards in costume design for her work on The Heiress, Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Sabrina (where Givenchy also provided designs), The Facts of Life and The Sting.
The Academy Awards didn’t even have an award for costume designing until 1948, which was when Head really started to garner attention for her work. She had an incredible career and worked with some of the most notable actresses in Hollywood.
Head was responsible for Holly’s other iconic looks in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The men’s shirt Holly wore to bed was designed by Head, and paired with that turquoise sleep mask and bright ear plugs, it is to this day the best sleepwear look I’ve ever seen.
Head was also responsible for the sweater, jeans and towel ensemble sported by Holly in the “Moon River” scene.
Paul’s (and the audience’s) glimpse to the true Holly is masterfully indicated with this toned-down look. It is, after all, very easy to look glamorous when one is always wearing classic Givenchy.
Through Givenchy and Head, we see the duality of Holly’s character come to life: the glamorous partier and the layered, emotional young woman from the country. These identities both exist in Holly, as they do in many women, though often not to the same extremes. There is the face you show to the world, and the one you keep more private.
This is one of the reasons I like fashion so much. It is a way to demonstrate our inner characteristics to the outside world – a way of introducing ourselves without having to say a word. Any good costume designer should be able to do just that for their characters, and Head and Givenchy pull it off masterfully.