Today in History: Birthday of Audrey Hepburn

“I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

She was one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” Decade after decade, she continues to top polls of the world’s most stylish celebrities. Her effortless beauty and simple, girlish charm make her a timeless icon who continues to earn devoted fans and admirers.

British actress and style legend Audrey Hepburn was born May 4, 1929, just outside of Brussels. She grew up in Belgium, the Netherlands, and England. She was an active, brilliant child with a talent for art and dance.

During World War II, neutral Holland suffered the “Hunger Winter” under German occupation. The malnourishment young Hepburn experienced that year left its permanent mark on her physique and dashed her hopes of becoming a professional ballerina. After the war she turned instead to modeling and the theater, coming to America in 1951 for a starring role on Broadway.

Time Magazine - Audrey Hepburn
TIME September 7, 1953: “Behind the sparkle of rhinestones, a diamond’s glow”

Her first time as a leading lady on film was the classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953). Her beauty and poise made her an instant star and a popular fashion icon, landing her on the cover of TIME Magazine. The huge success led to a generous 10-film contract with Paramount that included Sabrina (1954) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

During filmmaking, she collaborated with designer Givenchy, who helped create her signature style. She became the inspiration for much of his work and the pair became an unstoppable team. She once said, “What is more beautiful than a simple sheath made an extraordinary way in a special fabric, and just two earrings?” The little black dress (first introduced by Coco Chanel in the 1920’s, and re-designed for Hepburn’s role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) became one of the biggest fashion statements of the century.

Hepburn made more than 25 films, but she was also a devoted mother of two sons. One of her greatest passions was her work as a UNICEF ambassador. She routinely traveled to war-torn and poverty-stricken regions to champion the cause of needy children, right up until her death in 1996.

Did you know…

– She spoke Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian fluently.
– Her mother was a Dutch baroness.
– During World War II, teenaged Hepburn worked as a volunteer nurse and performed ballet to earn money for the Dutch resistance.
– Her first Hollywood movie, Roman Holiday, earned her a salary of $12,500. By 1964, with the filming of My Fair Lady, she earned over $1 million.
– She was one of the only performers to win Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony awards – plus four Oscars.
– A prototype of the “little black dress” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, designed by Givenchy, was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2006 for almost $1 million. The proceeds were donated to a children’s charity in India.


The Hepburn Look

“My look is attainable. Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses, and the little sleeveless dresses.”

The secret to recreating the Hepburn look is the adage less is more. With the exception of her more glamorous movie roles, her personal style was simple and comfortable, and she never appeared decked out in bling. While few of us can pull off wearing a tiara, there are a few easy ways to imitate her timeless style:

  • Know what suits you. By playing up her best features, she complemented her natural elegance – something we all have – without distracting from it. Pay attention to what your mirror tells you! Go with jewelry that matches your face shape and coloring, and you’ll find your own signature style that leaves you looking put-together and feeling confident.

  • Pull out the pearls. These were a must-have in Hepburn’s wardrobe. Classy and elegant, pearls give that ultra-feminine, vintage look to any outfit. Looking for something more modern? Consider some exotic colored pearls instead.

  • Looking for some sparkle? A touch of Swarovski crystal on a pendant, brooch, or bracelet can give a bit of that movie-star glam for that special occasion, without breaking the bank.
  • Jewelry for the Little Black Dress If you’re a Hepburn fan who’s fortunate enough to swing every woman’s favorite fashion staple, the “LBD,” then you’re in luck! Pearls are a great match for this outfit, and the ultimate homage to the Hepburn style. If you have diamonds, there’s no better way to let them sparkle – the strong contrast makes a perfect fashion pair. Go for smaller earrings or a necklace that matches the shape of the dress’s neckline. A vintage pin or brooch will really set off your look.

    Once again, the key is not to go overboard; choose one or two pieces to showcase and let its classic simplicity shine!

Audrey Hepburn – Official Site

Artbeads Blog “Audrey Hepburn: A Jewelry Style Icon”

Fashion History: The Essential Little Black Dress

See also: Choosing the Best Type of Earrings and The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Necklace: How to find the perfect jewelry for you