Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s wears Oliver Goldsmith’s Manhattan sunglasses, which have become a cult piece
The Hollywood diva wears a scarf tied under her chin, removes her gloves by slipping off each finger individually or protects her hat from sudden gusts of wind.
Her charm is built on the basis of charming gestures, enhanced by a wardrobe of mirabilia that is an instrument of seduction.
Free from the yoke of fashion, Elizabeth Taylor’s purple irises, Bette Davis’ eyes that Kim Carnes celebrates in a 1981 song and Lauren Bacall’s gaze that inspires Gary Wolf’s bewitching Jessica Rabbit, remain untouched by costume designers who recognize their value as an accessory and a jewel – the Hollywood diva does not wear sunglasses.
A primary attribute of acting, the eye and its expressive capacity cannot be hidden behind a dark lens.
An actress cannot be deprived of one of her main tools, nor can a director bend to the dictates of trends or the satisfaction of a fashionable whim, putting his work at risk…
Until Audrey Hepburn arrives, or rather the Audrey/Holly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
An experiment made history at Hollywood
The limits imposed by the need to frame the eyes tickle the desire for excess and experimentation of Edith Head, the eight-time Oscar-winning costume designer who is credited with creating the style of Hollywood through the clothes of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950), Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) and Sophia Loren in the western The Devil in Pink Shorts (1959).
For Audrey Hepburn and her Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Head thinks of the ideal of the New Yorker as conceived by Truman Capote: frivolity, fake care freeness and disappointments drowned in champagne, a perpetually lit cigarette and an elegance that needs no rules to be perfect.
If the clothes are created by Givenchy and the jewels (ça va sans dire) are by Tiffany & Co., the contrasting element with an urban and modern touch is given by a pair of Manhattan by Oliver Goldsmith, an accessory epitome of the enigmatic personality of the main character, who regulates her mood by wearing them in the evening, chewing the acetate temples, wearing them on her forehead or under her nose without shame to show a surprised or curious face.
With an original design specially created by Oliver Goldsmith, this sunglasses are composed of an acetate frame with a tortoiseshell effect, round in shape and slightly elongated outwards at the top, to hint at a pop and ironic cat eye.
The lens is dark, but transparent, so as to veil Audrey’s gaze without hiding it completely.
The first appearance of sunglasses in the female wardrobe on the big screen, the Manhattans are destined to change the history of fashion and cinema.
Sunglasses became fundamental for women’s fashion
Having become part of the actress’s scenic language, the accessory is used throughout the film: it accentuates the movements and moods of the character, but above all it reveals her extreme mastery of clothing, her unprecedented and, at the time, surprising ability to wear a high fashion dress and a diamond necklace with a simple object, today definable as part of street culture.
Thanks to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, sunglasses become a fully-fledged part of women’s fashion, freeing themselves from the image of the American gentleman like Cary Grant or the impossible handsome man like James Dean to propose an irreverent and imaginative way of dressing, mixing, exploring, trying out unusual combinations to have fun and create their own inimitable aplomb.
Beloved by the stars of the 60s and adopted by Hepburn as her distinctive accessory, Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses are still presented in their original version, with the ever-present dark tortoiseshell, anthracite lenses, to which an engraved date is added on the side: 1960, the year of its creation.
To be worn with the nonchalance of the legendary Holly, the Manhattans go well with a sporty look, with jeans with sneakers and a t-shirt, with a blazer for an elegant twist, but they also lend themselves – Audrey docet – to couture outfits with long dresses, pumps and a wide-brimmed hat, catapulting us into a past world of limelight and movie stars, playing the role, in every sense, of a Hollywood diva.
Audrey Hepburn: 5 things you don’t know about Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn once said:
“I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in mine. I just do my own thing”
Well we can say, that is not quite how it went down.
Certainly Audrey Hepburn has become a film and fashion icon. And if there is a movie that more than others has helped to make her so, it is certainly Breakfast at Tiffany’s that was released the first week of June 1961, 59 years ago.
We are in New York, it is dawn: from a cab that stops on Fifth Avenue, an elegant girl gets out. It’s Holly Golightly looking at Tiffany’s windows, eating a quick breakfast before walking home.
That legendary film, which is also a great ode to the New York of the 50’s granted her the position of true style star that for all the years to come was then continuously replicated, emulated and celebrated.
“My look is attainable,” Hepburn told Barbara Walters in 1989.
“Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by slipping their hair out, buying big glasses and little sleeveless dresses.”
So in the name of her contribution to fashion and film, here are five things we may not yet know about Hollywood’s most famous Tiffany & Co. client.
Audrey Hepburn was discovered at the age of 22 on the Côte d’Azur by Colette, pseudonym of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette a very famous writer and theater actress who wrote the novel Gigi in 1944. At the time, Hepburn had a small part in the film, Nous irons at Monte-Carlo.
During production, Colette saw her in a hotel lobby and immediately chose her for the lead role in the musical adaptation of the tale on Broadway. “I had only said a few lines in my entire acting career,” Hepburn later recalled.
At first sight, Colette reportedly whispered, “Voilà, cest Gigi.”
Roman Holiday star Gregory Peck (who starred with Audrey of course) revealed that the producers had initially thought of Elizabeth Taylor in the role. But the director, William Wyler, was so impressed with Hepburn’s audition that he chose her even though she was still relatively unknown.
It was truly a legendary audition: while she was acting out a scene in the film, the cameraman was told to keep shooting even after the director said “Stop.”
Those more spontaneous Audrey Hepburn minutes earned her the part. “She was absolutely delightful,” Wyler said when he saw the test. “Acting, looks and personality.”
It was Audrey Hepburn who suggested Hubert de Givenchy to design the costumes for Sabrina. While Edith Head was to be the nominee, the film’s director, Billy Wilder claimed that she was the one who changed his mind and schedule.
The actress then said about fashion on the set of Sabrina. “Clothes are definitely a passion for me. I love them to the point that they are practically my vice.”
Not surprisingly, Paramount allowed Hepburn to use costumes as her wardrobe, a habit she maintained throughout her collaboration with Givenchy for the rest of her career for films such as Cinderella in Paris (1957), Ariadne (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s ( 1961).
“Givenchy gave me my ideal look, the right silhouette, It kept that free style that I love. What could be more beautiful than a simple sheath dress made beautifully in a precious fabric and only two earrings?”
Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of his 1958 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“Paramount sort of double-crossed and cast Audrey, it was the biggest casting mistake I have ever seen.”
Monroe turned down the role, it seems, because it didn’t benefit her image.
“Marilyn Monroe will not play a woman of the evening,”
…Said her agent Paula Strasberg.
Hepburn also had her doubts.
“I hesitated for a long time before I accepted the part, it was a complex part. It was Blake Edwards who finally persuaded me. It was a perfect choice and he was a great director who was able to emphasize my spontaneity.”
Hepburn said that the scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which she abandons her cat, named Gatto, by letting him out of the cab on the rainy streets of New York City is the most unpleasant scene she ever played in a movie.
Hepburn, it is known, loved animals dearly: she had a Yorkshire terrier, named Mr. Famous, (see her cameo in Cinderella in Paris on the train) and spent part of her first Hollywood paycheck on a diamond collar for her puppy. She also adopted a baby deer she nicknamed “Ip” (short for Pippin) and dragged along on the set of 1959’s Green Mansions.
In any case, it seems that after that famous scene with the cat, animal associations and pet shops had an unprecedented demand for orange cats.