Audrey Hepburn’s ‘lucky dress’ to be auctioned

The Little Black Dress has long been established as a fashion classic, but on the 29thNovember, Kerry Taylor Auctions will be selling a Little White Dress with serious fashion clout: the dress that Audrey Hepburn wore to collect her only Oscar in 1954 and that she referred to as her ‘lucky dress’.

Audrey Hepburn’s ‘lucky dress’ designed by Edith Head

When Audrey was nominated for her performance as Princess Anne in Roman Holiday, she demonstrated her characteristic ‘make do and mend’ mentality by selecting the Edith Head designed lace gown that she had already worn two years earlier in the film. Auctioneer Kerry Taylor states that ‘it is an extremely important gown-for although Audrey appeared to great acclaim in many films-this was the only Oscar she ever won-and it is in this dress that she accepted it. It is also unique in the sense that it is the only time that an Oscar was collected in a gown worn in the actual film’.

Behind the delicate lace and swaying skirt of this particular gown lies quite a remarkable tale; for the dress not only represents the fashion icon’s golden start in Hollywood, but also marks the beginning of her important and enduring relationship with Hubert de Givenchy:

Following the success of Roman Holiday, Audrey embarked on the filming of her second film in 1953; Sabrina, for which Edith Head was also enlisted as costume designer. However, the young Audrey asked Hubert de Givenchy to provide her wardrobe, which he did. The film was a resounding success and won an Oscar for its costumes, which went, not to Givenchy, but to Edith Head. Givenchy was furious. Thereafter, Audrey officially appointed him as her chosen designer for future films, which of course included the legendary Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

After the drama of Sabrina-gate, Audrey found herself in a delicate situation when faced with the choice of what (or rather, whom) to wear to the Oscars when she was nominated the following year. She found a unique compromise: Audrey selected the Head designed dress which she had already worn in the final scene of Roman Holiday. In the film, the dress has a low neckline and is worn with a matching jacket, but Audrey had the design altered for the awards show, as Kerry Taylor explains: ‘The basic dress was an Edith Head creation-but the new bodice cut straight across at the front, plunging low at the back with pretty spaghetti straps was undoubtedly inspired by the gowns she had been wearing by her beloved Givenchy’.

The ‘Givenchy-fied’ lace bodice

Audrey’s ‘lucky dress’ was kept by her mother, Countess Ella van Heemstra, until she gave it to close family friend. The dress has remained with the recipient’s family ever since, and will make its third historic appearance at the Passion for Fashion sale, Kerry Taylor Auctions, in London.

Please see website for further details: www.kerrytaylorauctions.com

The final scene of Roman Holiday, which shows the dress in its original version:

The moment Audrey collects her Oscar in the altered dress (and endearingly walks the wrong way onto the stage).

Provenance courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

Photos © Kerry Taylor Auctions 2011

Lucy Bishop

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