Actress Audrey Hepburn defined post World War II style and fashion and became a charter member of the international jet set the emerged during the prosperous, go-go years of 1950s. But she always tempered her taste with a dash of practicality.
Her personality and fashion sense is reflected in 35 dresses, gowns, separates and other items that will be sold at a London auction on Dec 8 in conjunction with Sotheby’s.
Hepburn gave much of her clothing to her lifelong friend, Tanja Star-Busmann, before her death in 1993 at 63, and Busmann is organizing the sale.
It’s the largest auction ever of clothing that belonged to the actress, who won an Oscar for her first starring role as a runaway princess in 1953’s “Roman Holiday.”
Hepburn, born in 1929, was British but spent a good deal of her childhood growing up in the Netherlands, and experienced the Nazi occupation of Arnhem during the war.
She studied ballet and worked as a model in post-War London. She appeared in a handful of European films before a breakout role on Broadway in the 1951 play Gigi.
Her film career includes such classic roles as Eliza in “My Fair Lady” and a terrorized blind woman in “Wait Until Dark.”
Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work, and later life, she dedicated much of her time and energy to the United Nations agency UNICEF. Those same experiences always kept her fashion sense grounded, as well.
“She personified that svelte, chic, minimal, European look of the post-war period,” Kerry Taylor, the fashion auctioneer who is offering the collection told Reuters. “And she was a firm believer that less is more.”
Among the highlights is a haute couture cloque silk dress by Givenchy. Hepburn favored the designer and wore the dress to promote “Paris when it Sizzles.”
“It was a terrible film, but the clothes were marvelous,” Taylor said.
The dress is estimated to sell for $17,000 to $25,000, but could fetch far more. Hepburn’s clothes are not often available at auction. Recently offered designs sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A black Givenchy Chantilly lace cocktail dress worn by Hepburn in the glossy 1966 caper “How to Steal a Million,” could bring as much $30,000.
Half the proceeds from the sale held will be donated to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund and UNICEF, for which she worked during her final years.