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Hubert de Givenchy’s greatest gift to women.

The Little Black Dress was nothing short of a revolution, as liberating for women as the bikini. The LBD had been around for decades, claimed — dubiously — by Coco Chanel as her creation in 1926. It was so sensible, solid and assembly-line available that Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford.” But it didn’t truly arrive...
Time: 21:40     Date: 13.03.2018
Last US News - Opinion: Hubert de Givenchy’s greatest gift to women. NY Post 24 - US News

The LBD had been around for decades, claimed — dubiously — by Coco Chanel as her creation in 1926. It was so sensible, solid and assembly-line available that Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford.”

But it didn’t truly arrive until Hubert de Givenchy designed one for Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

The story of their meeting is fashion lore: a young Audrey, fresh off her film debut in 1953’s “Roman Holiday,” requests a meeting with the young Parisian designer.

He, thinking Ms. Hepburn is the American actress Katharine, excitedly agrees. He is disappointed when in walks a sylph in cigarette pants and a T-shirt.

According to Givenchy’s obituary Tuesday in The New York Times (he died Saturday at age 91), the designer told Hepburn he was far too busy.

“I was in the middle of making my second collection, and I didn’t have too many workers then,” he said.

But they had dinner. He was won over.

“I told her, ‘I will do anything for you.’ ”

This is also movie lore: Two young newcomers in their respective fields, pushing and elevating the other, their devotion unwavering until Hepburn’s death from cancer in 1993.

Such loyalty is rare enough; in Hollywood and high fashion, it’s like spotting a unicorn in outer space over lunch.

For her second film, “Sabrina,” in which Hepburn played a servant’s daughter from Long Island who goes to Paris and returns a sophisticate, the actress insisted on Givenchy. His streamlined silhouettes, black palette, boatneck sweaters and ballet shoes were, Hepburn rightly thought, both timeless and modern.

Audrey Hepburn wasn’t just a star on the rise; she was an emerging fashion icon whose slender figure and taste for minimalism would slay the maximalism of postwar sex symbols like Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

The fashion and movie worlds were changing. What girls wanted to look like was changing. Hepburn knew it.

“Each time I’m in a film,” the Times quotes her as saying, “Givenchy dresses me.”

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert De GivenchyGetty Images

And he did, memorably: “Funny Face” and “Charade” are just two films in which Hepburn’s clothes and styling remain indelible.

But it was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that elevated one item of clothing to icon status.

Ironically, when we first see Hepburn as Holly Golightly, she’s in a very long black dress that somehow, in the collective mind, is recalled as short and sweet — accessible. Yet her literal presentation is anything but: Her hair, streaked butterscotch-blond, is piled high in an elaborate French twist. She is wearing a tiara, black satin opera gloves and oversize Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses. A chunky pearl necklace hangs down her back. She is in kitten heels (a mini-fashion revolution there, equivalent to today’s flats on the red carpet at Cannes) and carries a small black handbag, a white wrap, a pastry and to-go coffee. She stands outside Tiffany’s looking in — a clear cue to us, the audience, that despite this woman’s adornments, she isn’t rich.

But she aspires. Later in the movie, we see her in another LBD — this time knee-length and unadorned. And it’s both of these little black dresses that allow her through doors that would otherwise be closed — “little” not referring to the length of the dress, but the ease and simplicity of the dress, the utter lack of effort required to look so good.

From the first moment Hepburn appeared on-screen as Holly, the Little Black Dress became the Great Equalizer. Before that, elegance and glamour were reserved for the rich and famous; if you saw a Hollywood star in a magazine or on the red carpet, she was doubtless wearing something the average woman couldn’t afford.

But! A sleeveless little black dress, tailored properly — that, the average woman could afford. It was the height of chic yet it democratized fashion. No one can tell how much money you have — or don’t — in a good little black dress.

The italian satin “Little black dress” (left), worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening of the 1961 romantic comedy film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.AFP/Getty Images

In 2006, the very dress Hepburn wore outside Tiffany’s sold at auction for nearly $1 million. In 2010, the Oxford Dictionary of English officially added “LBD” to the lexicon. Women still shop for their own perfect little black dress.

Ironically, in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Audrey Hepburn was playing a call girl (a part originally meant for Marilyn Monroe). Yet Hepburn and Givenchy and whatever fashion sorcery they concocted made a hooker look the height of elegance.

How many young girls have moved to New York City because of that moment? How many still dream of looking like Audrey Hepburn? How much does Hepburn’s look here surpass Carrie Bradshaw’s tutu or Annie Hall’s drag?

Here’s one metric: Young women aren’t trying to look like the latter two, and haven’t for a very long time.

Here’s another: Givenchy also dressed Jackie Kennedy for JFK’s funeral. It was his simple black shift she wore in photos that went around the world and into the history books.

But no one remembers Jackie’s historic little black dress. We remember Audrey Hepburn, alone on the corner of 57th and Fifth Avenue, drinking coffee out of a paper cup and making it seem the like chicest thing in the world.

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