Audrey Hepburn abandoned her Givenchy comfort zone for decade-spanning dramedy Two for the Road (1967) to wear a catwalk of trendy outfits by the hottest designers of the day. And amongst those Mary Quant shifts and Courrèges sunglasses, Hepburn also wore jeans which, onscreen at least, she had seldom done before.
Denim is not a fabric traditionally associated with Audrey Hepburn, yet here she takes to the look with such confidence that all memories of Givenchy couture banish in the zip of a fly. Hepburn uses denim to not only appeal to a younger cinema-going audience, but also to align with her character Joanna Wallace’s optimistic naivety.
We see Joanna wearing denim early in the film. She is supposed to be at her youngest, dressed in high-waisted tapered leg jeans with matching canvas deck shoes, a tucked in red crew neck sweater and wide brown leather belt.
Quite a show is made of her entrance; Hepburn trots into the scene as if wearing Paris couture. However the ordinariness of her outfit, not to mention her make-up and hair, obviously imply Joanna’s youthful exuberance; these jeans are meant to scream ‘young’. Even though, arguably, they fail, much attention is drawn to her childish mannerisms, tiny waist and slim hips.
Denim re-invented Audrey Hepburn from stylish and chic to cheeky and tomboyish. As conversation with Albert Finney’s brutish Mark Wallace turns to love, he asserts that she must still be a virgin. In Two for the Road denim signifies wholesomeness and a spirit for adventure. This is far cry from James Dean’s turn as defiant youngster Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause twelve years earlier. Denim was not dangerous anymore; it was idealistic, clean-living even.
Hepburn is often gobbling food while dressed in her jeans. Tearing off tuffs of French bread or later slurping ice cream and sloppily feeding it to her co-star; director Stanley Donan wanted to show just how comfortable Joanna felt in her ready for anything attire.
The actress looked comfortable too. At last she was able to fool about, pull silly faces and even carry her own luggage. Just as many photos during her latter UNICEF years show, despite her physical insecurities, she was entirely at ease away from couture. Plus in the late sixties on the cusp of denim entering fashion mainstream, Audrey Hepburn had a look that teenagers on a budget could emulate: clean, simple, practical – and young.
© 2010 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.