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Two For the Road: Audrey Hepburn’s outfits – Part 1

As the 1960s dawned, Audrey Hepburn entered her thirtieth year. Following the success of such films as Funny Face (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) she was a huge star, and thanks to her enduring relationship with couturier Hubert de Givenchy (she was his muse) a style icon to boot.

Yet as the decade grooved to immortality with ‘youthquake’ spreading across the globe like wild fire, Audrey suddenly found herself part of the old guard. Teenagers were wearing shorter and shorter minis in myriad colours, and while Audrey always remained chic in her LBD or Givenchy sack, she was not really appealing to a young audience anymore. She wasn’t hip.

Taking the part of an upwardly mobile housewife in Stanley Donan’s dark comedy romance Two for the Road (1967) was at least partly influenced by her desire to reach a more youthful audience.

The role demanded Audrey could not solely rely on her Givenchy safety net anymore so a selection of ‘off the peg’ items were procured from leading couture designers of the day. Names such as Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, André Courrèges and Tuffin and Foale all contributed to her wardrobe.

The movie features some striking, beautiful and outrageous outfits and accessories. I have decided to sit on the fence and not choose a favourite. Here instead, in no particular order, is my pick of the most memorable:

Black PVC Trouser Suit

Motorcycle jacket with single button cuffs, matching tapered leg centre crease trousers, both in black PVC. Black and pink silk butcher’s stripe shirt with button down collar. Black leather boots with low heel.

Audrey with attitude. Polyvinyl (PVC) was beloved by Mary Quant for its straightforward cut and colour versatility and later by Vivienne Westwood for its allusion to fetishism. Paco Rabanne was also a fan, adapting a space vibe from André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin in 1966 then peaking with his own outrageous designs for Jane Fonda’s camp fest Barbarella in 1968.

This pants suit is a liberating look for Audrey Hepburn, possibly the most arresting of all the outfits she wears in the film. Not sure of the actual designer responsible; might have even been Tuffin and Foale with their fondness for funky trouser suits. Though if pushed this writer would opt for Paco Rabanne or The Avengers (TV) costumer John Bates.

A tough, ballsy outfit that begs to be walked in; the sportier button-down collar of the shirt combined with subtle pink hues soften its innate masculinity. Some people argued this look ‘just wasn’t Audrey’, but maybe it just wasn’t what they expected her to be.

Striped Jersey Dress

Jersey mini-dress with thick red and yellow stripes. Contrast white cuffs and pointed collar buttoning from the chest, three-quarter length sleeves. White leather shoes and handbag to match. Yellow brim visor sunglasses with amber lenses.

This is quite a bizarre ensemble. The dress is so unstructured on Audrey’s tiny frame it can make her look like a bag of bones. The stand offish colours anticipate the mood of her character, like a warning in the animal kingdom to stay away.

Evidently influenced by a rugby shirt in terms of print, sleeves and collar design, this also bears the hallmark bold colours of John Bates. For a more modern update, see Ralph Lauren’s blue and yellow rugby dress from fall 2008. The rather silly visor sunglasses are pure cosmos Courrèges.

Clearly not an absolute winner outfit then, but functions well within the story context and to this day remains impossible to ignore.

Trench Coat and Turtleneck Sweater

Beige double breasted trench coat, knee length, with notched lapels and epaulettes. Worn with white lambswool turtleneck sweater and black wide heel shoes with buckle.

Receiving a fashion resurgence after WW2 and again in retro-inspired early 1970s, the classic Thomas Burberry trench coat is Two for the Road’s first sign of a more traditional Audrey. The turtleneck (or rollneck) was a massive sixties look however and one that, together with a high buttoned coat, transcends fads decade after decade.

This is functional wear, convincingly demonstrated as Audrey push-starts a reluctant car while Albert Finney lazes vocally in the driver’s seat.

The trick to making a simple trench coat work is to not show any dress, skirt or (God forbid) trousers underneath the hem. Thus making what was essentially gabardine wet weather gear for officers during the Great War, very sexy indeed.

© 2009 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.