The Coat, The Shoes, The Dress – Givenchy

The following is an imagining of the previous “lives” these objects had (Mida and Kim, 26). While none of the objects were donated by the same person, I wanted to explore two elements that I connected them with: their era (1960’s) and their designer’s association with Audrey Hepburn. I also wanted to consider the “lives” these objects may have had, and if they could be connected, possibly over different eras, through different aspects of their biography. While this is a piece of fiction, I did incorporate some aspects of Barbara Moon’s persona, as the black wool dress was donated by her. I also wanted to explore how the “Audrey look” would have been considered by women in different time periods, as it is a “look” I personally love to emulate regularly through clothes and accessories. I would like to also give special mention of Sam Wasson’s book “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.,” which is a wonderful resource on the effect “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” had on culture. This post also utilizes “The Dress Detective” (Mida, Kim) methods of dress analysis and sketching.

Objects from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection:

Givenchy fuchsia pink ribbed silk coat 2014.07.006

Givenchy black linen drop-waist dress 1997.04.026

Givenchy navy pumps: 2014.99.018 A+B

Givenchy coat, dress, and shoes from the Fashion Reserach Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #’s: 2014.07.006, 1997.04.026, 2014.99.018.

The Coat

Sketch of Givenchy coat, by Emily Mackey.

The early sixties are hinting at a revolution, a departure from the classic, conservative, and chic looks of Betty’s youth, but in that moment Betty Lambert couldn’t care a jot, for before her lay an entire box full of beautifully made Givenchy clothes. While Betty bought some practical pieces, a respectable black wool dress, and shoes that upon second look may be too tall for her comfort, the real apple of her eye is the bright pink wool coat, perfect for a night out with her husband, Bill. Bill never did understand why such clothes must be bought from Paris for such high prices when something similar could be bought at Sears. Betty has given up on trying to explain, Bill just can’t see that their simplicity and craftsmanship is what makes them timeless and elegant (Couturier, 8, 34), Betty then reminds him that these pieces are an investment, something that will “last and be re-worn by our daughter and maybe even her children.” Bill’s reply to this thinking is that their daughter is only ten and too young for such clothes, but at least he responds. Betty turns her attention back to her new coat, which promises to make her feel like Audrey in her latest picture – Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Coat by Givenchy. Photo by Emily Mackey. Coat from the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #2014.07.006.

While everyone can’t get enough of the black dress Audrey wore, Betty knows that a good evening dress can be found anywhere, by anyone (Wasson, 129) and she has a couple in her closet already. But this coat is unique, and special, and worth the price. Still, Betty couldn’t help keeping the two-page spread in Women’s Wear Daily showcasing the beautiful clothes worn in the film.

“Audrey Hepburn: A Givenchy Dream” in Women’s Wear Daily, 1961.

She first fell in love with Givenchy’s designs when Audrey Hepburn won her Oscar for Roman Holiday almost ten years ago. Betty was enamoured by the white lace bateau neck gown that Ms. Hepburn had worn to the Oscars. Betty was in Paris at the time studying Baroque-era art, and immediately went to Monsieur Givenchy’s maison and bought a lovely dress she still wears to this day. She even caught a glimpse of the unexpectedly tall yet graceful couturier once (Wasson, 130). Betty has been a faithful member of Givenchy’s clientele ever since, buying pieces whenever she accompanies Bill on his business trips to Paris. Paris has a special place in Betty’s heart as a place where she was independent, and perhaps that’s why she loves Audrey’s films so much – they’re often set there, with Audrey as the sprightly independent protagonist. Betty always finds herself tearing up in the scene of Sabrina where Sabrina is writing a letter while in her Paris apartment, with La Vie En Rose playing quietly in the background, but she’s unsure why.

When a trip from Paris is far off, a bottle of L’Interdit, the fruity and floral perfume that was made specifically for Audrey by Givenchy, gives Betty the feeling that she’s once again a young woman studying art in Paris. It’s not that Betty doesn’t love the life her husband provides for her, but she can admit to feeling a bit bored with her days now that her daughter is old enough to go to school, and it leaves Betty wishing she could have a place to go each day and feel useful again.

l’Interdit advertisement in Vogue, 1970.

The Shoes

Sketch of Givenchy shoes, by Emily Mackey.

Photo by Emily Mackey. Shoes from the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #2014.99.018 A+B.

Ann unpacks the last of her things into the room she has just rented. It’s just a small basement apartment, but it has its own entrance, a kind landlady, and affordable rent. The rent is especially important to Ann because it must be covered by her salary as a secretary in a downtown office building. It’s the 1970’s, and while Ann may not dress like a hippie, she certainly sees the value in their principles, especially women’s rights. Ann bore witness to the dissolution of her parent’s marriage, one where her father ruled over her mother by using his money as leverage every time. Ann didn’t want to have a marriage like that – one where the wife must ask for her husband’s money just to buy a new handkerchief, needing to justify her wants and needs only to be met with complaints over every penny and choice. Ann will pay her own way and buy her own things. Ann took as little as possible from her childhood home to prove that she could be self-sustaining, but she couldn’t leave her mother’s pair of Givenchy shoes that had barely been worn. The shoes remind Ann of an outfit Audrey Hepburn wears in How to Steal a Million, in which Audrey plays a woman with her own job that she studied for, where she was treated as an equal by the male characters (von Dassanowsky, 112) and of course, a beautiful wardrobe that has been inspiring Ann in her wardrobe-building for her new job.

Detail of blood stain on inner right heel of shoes. Photo by Emily Mackey. Shoes from the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #2014.99.018 A+B.

Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole on the set of How to Steal a Million, 1966. http://footwearnews.com/2017/fashion/womens/kitten-heels-trends-audrey-hepburn-princess-diana-451649/.

One outfit in particular has been a goal for Ann, she calls it the “navy suit,” as Audrey wears a beautiful pair of navy shoes, stockings, wool coat and skirt, and a scarf. Ann is sure that her old school uniform skirt will work perfectly as it’s not too long (Vogue vol. 155, 125), as will the scarf she made in Home Economics. Ann had just purchased a navy wool coat from the consignment shop for $5, and stockings for $0.75. Feeling excited about her new outfit, Ann decides to try on her version of Audrey’s “navy suit.” Putting these pieces together, Ann felt transformed into a confident, chic, yet minimalist 1970’s Audrey (von Dassanowsky, 107), for only $5.75 (Moseley, 72).

Ann ignores the fact that the heels are taller than what Audrey wore, Ann is much shorter than Audrey anyways. Ann also ignores the digging in she feels on the inside right heel, and she’s sure she’ll break them in without injury. Ann consoles herself with the thought that she could always sell the shoes if they really are uncomfortable, she doubts her mother will notice they’re gone anyways and it’d be easy money, a pair of Givenchy shoes would cover a month’s rent surely (Stallybrass, 183).

The Dress

Dress by Givenchy. Photo by Emily Mackey. Dress from Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #1997.04.026.

Dress by Givenchy. Photo by Emily Mackey. Dress from Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #1997.04.026.

Dress by Givenchy. Photo by Emily Mackey. Dress from Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #1997.04.026.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole sits down on her childhood bed while putting on her black stockings. She can’t escape the heavy melancholy she feels over losing her grandmother. Her grandmother’s health had been failing for years, and in the end, she knew her grandmother was ready to pass on.

Sketch of Givenchy dress, by Emily Mackey.

Detail hidden clasps and zippers on dress by Givenchy. Dress from Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Accession #: 2014.99.018 A+B.

Nicole stands to put on her dress for the funeral – her comfort on this day, for her grandmother had given it to her a month before she passed (Bride, 450). It’s a Givenchy design, which comes as no surprise since he was her favourite designer, and still in perfect condition despite being 30 years old. All the women in Nicole’s family loved to watch Audrey Hepburn films, and her grandmother was fortunate enough to afford pieces from the golden years of Audrey’s career. At that moment Nicole’s mother comes in to check on her and gives a chuckle when she sees the dress Nicole has picked out.

“The Audrey Dress,” in Women’s Wear Daily, 1993.

Nicole soon finds out that her grandmother had bought that dress, and when showing it to her husband described it as a sensible dress one could wear to work, a comment her husband mocked because she didn’t even have a job. The next day she went out to the local art gallery and got one and told her husband she had had enough of his begrudging. While it wasn’t until a few years later that they got a divorce, it was the start of her grandmother recapturing her independence. Nicole was elated to hear such a wonderfully “modern” story of her grandmother and felt connected to her once again through the dress (Bride, 450).

Audrey Hepburn in a promotional still for Sabrina, 1954. https://www.aol.com/view/15-most-influential-style-icons-all-time/#slide=35340#fullscreen.

Nicole slipped on the dress, after fiddling with the intricate clasp system, and inspected her image in the mirror, the v-neck shaped back of the dress reminded her of the all-black outfit Audrey wore in Sabrina. Despite the modest front of the dress, Nicole is surprised by the open back and marvels at Givenchy’s ability to incorporate such a visual trick in his clothes (Wasson, 130). Nicole feels comforted by the heavy wool dress and knows her grandmother would have been delighted to see her in it. Her grandmother had given Nicole the gift of being able to tell how well a piece of clothing is made, to be able to recognize and admire craftsmanship (Couturier, 44), although she’s unsure whether she’ll be able to match her grandmother’s keen eye for detail and subtleties (Couturier, 43).

With one last inspection in the mirror, Nicole is reminded of how what’s old is new again (Moseley, 72), and that the dress her grandmother Betty bought in the 1960’s looks like it could be in the latest issue of Vogue or Women’s Wear Daily. More importantly, knowing what this dress signified for her grandmother’s independence, Nicole thinks she’ll start wearing it to the office.

“The Little Black Dress” in Vogue, 1991.

“The Little Black Dress” in Vogue, 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion question: Do we hold on to and value clothes for their sound construction, or for their sentimentality?

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Works Consulted

Bethan Bide (2017) “Signs of Wear: Encountering Memory in the Worn Materiality of a Museum Fashion Collection,” Fashion Theory, 21:4, 449-476.

Couturier, Myriam. “Professional Glamour And Feminine Mystique: Barbara Moon’s Style In Words And Wardrobe.” Ryerson University, 2015. Ryerson University Library and Archives Digital Repository, digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A5541.

Dassanowsky, Robert Von. “A Caper of One’s Own: Fantasy Female Liberation in 1960s Crime Comedy Film.” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 35, no. 3, 2007, pp. 107–118., doi:10.3200/jpft.35.3.107-118.

Fashion: Doing it their Way—Only: The Nifty Dressers Think A Lot and Go Ahead. (1970, Mar 01). Vogue, 155, 125. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/904336520?accountid=13631.

Mida, Ingrid, and Alexandra Kim. The Dress Detective: A Practical Guide to Object-Based Research in Fashion. Bloomsbury, 2015.

Moseley, Rachel. “Trousers and Tiaras: Audrey Hepburn, a Woman’s Star.” Feminist Review, no. 71, 2002, pp. 37–51.JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1396020.

Peter Stallybrass, “Marx’s Coat” in P. Spyer (ed.) Border Fetishisms: Material Objects in Unstable Spaces, NY: Routledge, 1998.

“Funny Face (1957) – “On How to Be Lovely” Song – Audrey Hepburn (8 of 10)” EverythingAudrey.com. Youtube, 20 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2018.

“Sabrina – The letter from Paris” SimplyPerfectAudrey. Youtube, 29 Sep. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2018.

“Audrey Hepburn: A Givenchy Dream.” (1961, Jun 23). Women’s Wear Daily, 102, 4-5. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1540384299?accountid=13631.

“Advertisement: L’interdit Givenchy.” (1970, Dec 01). Vogue, 156, 75. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/897871993?accountid=13631.

Kazanjian, D. (1991, Jul 01). “Vogue’s view: The little black dress.” Vogue, 181, 52-52, 54, 56, 65. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/879282889?accountid=13631.

“The Audrey Dress.” (1993, Jan 28).Women’s Wear Daily, 164, 1. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1445648364?accountid=13631.

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