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1950s beadsYou’re wondering, of course, what this photo has to do with Audrey Hepburn. Absolutely nothing—other than the fact that it was published in the mid-1950s when Audrey was all the rage. (Photo from: Decades: A Century of Fashion, by Cameron Silver)

The 26-inch strand of amber-colored glass beads shown here is on sale now in my Etsy shop. This model (doesn’t she look haughty?) is channeling Christian Dior’s post-war New Look. Nothing like Audrey—the real subject of this post.

Audrey Hepburn didn’t become a global style icon by accident. She knew exactly what she wanted. Paradoxically, women do something that Audrey wouldn’t dream of doing: we try to imitate her sense of style. It’s so…un-Audrey-like. It takes more than a sheath dress and a tiara to rock your inner Audrey. She was a person of great substance. Here’s how to do Audrey—your way.

1) Know your body’s fine points. Audrey was body conscious. She knew every flaw and asset and her clothing choices always had one of two goals: hide or maximize. So you have a few flaws. Flaws? What flaws? That was Audrey’s attitude.
2) Stand up straight. Audrey was a reluctant movie star. Her real dream was to dance—a career for which she trained extensively before being discovered. Her carriage also had something to do with her mother, a perfectionist who never allowed Audrey to slouch. With the right posture, you can look like a princess in a pair of wrinkled jeans and a T-shirt. Walking tall does more for your appearance than all the diamond (or zirconia) tiaras in the world.
3) Be a good Mom. She was somewhat shy about giving interviews, but one thing always came through about Audrey: being a mother meant everything to her. She considered it her highest calling. Whether you have children or not, sharing your wisdom with someone who is trying to find their way in the world can be part of every woman’s destiny.
4) Be kind, be wonderful, be extraordinary. “Everything you’ve ever read or heard about Audrey Hepburn doesn’t come close to how wonderful she was,” says Richard Shepherd in Sam Wasson’s book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. Shepherd, the producer of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, describes her as bright, caring, modest, gentle and kind. When you cultivate those traits, you bring Audrey’s loveliness back to life in a way that black eyeliner just can’t.
5) Eat well, but in moderation. I know you’ve heard this Audrey-Lore: She kept her weight down by having toast and tea for breakfast and splurging at lunch with… cottage cheese or yogurt and fruit. Wrong. In truth, Audrey was just like the rest of us. She loved to eat. How did she do it? Humphrey Bogart said it best: “She’s disciplined, like all those ballet dames.” In What Would Audrey Do?: Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style, by Pamela Keough, Audrey shares her dietary habits. “I eat everything, everything—but as soon as I’m satisfied, a little hatch closes and I stop.” That and a little help from her genes kept Audrey svelte. But that was her gene pool—not ours. Let’s be sane about our weight. Regular, extraordinary people are too busy doing items 1, 2, 3 and 4 to obsess about weight. Weight loss is a very contemporary preoccupation that did NOT exist in days gone by. But let’s talk about that later.

There will never be another Audrey Hepburn, but practicing these Audrey-like qualities every day is a worthy aspiration for any woman. Let’s not be content with imitating her iconic style. What made Audrey special wasn’t just her clothes—it was her concern for others. If you could leave a legacy as lasting as Audrey’s, what would it be?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.