Audrey Hepburn: Style Icon and Humanitarian

The Style Icon


The screen style of 50s icon Marilyn Monroe was luxurious, show-stopping, exuberant – but rather inaccessible. While dashing around on errands, going to work or meeting friends for lunch, you probably couldn’t get away with wearing one of her lavish on-screen dresses. However, you could certainly pull off wearing a black and white striped top, black slacks and ballet pumps in the style of Audrey Hepburn.

It is likely that you own something that resembles something from Hepburn’s on-screen wardrobe: a little black dress immortalised by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a white collared shirt from Roman Holiday, or simple black pants and a top from Funny Face. Hubert de Givenchy, with whom Audrey had a long-running working relationship and friendship, designed most of these iconic looks. The outfits he made for her exemplified sophistication. But also, they were simple, and easy to replicate. Her charmingly effortless looks demonstrated that you didn’t need to wear exuberant, expensive clothes in order to look stylish. If you please, you can probably fashion a Hepburn-esque look from your own wardrobe.

It was because of the chic simplicity of her style – along with her down-to-earth persona and boyish figure so far apart from the voluptuous body of the typical 50s starlet that captivated audiences of Hepburn’s era, and continues to captivate us today. Stars like Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, while still beautiful and worthy of idolization, were all curves and glamour. While Hepburn came closer to the look and demeanour of everyday women. She was relatable, casual, timeless – and a lot of that relatability derives from her clothes.

The Humanitarian


However, there was more to Hepburn than just her fashion. She had spent her childhood under the German occupation in the Netherlands during World War Two. It was thanks to UNICEF’s provision of food and medicine that prevented her and her family from starvation or other illnesses. It was because of the help they provided, as well as her love for children, that prompted her to retire from acting and become a Special Ambassador for UNICEF.

This seems to be something that is not discussed as much as Hepburn’s on screen wardrobe and many iconic films. This may be because she didn’t do it for public approval; she did it out of her desire to help those who needed it. On her trip to Ethiopia, she observed the country’s poverty-stricken conditions. She used her influence to draw awareness to the people’s suffering. Then, a year later, she visited Sudan, where she observed the distribution of vaccines and food in refugee camps. Her humanitarian work spanned from 1988 until 1992. Until she developed a rare form of abdominal cancer, which she sadly died of in 1993.

Audrey Hepburn is undoubtedly one of the most popular fashion icons of the 20th century. She had a huge impact on our culture; i t is unlikely that she and her wardrobe will ever stop being talked about. However, she dedicated the last years of her life to helping others, and that is something that should be remembered just as much as her style.

About the author

Jessica Wilkinson

Jess is a undergraduate student studying English at the University of York. She has a passion for Vintage style, Sustainable Fashion and loves to write. 


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