Movie Costumes – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The iconic movie costumes of the 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s film worn by Audrey Hepburn as the character Holly Golightly have been an inspiration for decades making the little black dress a requirement for any fashionable women to add to her wardrobe.  In fact any of the dresses from the film would be lovely for a wedding dress (in white of course!) and also for a rehearsal or bridal shower dress.  But before discussing the movie costumes, here is some information about the film.

The Breakfast at Tiffany film is based on a 1958 novella written by Truman Capote, he had originally wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the main character and was unhappy when Audrey Hepburn was cast in the role.  Paramount Pictures acquired the movie rights and the romantic comedy was directed by Blake Edwards and was released theatrically on October 5, 1961.  The film was an immediate critical and commercial success and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song “Moon River” by Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer. 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a young woman, Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn), living in New York City who meets a young man, Paul Varjak (played by George Peppard), when he moves into her apartment building. She is working as an expensive escort who is searching for a rich, older man to marry and he is an aspiring writer who is involved with an older wealthy woman.  The movie also included Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam and Mickey Rooney in supporting roles. 

The iconic opening scene of the movie was filmed on location in New York City at the flagship store of Tiffany & Co located on Fifth Avenue.  Our first glimpse of Hepburn as Holly shows her emerging from a taxi still dressed in her evening clothes from the night before.  As she enjoys her breakfast of take away coffee and a pastry she stands in front of the large Tiffany’s store windows looking at the beautiful jewelry displays, hence the name of the movie!

Now, let’s discuss the costumes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s …

The Givenchy black evening gown

In that first scene of the movie, Audrey Hepburn’s character wears a timeless black Italian satin sheath evening gown by French designer Hubert de Givenchy; he was a close personal friend that she had collaborated with on previous movie costumes.  Although the gown was very simplistic in design, the interesting back features an unusual cut-out décolleté which is accented by a fabulous multi-strand pearl necklace with a large rhinestone broach attached in the front (more on the necklace later).  To complete the fashion ensemble, Hepburn’s long dark hair is styled in an elegant high chignon with a rhinestone tiara and she wears a pair of black satin elbow length gloves and “Manhattan” tortoiseshell sunglasses by designer Oliver Goldsmith (this classic style of sunglasses is still available to purchase over sixty years later!)     

The pearl necklace worn by Hepburn in the opening scene was made by Roger Scemama, a French jewelry designer who frequently collaborated with the haute-couture design houses including Givenchy.  However, Hepburn wore a different necklace for the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie publicity photographs.  The Ribbon Rosette necklace designed by Jean Schlumberger, as shown in the photos below, features the famous Tiffany Diamond which was acquired by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1878 for $18,000.  The 128.54 carat diamond is cut into an 82 facet cushion-shape and measures an inch wide by seven-eighths of an inch from top to bottom. 

MOVIE TRIVIA:  Tiffany’s specially opened on Sunday to film the scene in which Holly takes Paul to visit the famous jewelry store.  As they walk through the store looking at the jewelry cases they stop to look at the Ribbon Rosette necklace with the Tiffany Yellow Diamond and, to paraphrase Holly, she says the necklace is lovely but she is too young to wear diamonds!

The Givenchy “little black dress”

Hepburn wears another Givenchy dress during the film; the black sheath sleeveless dress is made of cloque silk that flares out at the knees.  In fact the dress is worn for several different scenes in the film.  FASHION NOTE:  This is a perfect example how the versatile little black dress can be used in multiple ways for either daytime or evening wear simply by changing the accessories and this is why it has become a staple for any fashionable women’s wardrobe. 

In the first look Hepburn’s character is wearing the black dress during the scene on the first day she meets Peppard’s character and again when they go to Sing Sing Prison to meet with mobster Sally Tomato.  Both times she wears the dress with a large brimmed black hat known as the Chapeu du Matin with an equally large scarf attached, as shown below in a screenshot from the film and in a publicity photo.

In the second look Hepburn is wearing the black dress during the party scene with a large multi-strand necklace, as shown in the photos below.  The necklace is made of glass beads, pearls and black enamel chains was most likely created by the costume design department at Paramount under the supervision of Edith Head.

In the third look Hepburn wears the dress during the scene in which she sees her ex-husband and she is wearing it this time with an usual black pill box hat trimmed with white feathers, as shown below in a publicity photo.

The Givenchy pink dress

The final dress we will discuss is the Givenchy pink dress which Hepburn is wearing when her character is returning home from a night on the town and she receives some very devastating news.  The fabric of the bright pink dress is covered with fan-shaped rhinestones and a wide pink ribbon belt is tied at the waist, she is carrying the matching pink collarless coat with three-quarter sleeves and completes the look with a pink rhinestone tiara worn in her upswept hair, as shown in the photo below.

So, in conclusion, any of the costumes from the Breakfast at Tiffany’s film could be a great inspiration for a wedding dress (in white of course!) and also for a rehearsal or bridal shower dress. Shown below are two examples of “vintage” sewing patterns that could be used to create a custom Breakfast at Tiffany’s style .

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  1. Pingback: Edith Head – An American Movie Costume Designer | An Elegant Bride

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