Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".
The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.
Twitter @FashionAbecedaiEmail: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com
Classy Film: Un Prince Presque Charmant
Had Un Prince Presque Charmant been an American movie, it would have starred Katherine Heigl as a young, vivacious, naive Southern girl yearning for her Prince Charming. This is the level of this French rom-com, which borrows every banality of the genre and peppers it with a good dose of French societal clichés.
I considered prefacing this blog entry with a spoiler alert but really, you can guess the entire scenario just by looking at the poster. Jean-Marc (Vincent Perez) is the overworked and misogynistic Parisian owner of an electronics company and the majority shareholder of a small factory in the South of France. For economic reasons, and without caring about the people about to lose their jobs, he decides the factory should relocate to Bulgaria.
The film was released last January, as relocations and factory closures were switching from being the hot topic on the evening news to the hot topic on the big screen. Another movie exploring potential relationships between the CEO of big companies and the employees whose lives he destroys came out three months later, Ma part du gâteau.
Right after signing the relocation contract, a strike forces Jean-Marc to undertake a three-day-long road trip from Paris to Monaco to get to his daughter’s wedding. France is paralysed by a strike that criticizes, in the vaguest ways, just about everything evil about capitalism and reminds Jean-Marc at every possible crossroad why choosing to dedicate his time to his career rather than to his daughter was a bad idea.
On the road, Jean-Marcs has a chance encounter with Marie (Vahina Giocante), a beautiful provincial girl much younger than him who dreams of meeting a prince. Rom-com twist: Marie is in the fact the daughter of the relocalated factory owner, though only the film viewer knows this from the start.
Written and produced by Luc Besson, Un Prince Presque Charmant quotes the classic tropes of the rom-com genre: the two unknowns mistaken for a couple who face sleeping in the same bed, the CEO realising that he has missed out on the best of life, the big company eating a small one, the douche who becomes a gentleman when he meets the right woman…
In the first part of the movie, Jean-Marc is shown as an abusive boss who thinks it’s ok to be rude to his female secretary Evelyn (Judith Siboni) or to the woman delivering lunch. The film opens with him making fun of Evelyn’s suggestion that she could drive because really, how could she handle a car that powerful? Jean-Marc’s early world is split between the men who run companies and the women who make their lives easier, who entertain them and who they sleep with. Although this behaviour is easy to dismiss because the premise is that this is a redemption story, I don’t believe we should. The idea that abusive, misogynistic men can be reformed is about as likely as Edward marrying Vivian.
Jean-Marc’s character turn-around is suggested by three changes of clothes in the whole film: at the beginning, he wears a classic, suave three-piece suit – alongside his car, his private plane and his threesomes, it suits his life of a CEO. As the road trip starts going south, as he encounters roadblocks and runs out of petrol, the elegance gets messier, the status symbols start being taken off one by one: the jacket, the vest, the tie. By the time Jean-Marc switches to a Renault electric car, considered “feminine”, he wears a casual double blue outfit of jeans and a shirt. Even though he finishes the film in another suit, it’s for his daughter’s wedding and it’s clear that this new attire is about finally making right by her rather than showing off power and money.
I doubt Un Prince will be released in English-speaking markets. It received average reviews from critics and spectators alike in France. Its French-ness could, as is often the case, drag in some viewers, but not enough to justify many screens. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be missing out.
On 23 September, the French tribunal de grande instance, a Civil Court, ruled that the LVMH-owned fragrance and cosmetics chain Sephora couldn’t open its Champs Elysées store after 9pm. For the past 17 years, the store had opened until midnight Monday to Thursday, and until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The case was brought to court by the unions, despite heavy criticism for it from both management and employees. Firstly because they argued 20% of their revenue was made during night opening hours as tourists walked the Avenue, and secondly because they complained it would require a reshuffle of their schedules. Public radio France Inter interviewed a female employee who explained evening shifts worked for her because it enabled her to look after her sister’s children. Fifty employees even turned up to the hearing to support Sephora’s late night openings.
Sephora management wasn’t the only ones who deplored the ruling. “The laws sometimes have to be open to the new world, and the new world is business that never stops,” Ventes-privées entrepreneur Jacques-Antoine Granjon said in a phone interview with The Business of Fashion on 8 October. “Where there is a need and where you have people who are ready to work, they should let them work.”
Granjon takes advantage of the no-Sunday work unless you are in the food industry law: his website is the third most visited in France, right behind Amazon and eBay. However, online shopping only works for people living in France, rather than for one of its first economy drivers: tourism.
France needs to allow evening and Sunday work in luxury stores because tourists, who come to the country to buy its fashion and high-end goods, don’t care about French labour laws. If they can’t shop Printemps, they’ll shop Harrods or 10 Corso Como instead.
When Zadig & Voltaire first opened on Sloane Street, as a good little French brand, it was closed on Sunday, as I discovered one day,whilst doing my Christmas shopping. I went to the King’s Road instead, where all the stores were open. Zadig & Voltaire’s opening hours anomaly didn’t last long, although many luxury Sloane Street stores, such as Chanel and Saint Laurent, still close on Sundays.
According to the weekly French management magazine Challenges, the grands magasins (department stores) generated 5 billion euros in revenue last year, mainly thanks to tourists, including Chinese customers who made up over 40 million customers in 2012. In Nice, on the Mediterranean, tourists account for 40% of local department stores turnover.
Golden Week, the Chinese national holiday during which shoppers come to Europe en masse, has just ended. Last year, during that first week of October, one million Chinese customers came to Paris, over 800,000 more than the number who came to London according to a Business of Fashion interview with Gordon Clark, the UK managing director of shopping tourism company Global. Although many come with tour operators who would take into account department store opening hours, the lack of Sunday business is surely a miss for companies relying more and more heavily on tourist spending.
I am not suggesting store management forces employees to work Sundays. It should be a choice. Labour laws provide financial incentives for people who elect to work nights or weekends, and days off are given later in the week. My summer student jobs included cleaning up the local hospital where I enjoyed working weekends or late shifts because the salary was significantly increased, and I got time off on weekdays instead.
The Sunday work debate is representative of France’s current attempts to become more competitive without giving up any of its workers hard-earned social advantages, including the 35-hour working week. Buying French fashion in France holds a certain cachet (not to mention lower taxes and therefore prices than in many other countries), which the country needs continue to champion in order for the luxury industry to survive and flourish.
How do you translate a book which counts ‘Frenchness’ as one of its key charms? Louise Rogers Lalaurie, Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce had the difficult task of co-translating Antoine Laurain’s 2012 best-seller Le Chapeau de Mitterrand (The President’s Hat), about five lives forever changed by François Mitterrand’s hat.
Gallic books, the Aitken-founded publisher that specialises in bringing French literature to English-speaking markets, picked three professionals because the tale relies on its switch from one character to the next to deploy its magic. Aitken, who did the overall editing, explains that the decision came after she noticed, “how even the best translators have difficulty make the speech of different characters sound distinctive”.
The text was split based on each translator’s personal character affinities and previous work. Boyce and Aitken for instance respectively wrote Fanny and Pierre, who they were closest to in age. Lalaurie was tasked with translating Daniel, a continuation of the work she started for Fiction France, a magazine aimed at publishing professionals abroad interested in French literature.
To guarantee consistency, the co-translators were in regular contact to ensure they always chose the right word. According to Aitken, “there were a handful of areas where we had treated the same thing differently, but surprisingly few”. For instance, Lalaurie remembers discussing the best way to translate “what an oyster does when it’s squirted with lemon juice? Squirm, wince, retract? I chose ‘retract’ to start with but ultimately, we chose ‘squirm’: much more direct!” Daniel is the novel’s hook, the first character you meet, the one who steals the hat from Mitterrand at a brasserie dinner. Getting him right was therefore key to engrossing the reader in the story.
Aside from their work with the particular characters they translated, each woman developed affinities with other figures from the book. For Lalaurie, it was Bernard because of a common interest in art. For Boyce, it was Pierre (a perfumer and the third owner of the hat) thanks to an interest for the profession developed while touring the Fragonard factory as a child. She had even gone as far as considering the career path but was put off by hearing that noses don’t drink alcohol - imagine her surprise when she read Pierre enjoyed bubbly!
Knowing that Le Chapeau had recently been published in English, I kept wondering, while reading it, how it could work for a British or American audience (Laurain has just completed a tour of the US). My worries were twofold: how can the new audience relate to the feeling of nostalgia threaded through the book when they have never lived in France and how can they understand the French-focused references?
Lalaurie acknowledged that “some British readers may be surprised by a feel-good book about personal empowerment in the Eighties” but all believe that the charm will equally operate. None of the translators lived in France until the latter part of Mitterrand’s 14-year-long presidency so in a way, they were faced with a challenge almost equal to their readers.
As for the possible cultural barriers, Aitken explains that they got around the issue, “on a few occasions slipping in an explanatory word or two yet generally we steering clear of explanations that would have interrupted the flow of the writing”. For instance, to translate ”l’heure du journal télévisé d’Yves Mourousi”, which as a French person I know to mean 1pm, Aitken specified that it was the lunchtime TV news.
I also asked Lalaurie, Aitken and Boyce what they thought a British version of The President’s Hat would be? The Prime Minister’s handbag? As Lalaurie pointed out, “Mrs. T. was unlikely to have left her handbag behind in a restaurant”. Boyce suggested a more current alternative with Boris Johnson: ”perhaps someone might steal a Boris bike and end up with mad hair, but whether it would change their lives”. My favourite option though is her alternative proposal, Winston Churchill’s cigar – it probably encapsulates a nostalgia that’s akin to Mitterrand’s hat. How exactly a cigar would move from person to person is up to the author’s imagination (I’m thinking about a cigar box with each character smoking one before losing or forgetting the box).
One wonders how many talks Lionel Shriver has spoken at and how many articles have been written about her under the (somewhat unimaginative) title “we need to talk about Lionel”?
From its topic and its Hollywood adaptation, We need to talk about Kevin has become a bibliography-defining book. Judging by a question one Soho Literature Festival attendee asked, some people don’t even know that Shriver published three books between Kevin and Big Brother, the novel inspired by her sibling’s obesity and death, and the one the author was at the Festival to talk about.
I haven’t read Big Brother yet, but that wasn’t a problem when attending the talk because most of the questions from Rosie Boycott, founder of Spare Rib and Chair of London Food board, were about Shriver’s views on obesity, rather than her creative process.
Although the idea for Big Brother came from her own brother’s death through obesity, Shriver was adamant the rest of the book was made up, because it was the only way for her to make the story new to her. For this reason, she hates it when critics claim her work to be autobiographical. In Big Brother, she went as far as writing a fictional family and a fictional town, with the fictional behaviours this implies.
To demonstrate that she didn’t feel responsibility for her brother’s condition, Shriver talked about the essay she wrote for the Financial Times that explained the autobiographical sections of her book. She then agreed, for reasons unclear, to have it republished in the Daily Mail. The newspaper re-titled it “My brother ate himself to death - and I will never get over the guilt”, a guilt that, she joked, was news to her – because she doesn’t believe there was much she could have done. For this reason, she qualifies the intervention staged by little sister Pandora Halfdanarson in Big Brother as implausible because what people eat is private so not easy to control. The person, not the family needs to decide how to solve it.
Shriver presents obesity as near-taboo, one of the elephants in the room everyone can see but nobody dares to talk about. She remarked that, when you meet up with people not seen in a while, you never tell them if they have put on weight, only if they have lost it, because one is synonymous with loosing grip whereas the other means being in control, a societal opinion we have internalised.
However, Shriver argues that it isn’t always as simple as being in control or not but that it is in thin people’s interest to assume it is because it means it can’t affect them. “We assume we have free will, just in case we do”, a theme recurrent in Shriver’s work.
Despite the health risks behind obesity, Shriver believes the larger problem is the feelings wasted and assumed, most notably unhappiness: the unhappiness obese people suffer from as well as the unhappiness in one’s life which leads them to eat themselves to obesity. “We turn to food when something else is eating at us that isn’t hunger”, she says. Shriver takes the example of so-called “comfort food” which has nothing comforting, especially once you have eaten it and feel you shouldn’t have.
Because food is a human dependency, Shriver believes calling it an addiction is problematic because it’s an addiction we all have. Big Brother goes as far as suggesting that, if Edison Appaloosa had a coke addition, invisible and unknown to most people, it would be much cooler and easier to accept than suffering from obesity because coke dependency is an invisible flaw which needs to be discovered. Obesity, on the other hand, is a very visible symptom of what could happen to anybody if they lost control over food.
Shriver’s solution isn’t to blame the food industry, because she doesn’t think outlawing companies like McDonalds to be possible and because she believes people should create their own food policies and stick with them. Her example is that it is easier not to buy Doritos in the first place than to not eat the whole packet once you get home from the supermarket. With Big Brother, Shriver aimed to comment on how society and families deal with obesity rather than on what politicians ought to do to stop it.
Oliver Hirschbiegel either directed Diana, his biopic about the last two years of the late Princess of Wales’ life and romance with Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan, too late or too early.
Too late, because the interest in Diana’s life has died down since August 1997. Of course, the British media and Vanity Fair still use her for cover material from time to time and new conspiracy theories surface every August 31, but Britain has mostly moved on to Kate, William and yes, back to the Queen.
Diana feels too early because we don’t yet have enough hindsight. As a consequence, the film feels a bit like a piece of fan-fiction, and not of the well-written kind. There is nothing in Diana its target public wouldn’t have read or imagined in the pages of the hundreds of books and articles dedicated to her life, love or charitable works.
I, of course, am the target public, which is why I went to see the film despite all the bad reviews. Seeing Charles Edwards and Douglas Hodge play former Diana staffers and authors of kiss-and-tell books (Patrick Jephson and Paul Burrell respectively) was like seeing actors play out parts of my own bookshelf. Not that I’m proud of it.
Making a movie about Diana was always going to be difficult because the material is there and everyone with something to say has talked, particularly the ones who shouldn’t have. As a consequence, Hirschbiegel doesn’t cover new grounds and his work with the existing one is too poor to be enjoyable, even as cinema marshmallow.
Stephen Frears’ exploration of Diana’s death from the point of view of the Queen in The Queen worked because it adopted an unexpected angle and played on the Britain’s fascination with their monarch. It also worked because, by 2006, the Queen had returned to her position as Brits’ favourite grandma but over the same period of time, and even more since, multiple cracks had appeared in the quickly written Diana legend. Even though Naomi Watts is technically good, considering the material she was given, she’s no Helen Mirren yet.
Diana lacks the angle The Queen dared to take. It tries to cram too much in 113 minutes: her fight with Charles and the Windsors, her love for William and Harry, her indecision as to what to do with her power, her simultaneous rejection and manipulation of the press and lastly, her affair with Khan, which, to this day, is the most untold part of her life.
Had screenwriter and playwright Stephen Jeffreys picked one of these angles to focus his screenplay on, it could have worked. Or even if he’d chosen to tell it from the point of view of Khan, hit on the head by meeting “the most famous woman in the world”. Instead what we get is poor dialogues, inserted at times with known quotes. Reenactments of published pictures, whether in Angola on a minefield, fleeing paparazzi in London or kissing Dodi on the Mediterranean, act as the real thread.
The poster tagline taunts “the legend is never the whole story”, warning in the process that the film won’t be scared of clichés. Diana tries to take us behind the public façade with the help of gross symbolism. The mirror she applies her make up on at Kensington Palace, for instance, is framed with naked light bulbs, as in dressing rooms. We get it: she put on her public face and personality before facing the world.
The foreboding is on the same level as the symbolism. It starts in the first few minutes, with Diana, Dodi, their bodyguard and their chauffeur stopping in a Ritz corridor, on their way to the Mercedes. The princess seems unsettled, as if something had told her not to go. This looks quite ridiculous in the movie, yet considering her well-documented interest in New Age and alternative philosophies it isn’t the biggest stretch.
Hirschbiegel did get a lot of details right, if only the most obvious ones: the round handwriting for instance, or an Azagury slipcover hanging in the dressing.
Costume designer Julian Day reproduced some of Diana’s best-known outfits. He explained to Pakistan’s Daily Times that he had “help from other designers, notably one who designed for Lady Diana herself. He was inspired and helped in designing a dozen outfits for the film. I had help from Versace in reproducing one of the dresses.”
Predictably, the film ends with Khan laying flowers outside Kensington Palace. It then cuts to a black screen where you read the usual blurb about what has happened since Diana’s death, about the decreasing use of anti-personal mines since her trip to Angola and the Ottawa Treaty. Hasnat Khan is still a heart surgeon (and didn’t support the movie).
This might be Hirschbiegel’s way of saying that he treated his subject the way any movie director would treat a biopic, yet it feels ironic because the princess is still in the news. Diana transcends history, she is a pop culture icon in a way few other characters who have had movies (not documentaries) dedicated to them so far, are. It’s Carrie Bradshaw, mentioning on the day her book reviews come out that the last time she was up that early was for Diana’s wedding. It’s hundreds of people you can speak to who remember exactly where they were when they learnt she’d died.
One way or another, Diana touched people. We are interested in her persona because it is relatable. There was something egotistic in people’s love for her. Mirren’s Elizabeth II showed aspects of that way of ‘touching’ people by exploring how the Queen’s world was forced to change after her daughter-in-law’s death.
Diana makes the mistake of being about Diana, not about the flaws and the unhappiness people empathised with and felt was akin to theirs. Diana is about a celluloid, one-dimensional being nobody is actually that interested about.
Here’s another angle that could have worked: one British woman’s life signposted by Diana’s. Marriage, divorce, children, depression, rebounds, hopeless love…She’s done it and so have we. Or maybe she’s had it worse than us, a revenge of fate on somebody with such a nice background. So when we’re asked to envisage Diana in a love story whose end we already know, it becomes difficult to root for her, the bad scenario the audience is asked to accept just doesn’t work.
Diana, for all her charity work, her giving birth to the future king and her attempts at influencing the monarchy, mattered little. What did matter was the unprecedented outpouring of grief that followed her death and its effect on the nation. Trying to understand this is one of the reasons why I moved to England and Diana got me no closer to an answer.
I am a morning person. Most days, I am up just before 5 am without setting any alarm. On weekends, I never get up after 7 am. As a child, I used to be up between 4:30 am and 5 am so I could do my homework. I liked it because nobody else, not even our cat, was up at that time and I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. By the time my parents and sister were rushing to the bathroom, I could read my book. Mornings were also a great time to bond with my grandfather, a lifelong early-riser. In the summer, we would jump on our bicycles to buy fresh bread at 6:30 am, when the bakery was opening.
So I rolled my eyes when Sarah Bailey, editor-in-chief of Red magazine, started the networking breakfast Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast How To Achieve More at Work and At Home, was speaking at by joking she wasn’t a morning person. Not because it was an expected opening but because I don’t believe there are morning and evening people, just people who go to bed early and people who don’t.
When I say I get up by 5 am, most people assume I sleep less than them. I don’t. I am in bed by 9 pm most nights, and a few nights a month before 8 pm. This requires some evening tricks, like a rather hefty cab bill, watching my favourite TV series first thing in the morning on iPlayer rather than live, or going to theatre matinées rather than evening shows.
Vanderkam explains it is easier to be productive in the morning because before breakfast, your willpower is intact. Whereas at night it is tempting to just check one more website or watch one more episode from a box set, in the morning, the leaving-the-house deadline limits the amount of time you can waste.
Her theory is that the early hours are perfect for three self-focused activities enabling you to develop your personal life and your career: plan, practice and pay in.
Studying CEO time logs, Vanderkam realised the hours that mattered most in terms of return on investment were spent planning. Take advantage of mornings to plan your day, your weekend, your life or your career. At the networking breakfast, Vanderkam asked the room to start a list of 100 Dreams we wanted to achieve and then see which ones could be planned or worked on in the morning. Develop this blog was one of my big ones so here I am, blogging at 5:35 am.
Practice can stem from these 100 Dreams. For instance, if you want to win a marathon, use the morning hours to go for a run. Vanderkam defines practicing as “actively trying to get better at skills”, including skills identified as necessary to move forward in your career, such as writing or negotiating. This is Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Theory applied to the hours before dawn. Vanderkam also highlights how important it is to get immediate feedback on the practice, so you can continuously improve the skill.
Paying in is the third P, meant to help you remain employable. Vanderkam suggests that before getting to work, you already start paying in your career capital account. She uses the suggestion of a female race car driver she interviewed who said it was all about “increasing exposure and broadening scope”. Among possible activities amounting to paying in, Vanderkam suggests sending thank you emails or organising meetings to build loyalty. To keep you motivated, since paying in can be a long-term and sometimes invisible investment, her idea is to keep an actual deposit list.
For all Vanderkam’s good suggestions, the world isn’t that well set-up for morning people. Most early yoga classes I have found so far in London start around 7:30 am, too late to make it to work on time. People would rather have dinner than breakfast. In the workplace, late meetings happen more often than early ones. The first person to take down their trench coat in the evening is often considered to be less committed than the last one to, even if they arrive at 7:30 am every day.
Although I love Vanderkam’s theory that mornings are the perfect time to make things happen, her book isn’t without limits. She never explains what would happen if everybody started to use their mornings. Mornings are effective because few people are up and running at this time. I can send emails without getting immediate answers and launching into a time-consuming back and forth, clearly this advantage would disappear if everyone were up.
Like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Vanderkam’s book is heavily skewed towards married mothers. She does give some suggestions for people who might be single, or single parents, but mostly it’s about professionals fitting in a very normative view of family life, with a skew towards religious people. She is however pretty balanced between employed and self-employed people and how each category can best use its time.
Indeed, don’t be tricked by the title: this isn’t a book about mornings. Instead, it is about how you have more time than you think. Mornings are only one aspect of this. Vanderkam added up all the waking hours between when you leave work on Friday night and when you return on Monday morning: in total, that’s 36 hours that are entirely yours. Longer than the legal French working week.
This blog post has of course been written over the course of several mornings. Aside from heightened productivity, there is a less acknowledgeable reason why I love mornings: it makes me feel smug. I like the fact that by the time most of my colleagues arrive at work, I will have written on my blog, posted a few links on my other Tumblrs, gotten dressed, taken a 20 minutes walk around London and studied some international law on Coursera.
The morning and evening people divide isn’t a popular management theory, at least not in the way managers build teams across right brain/left brain, Briggs Myers results or introversion/extroversion, yet I think these are also a complementary skills and personality types.
Just after publishing this blog post, I have two days when I am scheduled to start work between 5 and 6 am ahead of a fashion show. The information that I need to deliver by 8 am will actually be available halfway through the night; staying up until the early hours to do a dozen Vlook-ups across languages I don’t understand seems to me the height of misery. But in the morning? Bring it on.
Audrey Hepburn: Film and the creation of a style icon
This weekend, the Victoria & Albert Museum held an afternoon-long seminar on Audrey Hepburn’s cinematic style. Speakers gave papers on her fashion trajectory (Prof. Stella Bruzzi, Warwick University), the Cinderella motive across her movies and life (Dr. Rachel Moseley, Warwick University) and her relationship with Hubert de Givenchy (Drusilla Beyfus, Vogue on Hubert de Givenchy), mostly based on her early career. The below article is based on my amalgamated notes.
Contrary to most Hepburn movies, this is a Cinderella story in reverse, where Princess Ann (Hepburn) goes around Rome incognito, alongside smitten journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). This was her first major role, and contains few costume changes. Ann spends most of her time in a simple shirt and a long pleated skirt, accessorised with a wide belt or a red scarf. This outfit was an instant success, partly because it encapsulates Hepburn’s true spirit and beauty and partly because it was easy for fans of the film to reproduce. Hepburn’s princess clothes, worn at the beginning and at the end of the film, tell the other half of Ann’s life: in the opening credits, a heavy, bejeweled dress establishes her as a princess burdened by protocol and the emotional weight of her duty. The dress worn at the end, also regal, but more comfortable, shows how her encounter with Bradley changed her. Edith Head, the Paramount costume designer who went on to collaborate with Hepburn on multiple motion pictures, explained that the actress influenced the wardrobe throughout.
Sabrina marked the first collaboration between Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy. The actress had noticed him whilst working in Paris and was adamant her character should wear French fashion to showcase her transformation. Head created Sabrina’s outfits for the ‘before’ Paris scenes, and Givenchy the ones for after, including the unforgettable white dress Hepburn wears during the tennis court scene. The other Cinderella moment happens minutes earlier when Sabrina returns from France. The scene starts with Hepburn in a simple, sophisticated white robe, when she writes to her father, telling him how the City of Lights has changed her and warning him that she will be the most sophisticated woman at the local train station. She turns up in a black Givenchy suit and a turban. Clothes are used throughout to show Hepburn’s anxiety while navigating the class divide between her chauffeur father and the wealthy Larabee family, and illustrate how ill-at-ease she feels on either side. This film marked the first time the Sabrina neckline appeared on screen. Copied many times since, its authorship is disputed although Beyfus was adamant it was a Givenchy work. Head won the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work in this movie but Givenchy was never credited.
Funny Face followed the same Head/Givenchy split as Sabrina in terms of the before and after Jo Stockton’s transformation. Head also created the costumes for Maggie Prescott, editor of Quality magazine. Once again, Head is said to have resented her role since Jo is particularly frumpy in the early scenes of the movie. Hepburn goes on to wear Givenchy for a fashion shoot for Quality, the running commentary mocks how contrived and superficial fashion can be, although the ‘normal’ girl does go fishing in an all-white and pink designer outfit. Fashion is also used to show that transformation through clothes is not a straightforward process with Jo the model being miserable and manhandled. Even during the first big reveal of her new style, in a memorable white evening gown with a pink cape, Jo looks sad and remote from the fashion world applauding her.
Holly Golightly gave Hepburn her most iconic dress, the black Givenchy worn in the opening scene and still reproduced on everything from handbags to posters. The most complex of her characters, Holly has come to stand for sophistication while her flaws made her endearing and vulnerable. The sunglasses that accessorise her first appearance suggest her complex personality. Moseley credit’s Holly’s personal story and her desire to reinvent herself for her enduring appeal with women across the globe.
Clad in Givenchy throughout the film, Hepburn plays the girl next door but not as embodied by anybody else. Her beauty is not completely unattainable, but her clothes are.
One of Hepburn’s last movies before her married nine-year break, My Fair Lady is the film where the Cinderella motif comes full circle. It is also the one where it is at its most painful, with Eliza Doolittle submitted to daily bullying in the hands of Henry Higgins so he can win a bet against his friend. Here again, the change of clothes signifies a change of class. There is no real happy ending in this fairy tale since we are unsure what role Eliza is to play in Higgins life after the end credits roll out.