A Look Inside Audrey Hepburn’s Personal Wardrobe

SLIDESHOW: A tour of Audrey Hepburn’s personal effects described by her first-born son Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

Audrey Hepburn’s son, Sean Ferrer Hepburn, takes us on a tour of the star’s most beloved belongings, sharing intimate family anecdotes.

The personal collection of Audrey Hepburn, the globally renowned film and stage actress and humanitarian, is set for auction at Christie’s in London on 27 September. It will run alongside an online sale that will be open for bidding from 19 September until 3 October. The collection is an extraordinary archive chronicling the life and career of arguably the most famous screen actress of the 20th century, through the lens of the objects she collected, used and loved.

This is the first time these items, which have remained in the ownership of Audrey Hepburn’s family, have been offered for sale, and the proceeds of the sale will be returned to her heirs. Hepburn’s eldest son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, is touring with the collection to raise awareness of the sale and also the Audrey Hepburn Children Fund, of which he is chairman and founder. There were great stories, he said, behind all of the lots for sale as Hepburn was not a great hoarder. “She only kept things that had great resonance for her,” he said at a public exhibition at Hong Kong’s Landmark Mall atrium. For example, the rainbow-coloured leather ballet flats, which she famously wore and turned into an iconic fashion statement (estimate: £6–9,000). “She had always dreamed of being a ballet dancer as a child but she was too tall,” he recalled. “But she was always fond of ballet shoes.”

He pointed to a classic Burberry trench coat (estimate also £6–9,000). “Fashion worked for her, she didn’t work for fashion,” he continued. “A great designer once said a woman wears the dress, the dress doesn’t wear the woman. She joked ‘I dress more like an English gentleman than a woman’, and it is true. If you look at her through the times, her look always remained the same. It was not about excess frills or flounces, for her it was the cleanness of line. The only extravagances was a large pair of earrings, for example.”

He recalled the beginning of a great relationship between Hepburn and the famous designer Balenciaga. “He got a call from the studio saying Ms Hepburn is coming to take a look at your clothes. So he assumed they meant Katharine Hepburn. So there was a knock at the door but instead of the Grand Dame of Hollywood, there was a young girl wearing capri pants and a sort of gothic Venetian gondolier look; he must have thought who the hell is this? But, of course, they became good friends and she became the symbol of his designs,” said Hepburn Ferrer.

“She used to take everything he made,” he continued, “and she would remove one thing, ribbons, anything that wasn’t essential to the design, she’d take it off. And he said she was always right — it was about the shape and purity of the design. They really worked together through the years, they were about the yin and yang of the look.”

Hepburn Ferrer also created and manages the Audrey Hepburn Estate, the entity dedicated to the protection and licensing of his mother’s legacy-related intellectual property rights. He is also the founder of the Audrey Hepburn Children Fund, a non-profit organisation dedicated to continuing his mother’s humanitarian efforts as a UNICEF ambassador. Five years ago he was appointed honorary chair of the Audrey Hepburn Society at the US Fund for UNICEF in New York (US$200 million raised to date).

Hepburn Ferrer authored the New York Times best seller Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit, which has sold over one million copies worldwide in more than a dozen languages.

The auction has an excellent precedent to follow. In December 2006, a black satin evening gown designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the 1961 Paramount film Breakfast at Tiffany’s was sold at Christie’s South Kensington for £456,200. The dress had a pre-sale estimate of £50-70,000. At the time, the auction set a new world record for a dress made for a movie. The dress was given by Hubert de Givenchy to his friends Monsieur and Madame Dominique Lapierre to raise funds for their charity City of Joy Aid. It is cited as one of the most iconic items of clothing in the 20th century.

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