There are moments in cinema that embody a generation. There are moments in cinema that help define a movement. And there are moments in cinema that become iconic. Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, walking past Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue, drinking a coffee, eating a pastry, and donning what is considered the most fabulous little black dress of all time is one of these iconic moments. It's a scene that, fifty years on, still feels relevant.
I recently had the opportunity to re-watch Breakfast at Tiffany's
on the big screen. I was excited, to say the least, to see both the movie and the style icon, as I had never before. But I noticed something that I heretofore had not, namely, Holly Golightly's paucity of a wardrobe. She has two black dresses-- one long and one short-- a pencil skirt, a sweater, a pair of black pants, a black shirt, a trench coat, an orange winter coat, a man's tuxedo shirt, a dressing robe, and a pair of alligator shoes. Add a couple of hats, a killer pair of wayfarers, a collection of costume jewelry, a pair of gloves, and a cigarette holder, and that's it. She wears her hair in iterations of the same up-do: a bit of a poof in the middle and either rolled up in back or pulled into ponytails or pigtails.
Holly is considered one of the most stylish characters on film. She's a fashion touchstone for women in their teens trying desperately to look twenty, and for women in their twenties trying desperately to get their lives together. Holly remains a large part of Audrey Hepburn's lasting legacy as glamor incarnate. And what's so spectacular about this is that it's accomplished within two dresses. It doesn't hurt that those two dresses were designed by Hubert de Givenchy himself, but her designer duds do not a never-ending wardrobe make. She re-wears both of those dresses throughout the film, a move which I have rarely seen repeated in any romance or romantic comedy film to date.
In times of recession, people say to do more with less. Holly Golightly was styled to do everything with next to nothing. Holly isn't a woman I aim to emulate in most ways, but in one I will always be envious: her possession of a wardrobe, that elusive collection of clothes that works together so well that each piece seems fresh, no matter how many times you've seen it on it's wearer.
We've been trained to buy the next in season item-- boyfriend jeans in, skinny jeans out; harem pants out, bell bottoms back in-- like an ever changing merry-go-round. But what's so spectacular about Holly Golightly is how current and fresh she looks, fifty years later, with a wardrobe that actually fits in a New York City apartment closet. She's got no furniture and she stores her phone in a suitcase, but she manages to look classic without seeming basic and she does it all with one handbag. If there's any lesson to be gleaned here, it's this: you don't need the never-ending wardrobe of an heiress, but you do need to learn how to work with what you've got.