Friday, October 19, 2012

Fiction Fashion Icon: Holly Golightly

Holly Golightly first appeared in the world of fiction in 1958, but her character lived on the page in the 1940s. By the time she debuted on film, she'd aged 10 years and moved into the early sixties. But no matter where you find her, she's always one thing: incredibly stylish. 

The Little Girl in the Little Black Dress

In any era, Holly Golightly's style transcends the page. She was introduced in a novella written by Truman Capote, ostensibly based on someone he actually knew when he moved to New York as a young writer. Holly's love of style and fashion are revealed early in the book when she talks about going to Tiffany's, the famous jewelry store, and how safe she feels when surrounded by the men in their dark suits. Holly is a party girl who loves the night life, and she's usually dressed for it even at seemingly inappropriate hours of the day. The story struck a chord with readers, and Holly became a well-loved fiction heroine (or anti-heroine, depending on your point of view) quickly. But it wasn't until she was transferred to the big screen that she became a true fashion icon.

And so did Audrey Hepburn, who played Holly for the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany's. The 1961 movie cemented Audrey as a true film fashion icon, and made the little black dress the must-have garment for every single woman in America. The costumers who designed the movie did a great job of re-capturing Holly's look, as told by Truman Capote's narrator in the book.

But even Audrey thought of herself as a bit of a mis-cast in the role. She was thin and willowy like Holly, but the similarities ended there. In the book, Holly has messy blonde hair and she's rather unapologetically a high-class call girl for New York society's cafe set. Capote famously wanted Marilyn Monroe in the part, but she didn't want it and the producers didn't want her for it. In that ultra-conservative time of making movies, when the famous Code was in full effect, it was extremely important to downplay Holly Golightly's sexual nature and various escapades. Hepburn, who was the epitome of classy elegance, was strongly courted for the role and personally persuaded by the director to accept the part. 

When Holly Golightly first appeared onscreen wearing her trademark dark glasses and a long, black cocktail dress, fashion history was made. In the story, Holly is known for wearing her sunglasses and stylish, thin black dresses that are perfect for late evening hours. Whenever she's feeling down, Holly goes to gaze at the glittering, ultra-expensive pieces on display at Tiffany's. She doesn't own a whole lot of real jewelry herself, but she does hope to marry a millionaire one day so she won't ever have to worry about money. 

Holly's fashion plays a big role in the story, and it became the focal point of the film. For her role in shaping the little black dress as the must-have style garment, and for showing us how to wear dark sunglasses while window-shopping for jewelry, Holly Golightly is one of the most famous and best-loved fiction fashion icons.

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