Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Summer in the city - style inspiration from Roman Holiday

I know it's a bit of a cliche to name Audrey Hepburn as a style inspiration but she does make it look so effortless and so many of her roles really demonstrate the transformative potential of clothing.

So it was a complete pleasure to stumble across this video on Youtube of Hollywood costumier and fashion legend Edith Head talking about her designs and work with Hepburn on her breakout movie Roman Holiday (which you can currently watch for free on Youtube here - get it while you can!).

Head was the most honoured costume designer in the history of the Oscars and I heartily recommend watching any film she was involved with - she knew how to pick them! And her sketches and illustrations are almost as glorious to look at as watching the actresses move around the screen in the real thing.

Costume design for Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina by Edith Head via Indie Fixx

Costume design for Bettee Davis in All About Eve by Edith Head via Indie Fixx

Costume design for Grace Kelly in Rear Window by Edith Head via Indie Fixx
She was also the inspiration for the character of Edna Mode in The Incredibles. Head had her signature look down pat from a fairly early stage in her own career - the round glasses, blunt fringe, pulled back hair and perfectly cut two-piece suits or jackets slung over crisp shirts.

Edith Head at work via Moviestarmakeover

She was also, by all accounts, a completely fascinating woman to talk to. She'd be on the list for my fantasy fashion dinner party alongside Mrs Shilling.

Rather good illustrated Edith Head quote by Indie Fixx
For solid, no nonsense advice on style, your first port of call should be Head's How to Dress for Success. (There's some great extracts on the Daily Mail website of all places though I think you should buy the book rather than visit the Mail).

It is her vision for the runaway Princess in Rome that's my style inspiration for the hot sticky summer we've been having in London.

Don't feel like you have to cut all your hair off - a quick and simple ponytail should have a similar effect. Or leave it long if the weather is cool enough to not bother you.

A full skirt with a belt at the waist and a light cotton shirt or t-shirt is hard to beat. Hepburn's shirt goes through a number of iterations in the movie: buttoned up all the way and full sleeved, sleeves rolled up and collar open with a neck scarf, and my favourite - collar popped and bare necked. She also changes shoes - from smart pumps to roman sandals.

Prim and proper early on in the movie
With the original necktie from above plus rolled sleeves

From an early screen test with popped collar and striped neck scarf

Open collar

The skirt does need to be a decent length if you, like me, enjoy cycling around the city in the summer as it helps to preserve one's modesty while still letting in a bit of a cooling breeze - a bit of cool air up your skirt on a hot day is the kind of innocently illicit pleasure that makes life worth living and trousers can never really compete on that front.

It's an almost universally flattering combination. You don't need Hepburn's teen tiny waist to pull it off, I promise - just go for a narrower belt.

If you don't feel like you're tall enough for a longer skirt a/ you're probably wrong and b/ this combo still works if you adjust the proportions so shorten the shirtsleeves for a shorter skirt. Be aware that long shirt sleeves + short full skirt can err a bit too far towards schoolgirl which is fine if you're going for a Harajuku feel, but not very Hepburn-ish.

You can dress the whole thing down with a denim jacket or up with a tailored one and soften it with a cardigan. It's really very versatile. Skirts like this, with the all important hip pockets that I think are really essential, aren't all that easy to find at the moment sadly especially at a reasonable price. Ideally, they need to be lined and made of a non-synthetic fabric - cotton is best in summer. My favourite was from a Margaret Howell sample sale and I'd buy another one if I'd ever been able to find it again.

Right now I quite like these even though most don't have the pockets:
Stripe Lucia skirt by Tara Starlet - £68

Roksanda Ilincic Tilton wool-cleb crepe skirt - £775
Asos full midi skirt in scuba - £38
50s circle skirt by Vivien of Holloway in a huge variety of colour options - £45 (would be my favourite if it had hidden pockets)
Organza insert calf skirt by Topshop - £48


  1. Great romantic style !

    "Rome, thou art a whole world, it is true, and yet without love this
    World would not be the world, Rome would cease to be Rome..."