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Givenchy's little black dress and the City of Joy

3/13/2018 3:44:58 PM
written By : Team India Se Print

Audrey Hepburn in black Givenchy dress

The French designer Hubert de Givenchy, who died aged 91 on March 10, designed a “little black dress” that sold for almost half a million pounds. He designed the sleeveless, floor-length evening gown of black Italian satin for Audrey Hepburn to wear in the 1961 romantic comedy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Givenchy later donated the dress to author Dominique Lapierre and his wife to raise money for charity. The sleeveless dress, with a tiny 24-inch waist, slit to the thigh and slightly gathered at the waist, was sold by the auction house Christie’s in 2006 for £467,200 when Lapierre said the money would be used to build schools for the poor in Kolkata. Lapierre wrote The City of Joy about slum-dwellers in Kolkata and donated half his royalties from the book to support various humanitarian projects in Kolkata.

Hepburn can be seen in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in a copy of the gown which had its lower half redesigned by the American costume designer Edith Head. The original, which showed quite a bit of the leg, was not considered suitable for the film made by Paramount and directed by Blake Edwards.

It was thought to be the world’s most expensive dress ever made for a film, said the Guardian, when it sold for more than £467,000 in 2006. It beat expectations – Christie’s had estimated it would fetch between £50,000 and £70,000. Amazed, Lapierre said at the time: "There are tears in my eyes. I am dumbfounded that a piece of cloth which belonged to such a magical actress will now enable me to buy bricks to put the most destitute children in the world into schools."

Proceeds from the sale went to the Kolkata-based charity, City of Joy Aid, reported the BBC on March 1, 2007, when it said: “The first of more than a dozen schools to be built with the cash earned from the sale of Audrey Hepburn's iconic black dress has opened in India.” The primary school opened at Bishnupur, about 30 km from Kolkata, reported the Associated Press. Lapierre, who attended the inauguration with his wife, said: “I am very happy that my efforts are fructifying.”

The dress was bought by  the fashion house Givenchy, founded by Givenchy, to “support both the City of Joy Foundation, run by Lapierre to help India's poor, and the heritage of the brand,” the Associated Press report added. You can read the story, which appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, here.

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