News-Antique.com - Nov 20,2009 - Touring exhibition of highlights:
Sotheby’s New York, 21st-22nd November
Sotheby’s Paris, 1st-2nd December
Audrey Hepburn was not just a film star -she was a major style icon of the 20th Century. Simplicity and seemingly effortless elegance was her trademark. Ably aided and abetted by the young couturier Hubert de Givenchy, she became the personification of chic elegance in the 1950s and 60s. Givenchy said of her “All the responsibility for the way Audrey looked is hers. She made the selections.” Audrey was the first actress off-screen who was able to play the part of fashion models on-screen and be credible. For `Funny Face’ in 1957 and many of her other major films, Audrey had it written into her film
contracts that de Givenchy would make all the clothes she wore and also astutely had it agreed that she retain the majority of her Parisian wardrobe.
In 1951 Audrey left the Netherlands with her mother Baroness Ella van Heemstra to pursue her dream of becoming a ballerina. The hardships she suffered during the war, (constant anxiety and hunger due to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands) left her
physically weakened. This, combined with her height (5ft 7in) meant that she was rejected for prima ballerina roles. She turned to other possible careers -working in the chorus line, modelling and acting. The rest is history. Ballet’s loss was cinema and the
fashion world’s gain.
Living nearby in Mayfair, London was the Star-Busmann family – the father, (a Netherlands Ambassador) with his wife and their two daughters, one being the 15 year old Tanja. The mothers were lifelong friends as the two young women were also to
become. Audrey referred to Tanja as “Darling Chum – cause that’s what you are.” When Audrey was engaged to James Hanson (a marriage that was not to take place) she sent a telegram to Tanja asking her to be her bridesmaid, at the same time swearing her to secrecy. The Star-Busmann family avidly followed every step of Audrey’s career from walk-on parts in Ealing films to becoming a glamorous film star and fashion icon. One letter to Tanja from Audrey dated 1st November 1950 shows her interest in clothes and fashion even at that early stage “I start on ‘Young Wives Tale’ am so thrilled Tanja as it will be my first REAL part in movies…On Tuesday I am going shopping with our wardrobe mistress for my clothes, they will pay for everything, so I get a real kick out of choosing things.” Audrey’s next film was the Ealing comedy “The Lavender Hill Mob”
where she met Alec Guinness. He described her thus “She only had half a line to say, and I don’t think she said it in any particular or interesting way. But her faun-like beauty and presence were remarkable.”
In 1951, Audrey left Europe for the USA to star in the Broadway production of ‘Gigi’. She sorted through her unwanted clothes and passed on the things she no longer needed to Tanja.