On a deserted New York street at daybreak a yellow cab pulls in on Fifth Avenue in front of a shop called Tiffany & Co. To the melodic tunes of violin, draped in a full-length black Givenchy gown, kitten heels and noticeable pearls, a lady steps out of the cab. Her vulnerable shoulders argue with the dark armoured sunglasses, but her perfected topknot signifies her status. High status, of course.
Holding a croissant and coffee, she glides to the shop window and, just like that, has Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
One of the most memorable opening scenes in the history of cinema, this Hollywood classic still lies fresh in our minds. And that is something of a feat given that today marks 50 years since Breakfast at Tiffany’s first lit up the silver screen.
One of the original cinematic romantic comedies, it was also a cinematic outing that changed the way women looked at fashion, accessories and, most importantly, their jewellery.
Holly Golightly became an aspiration for some women – during the 1960s and still to this day. The anxious and carefree Manhattan callgirl, or “the authentic American geisha” as Truman Capote would refer to her as, was also a ‘lopsided romantic’ at heart, and had a wardrobe of an independent stylish woman.
Since a majority couldn’t invest in a personalised wardrobe from Hubert de Givenchy, they opted for more affordable pieces. Hence, giving birth to the term, ‘luxury on a budget’.
When pearls were worn with a black dress, the aforementioned scene was referred to. If a lady used a classy cigarette holder to smoke, Holly Golighty’s quirky panache was remembered.
Personally for me, it was after the fifth time I watched the film on an international flight that I felt a little closer to Golightly / Hepburn. I was given a sleep eye cover and it was blue in colour. I couldn’t contain my excitement. It wasn’t silk, neither did it have protruding eyelashes, but it was still my lousy attempt at living the Golightly lifestyle. Investing in elbow-length black gloves was next on the bucket list, but safe to say, it failed miserably.
The point is, most every woman has at one stage of their life done their bit to get a bite-size taste of a fashion icon who believed in the power of accessories. Despite her distressed and poor living character, Breakfast at Tiffany’s Golightly experimented with hats and hair. From pigtails to a puffed-up do, every style was effortless. If there wasn’t a wide-brimmed hat to camouflage the locks, then a headscarf gently tied under the chin did the job. The presence of button earrings or a subtle necklace outshone her ensemble, but her jewellery was predominantly pearl-laden. After all, as Golightly admonished: it’s tacky to wear diamonds before you’re forty.
Whether it’s Coco Chanel we have to thank or Holly Golightly, the black dress became both a safety blanket and a staple. The confirmation of its authenticity and honesty was understood after cheap rip-offs of the original Givenchy dress flooded the market. But either way, it all pointed towards one direction, women wanted to look like Holly or Audrey – whichever suited their fancy!
More than her played character, Audrey Hepburn became a glamourised icon whose manufactured aura created a dazzling illusion for women. There was so much admiration for this woman of style and substance that she herself knew how to reach out to her fans.
My look is attainable. Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying large sunglasses and the little sleeveless dresses.
— Audrey Hepburn
Apart from the character-centric fashion, over the years, Breakfast at Tiffany’s pop culture energy has sparked a dozen of things: lyrical inspiration, household merchandise and a muse for dress-up parties.
But more than anything, it was an escalated universal status for American jewellery house Tiffany & Co. It would be ignorant to state that the film deserves an entirety of credit for the company’s popularity. But in the capitalist society we’re in, the marketing tool of attaching a famous name to a brand is certainly not an ingenious thought. There’s a very clever purpose. Holly was “crazy” about Tiffany’s, Tiffany’s was deluged with exquisite jewellery – there’s nothing that could possibly hold women back. The blue box became a dream, or perhaps, a luxurious asset for women.
With all the visual culture that surrounds us today, it’s inarguable to find the resonance of iconic images from the past have more effect on our daily lives than actuality of the present. The evidence of this is seen in the adaptation of classic Hollywood glamour on the red carpet or re-enacted in photo shoots.
The sheer quantity of glamorised images is overwhelmingly large, but finding a comfortable spot for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in today’s times wasn’t so challenging.
It’s been 50 years and women are still awed by Holly Golightly’s impeccable style and glamour.
A movie so powerful that it doesn’t require a trailer, a review or even an introduction, it’s only wise to carry on the unwaning legacy for the next 50 years.