Most often, wedding dresses in film usually means a marriage is about to occur. Sometimes, the drama requires one half of the happy couple, and in this case there is no actual wedding. However, the 1957 film Funny Face goes even further: there was never meant to be a wedding in the first place!
Even so, this dress turned heads and changed trends. Let’s find out more about it…
Funny Face – the film
Hepburn’s first outing into musical films occurred in 1957 with Funny Face, a film about a photographer and a bookseller. She plays the character of Jo Stockton, an intellectual bookworm who becomes, by chance, a high-fashion model. Throughout the film she develops a love interest with Fred Astaire’s character which is particularly poignant when set against the backdrop of the most romantic city in the world – Paris. The film itself encompasses fashion, style, culture, art, and romance.
When fashion magazine Quality are looking to launch their new range of clothes – for women with both beauty and brains – they stumble upon Jo’s bookshop and barge in to start taking photographs. The magazine’s editor, Maggie Prescott, tries to get her involved in the photoshoot, but Jo refuses. She says the fashion industry is “an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie then ushers Jo out of her own shop.
However, photographer Dick Avery, played by Fred Astaire, noticed something about Jo and suggests she could get a free trip to Paris (where her favourite philosopher lives) if she joined them as a model to launch their new range. She eventually agrees and the two grow closer during their time in France taking photographs and sightseeing.
Although there are mishaps along the way, Jo begins to really enjoy modelling. But, when she is modelling a wedding dress outside a church she realises that she is lonely. Dick kissed her in New York and she feels like a fraud wearing a white dress without being with him. Eventually they do get together, and the film ends with them dancing as she wears the dress for a second time.
The Wedding Dress
The iconic dress that Jo wore in the churchyard was a white ballerina-length wedding gown. The dress featured a full skirt, a dropped waist and a tight bodice. Hepburn’s small figure was part of her identity in Hollywood and this dress was excellent at emphasising it. Layers upon layers of tulle under the skirt make it flounce and really accentuate the dress’ shape.
It is a highly playful dress, which only becomes more evident as the two characters start to dance together. However, it is also elegant and refined, much like Hepburn herself.
The bodice has a Sabrina neckline, also known as a boat or bateau neckline. This originated as a style for sailors’ clothes but came into fashion in the 1920s. Subsequently, Coco Chanel took the wide neck to runways, and Beatniks picked up the fashion in the 1950s. As Audrey’s character is meant to be sympathetic to the Beatnik mind-set, it makes sense that she wears it here.
Uniquely, the veil that she wore in the scene was tied at the nape of her neck which further emphasises her overall youthful appearance in this dress. This may have been due to the dress being constructed for a fashion magazine rather than the character’s actual wedding, thus they veered away from the tradition and opted for a fashion-forward look.
Although Audrey looks graceful and pristine, the pair was actually blighted by mud and slippery grass during the filming of this dance. Audrey remarked “Here I’ve been waiting 20 years to dance with Fred Astaire and what do I get? Mud in my eye!”
The shape of the neckline and length of the dress became so synonymous with Hepburn that it’s hard to imagine her in anything else. In fact, the neckline itself gets its other name, “Sabrina” from a character Audrey played in a 1954 film of the same name. Edith Head won an Oscar for her costume design for this film.
In fact, Edith Head won a total of eight Oscars from 35 nominations in her career. She also worked on Hepburn’s costumes for Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some may even recognise her as the visual inspiration behind The Incredibles’ Edna Mode. She also worked on the costumes for Funny Face, especially the New York-based ones. Although her team made much of the “Paris ensemble”, these were in fact designed by Hubert de Givenchy.
Hepburn and Givenchy
This classic ’50s-style gown was the creation of Paris couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who worked with Audrey on numerous occasions, and truly was the man behind the style we all know and love Audrey for.
Givenchy was well known for keeping couture alive after the Second World War, plus he and Audrey developed a unique and special relationship. The designs that he created for her solidified her cult status as a style icon herself. In addition, Funny Face set the stage for a great showcase of their collaborations.
Moreover, if the silhouette and neck of Jo’s wedding dress looked at all familiar, that is because Givenchy used the style for Hepburn over and over. He decided that the cut suited her collarbones and therefore loved dressing her in shapes that emphasised this. Perhaps most famously, this is the style of the little black dress worn by Hepburn’s Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
And, of course, we must not forget Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. Designed by Clare Waight Keller, for the Givenchy fashion house, she too embraced the bateau neckline.
Vintage dress inspiration
If you’re planning a ’50s or ’60s vintage theme for your wedding, or perhaps you desire a different a unique style of dress, then a replica or a similar style of Audrey’s breath-taking 1957 gown would be perfect! This iconic dress effectively initiated the trend for tea-length and short wedding gowns, and despite its age, this feminine, classic, and fun gown wouldn’t look out of place on the catwalk today.
As we all know, Hepburn was a huge style icon in her personal life too; take a look at her own wedding gowns here and let us know your thoughts on this wedding dress.