Who really made the black and white Sabrina gown?

Sabrina gown at Profiles in HistoryAs I’d said before, I’m really, incredibly happy to see the iconic Sabrina dress in the public eye. It hasn’t been getting quite as much attention as the Christie’s auction happening at the end of the month, but I’m sure the excitement will just build – besides, we still have about three weeks until the Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher auctions begin!

While we’re all thrilled that the Sabrina gown has been found and shown to us again, what’s even more exciting is that the auction house, Profiles in History, appear to have also settled a 60 year old debate: who really made the couture frocks Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina?

little black cocktail dressJoe Maddalena, CEO of Profiles in History, believes he’s cracked the mystery once and for all. If you’re not familiar with the Sabrina controversy – well, there was quite a bit in a few different areas, but we’re talking about the clothes – Audrey Hepburn was sent to Givenchy’s new couture house in Paris to select clothes for post-transformation Sabrina. Givenchy, in the midst of building another collection after his first wildly successful showing, advised Audrey to just pick what she wanted from the rack of samples. I had read in the past that Audrey brought back the clothes themselves, and there’s even a well-known anecdote about Paramount Studios head costumer Edith Head and her assistants carefully taking apart my favorite cocktail dress to see how Givenchy got the hem to hang just so. (The secret? Tiny weights hand-stitched into the hem.)

Going off of that previous information, it sounded like Edith had an assistant draw up sketches of already finished clothing – Edith did not draw, darling, and signed her name on the sketches of others – and simply took screen credit for all costumes, and eventually the Oscar. Not so fast, says Mr. Maddalena. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he discusses what we the public would never have seen, and therefore never known: the gown was not finished on the inside. Meaning, no lining, nothing that would define it as a true couture piece like Givenchy would have made. The gown also had a label from Paramount’s wardrobe department in it, but that could have easily been added on after the fact. But that label, paired with the raw wrong side of the dress, was enough to convince Joe that it was Paramount’s seamstresses and not Givenchy’s couture seamstresses who actually stitched together the gown Audrey wore on screen.

Audey in SabrinaAs if that wan’t enough of a mind-blower, the Hollywood Reporter article starts with the fact that this gown, along with Mae West costumes, was nearly given to a Goodwill for donations. Can you even imagine going into a Goodwill thrift shop and seeing an iconic piece of film history hanging there, with a tag asking for $40? I’m flabbergasted.

All in all, the article is a really great read and a wonderful interview of a man who is selling his dear friend’s cherished belongings. There’s a lot of heart in that piece, and a lot of really fascinating information. Go have a look!

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4 Replies to “Who really made the black and white Sabrina gown?”

  1. Sorry, me again, again. The dress you saw at Timeless Audrey was the real Givenchy dress. The same one was part of the recent exhibit in Morges and I’ve got a photo of Givenchy preparing it for the exhibition.

  2. I have two updates. Both Barry Paris’ biography of Audrey and Pamela Clarke-Keogh’s Audrey Style state that Givenchy provided sketches to Edith Head who used them as the basis for the dress used in the movie (the one that is being auctioned soon). According to Clarke-Keogh, the original dress (that the sketches were based on) was number 808 of the ’53 spring/summer collection and called ‘Inez de Castro’. The Ferragamo book has some information about the Givenchy dress we saw at the Timeless exhibit – the same one that was recently part of the Morges exhibit. It is a replica created in 1992, by the Givenchy atelier (not sure if that’s just a bad translation) for Givenchy’s retrospective at Palais Galliera in Paris and remains part of the Givenchy Archive.

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