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The Face of Definitive Chic

April 30, 1999|VALLI HERMAN-COHEN

Rare is the woman whose style can transcend generations. Rarer still is one who continues to inspire fans and fashion trends, as Audrey Hepburn does, well after her death in 1993.

In time to mark what would have been her 70th birthday on May 4 comes a new book that documents her legendary look, "Audreystyle" (HarperCollins, $40), by fashion journalist Pamela Clarke Keogh.

The timing couldn't be better. For nearly two years, fashion designers in Paris, Milan and New York have been paying homage to her classic style. Hepburn's signature ballet flats, capri pants, fitted shirts, turtlenecks, three-quarter-length sleeves, little black dresses and even her mink pullover have been hallmarks of recent collections. French designer Jean Paul Gaultier built his fall 1998 collection around her "Funny Face" look--complete with her lyrical ponytail. Her neat, upswept hair and short, gamin cuts have become the hairstyle to have in the late 1990s.

The book, which calls itself "a style biography," uses original interviews from Hollywood and fashion insiders, along with a slew of photos, to illustrate how Hepburn built a style and managed to look chic, no matter the setting. Even the makeup application for several of her famous roles is detailed on charts.

Of course, like most style icons, she had help. Her most famous collaboration was with the recently retired designer Hubert de Givenchy. As perhaps her closest associate, he continued to design clothes for her throughout her life.

Hepburn's style was no accident or coincidence. According to the author, "She followed fashion with the same intensity that some sports fans devote to baseball." Hepburn is reported to have told Givenchy, "I love clothes to where it is practically a vice."

Fittings could take hours and hours, even on her perfectly slim, 5-foot-7 frame with the 20-inch waist. While her figure was celebrated and much emulated, her thinness was a consequence of nearly starving during World War II. To help prevent other children from experiencing hunger, toward the end of her life, she devoted herself to UNICEF. Those years of charity are what many remember as Hepburn's most stylish of all.

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