Audrey Hepburn: style icon

The epitome of graceful simplicity, actress Audrey Hepburn has remained an inspiring fashion figure all her life. Steal her secrets with stylist Lani Inlander’s modern takes on four classic outfits.

Belgian-born British actress Audrey Hepburn, circa 1955, Rome, Italy. Norman Parkinson Ltd | Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive | Corbis

Before initiating a relationship with any of the clients I dress, I ask them to fill out a fashion questionnaire that asks, among other items, to identify their fashion icons. Audrey Hepburn, synonymous with classic style, is often the answer I get from aspiring women looking for a helping hand in their closet, regardless of whether they spend their days in the boardroom or in the home.

Hepburn’s secrets are as applicable today as when she burst onto the silver screen in the 1950s. Follow these three easy steps, and you’ll find the hallmark of her classic look emerging in your own wardrobe.

Actress Audrey Hepburn. Sunset Boulevard | Corbis
Audrey Hepburn holds hands with Gregory Peck in a scene from the film Roman Holiday, 1953. Paramount | Getty Images
Andrea Dotti (her second husband) and Audrey Hepburn after their wedding, January 18, 1969. Bettman | Corbis
Portrait of Audrey Hepburn in Paris, July 1962. Pierluigi | Mondadori Portfolio | Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn as ‘Holly Golightly’ in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, circa 1960. Archive Photos | Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn with her first husband Mel Ferrer standing on the set of Two for the Road, August 1966. Mondadori Portfolio | Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn in Paris When it Sizzles, 1964. Photo courtesy of Everett Collection
Audrey Hepburn wearing a beige wool coat and sunglasses at the airport, New York, April 1, 1968. Art Zelin | Getty Images
Belgian-born actress Audrey Hepburn circa 1975. Pictorial Parade | Archive Photos | Getty Images

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First, Audrey knew the styles and silhouettes that worked best on her. Identify what you’re trying to accomplish with your outfit, and stick to those items that accentuate your best features. Hepburn’s boat neck shape of her outfits in the 1954 smash Sabrina hid Audrey’s skinny collar bones and accentuated her good shoulders. At 5’7”, Audrey was tall for an actress of her time. Both ballet flats and kitten heels helped to minimize her height. And, as a trained dancer, ballet flats were a natural style statement for her.

Next, Hepburn invested in the best quality clothes she could. In those days, actresses owned, not borrowed their wardrobes! Well-made clothes often cost more, but by selecting the right brands, those items will hold up. Consider investing in fewer items that will need to be replaced less often, and shop for staple items on which you can build a wardrobe.

Lastly, Hepburn’s clothes were always tailored to fit her perfectly. In planning your fashion budget, make sure to save some money for the tailor. No matter the quality of the item or the brand, it’s difficult to look your best if your clothes don’t fit. Outfits tailored to skim your body at just the right place will convey a sharpness and sophistication that most women look for in trying to replicate this style type.

Once you have those steps down, look to the runway for some of the Hepburn staples that are back today. Audrey wore turtlenecks, scarves tied at the neck, color blocked sweaters and the “menswear look,” in both tailored clothing and footwear, her entire career. These items are back this year. Check out the pictures below for Audrey’s interpretation, the modern updates, and more ideas on how the classics can apply to your wardrobe.

Look 1

Left: Actress Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993) poses barefoot on a sailing boat on the set of the film Sabrina, 1954. Archive Photos | Getty Images
Madewell Alton plaid cotton-muslin shirt ($80, Net-a-Porter)
Kenneth Cole New York large circle gypsy hoop earrings ($12, Lord and Taylor)
Tory Burch slim-fit utility shorts ($150, Saks Fifth Avenue)

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Look 2

Left: Country chic: Audrey looks lovely and feminine in a simple belted white dress with sandals, August 1954. Ullstein Bild | Getty Images
Weekend Max Mara white linen Amico Dress ($290, Matchesfashion)
Hinge Mere flat slide sandal ($70, Nordstrom)
Kate Spade New York Idiom Heart of Gold bangle ($34, Bloomingdale’s)
Hinge oval buckle leather belt ($48, Nordstrom)

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Look 3

Left: The couple of British actors starring in Two for the Road, Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, walking on the beach just before sunset, accompanied by two men from the movie crew on the left, one black dressed and a second one with sunglasses and a hat, barely visible, the director Stanley Donen. France, August 1966. Mondadori Portfolio | Getty Images
Nic + Zoe Clean Lines top ($128, Zappos)
Josef Seibel Caspian Sneaker in black ($200, Nordstrom)
7 for all mankind Rise Ankle Skinny in Slim Illusion Tried and True ($159, 6PM)

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Look 4

Left: Belgian-born British actress Audrey Hepburn, circa 1955, Rome, Italy. Norman Parkinson Ltd | Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive | Corbis
Elliatt Evergreen Blush Midi Dress ($195, Lulus)
Bourdage Pearls pearl triple strand bracelet in nude ($128, Bourdage Pearls)
Blue Nile Pink Freshwater Cultured pearl stud earrings ($75, Blue Nile)
Forzieri Italian unlined leather gloves in ivory ($68, Forzieri)
Badgley Mischka Layla heels, in blush ($195, Zappos)

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Lani Inlander
Lani Inlander
At age 11, Lani was often mistaken for a salesperson as she brought clothes back and forth to the fitting room for her mother and twin sister. Today, she's a personal stylist and owner of Real Life Style, who empowers women through fashion. Featured in New York Magazine, In Style, The Washington Post, and more, Lani lives with her husband and two sons in Washington, DC.