Audrey Hepburn A-Z: W is for...

W is for...Wedding Dress!

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Audrey Hepburn was married twice, to Mel Ferrer (1954-1967) and Dr. Andrea Dotti (1969-1982). Neither of these weddings produced the wedding dress I'd like to talk about today. 

Audrey was engaged during the filming of Roman Holiday, to James Hanson. He was a British-born businessman that she met at a cocktail party in 1951, back when she was still an up-and-comer and he was making his fortune. 

By September 1951, they were engaged, with the wedding to take place the next June, but Audrey's career was already taking off. She'd been discovered in Monte Carlo by Colette, the French writer behind Gigi, and tapped to star in a Broadway production featuring the titular character; and then there was the matter of a screen test for a major Hollywood film, Roman Holiday

Audrey dispatched Italian designers the Fontana Sisters to create her wedding dress, which turned out to be a silk dress, mid-length with a boatneck neckline (very chic, very Audrey, very mid-century).

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The couple became extremely busy with their careers, but they always made time to see each other. While she was in New York, she made time to visit James, who sometimes worked out of a Toronto office, or he'd pop down to visit her. They were inseparable, and Audrey would call it "love at first sight." By the time she was in Rome to film Roman Holiday, James was making sure to visit her every weekend (sometimes spending the week with her as well). Audrey became great friends with her co-star Gregory Peck, and also hung out with his soon-to-be second wife, Veronique Passani. 

As Roman Holiday continued to film though, tensions began to rise. Audrey would be needed back in the United States by October 1, 1952, for a national tour of Gigi, and her wedding, initially scheduled for June of that year, had been postponed. 

Trying to act on her behalf, James began to interfere with her career. He'd write letters to the studio saying that Audrey wanted to leave earlier than September 30 as "she has some affairs to attend to in this country [England] before leaving," according to Donald Spoto's Enchantment (a great Audrey Hepburn biography, if I do say so!). 

When he didn't get the answer he wanted (despite multiple letters that July and August), he issued a press release from his own office stating that he and Audrey would marry on September 30. Audrey had no idea that he'd done this, and the studio contacted her to offer her her Roman Holiday wardrobe as a wedding present. 

Instead of getting married on September 30, Audrey broke the engagement, and issued her own press statement saying, "We decided it was the wrong time to get married," and that "It would be very difficult for us to lead a normal married life." And that was that. Goodbye, James Hanson. 

With no wedding at which to wear her wedding dress, Audrey instructed the Fontana Sisters to give it away. She told them, "I want my dress to be worn by another girl for her wedding, perhaps someone who couldn't ever afford a dress like mine, the most beautiful, poor Italian girl you can find."

That girl was Amabile Altobella, an Italian bride who won Audrey Hepburn's wedding dress through a radio contest, and wore it to her own farm wedding. In 2009, she sold it at a London auction and made $23,000 off the sale. In the auction booklet, she wrote: "I have had a happy marriage, so the dress brought me luck."


For the sake of showcasing more of Audrey's phenomenal style, let's take a minute to look at what she wore to both of her weddings.

Audrey and Mel married on September 25, 1954 in Burgenstock, Switzerland. 

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She's wearing Pierre Balmain with white roses in her hair. 

And here's Audrey on her wedding day, January 18, 1969, in Morges, Switzerland.

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She's wearing, of course, Givenchy couture. 


Which wedding dress is your favourite?

Come back soon for the letter X!