Sartorial Analysis: Denim on Film – Part 2 | Clothes on Film

Posted by Chris Laverty on August 14, 2009

Part two in a three part sartorial analysis of denim as symbolic recognition for character on film, this time focusing on Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road (1967).

Women in Denim:

Audrey Hepburn left behind her Givenchy comfort zone in decade-spanning dramedy Two for the Road to wear a veritable catwalk of trendy outfits by the hottest designers of the day. And amongst these Quant shifts and Courrèges sunglasses, Hepburn also wore jeans which, onscreen at least, she had seldom done before.

Denim is not a fabric traditionally associated with Audrey Hepburn, yet here she takes to the look with such effortless chic that all memories of Givenchy couture banish in the zip of a fly. Hepburn uses denim to not only appeal to a younger cinemagoing audience but also to align with her character Joanna Wallace’s optimistic naivety.

We first see Joanna wearing denim fairly early on in the film. She is supposed to be at her youngest, dressed in high waisted tapered leg jeans with matching canvas deck shoes, a tucked in red crew neck sweater and wide brown leather belt.

Quite a show is made of her entrance; Hepburn trots into the scene as if wearing Paris couture. However the ordinariness of her outfit, not to her mention make-up and hair, obviously imply Joanna’s youthful exuberance. The jeans are meant to scream ‘young’. Even though, arguably, they fail, much attention is drawn to her childish mannerisms, tiny waist and slim hips.

Denim re-invented Audrey Hepburn from chic and stylish to cheeky and tomboyish. As conversation with Albert Finney’s brutish Mark Wallace turns to love, he asserts that she must still be a virgin. In Two for the Road denim signifies wholesomeness and a spirit for adventure. This is far cry from James Dean’s turn as defiant youngster Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause twelve years earlier. Denim was not dangerous anymore; it was idealistic, clean-living even.

Hepburn always seemed to be gobbling food when dressed in her jeans. Tearing off tuffs of French bread or later slurping ice cream and sloppily feeding it to her co-star; director Stanley Donan wanted to show just how comfortable Joanna felt in her ready for anything attire.

The actress looked comfortable too. At last she was able to fool about properly, pull silly faces and even carry her own luggage. Just as many photos during her latter UNICEF years show, despite her physical insecurities, she was entirely at ease away from couture. Plus in the late sixties, on the cusp of denim entering fashion mainstream, Audrey Hepburn had a look teenagers on a budget could emulate: clean, simple, practical – and young.

Final part, ‘Denim on Film – Part 3‘, to follow soon

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