How to Build an Ethical and Sustainable Wardrobe If Your Style Icon is Audrey Hepburn


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You’re here because you’re also influenced by Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable style, epitomised by her timeless, seasonless, unfussy yet glamorous wardrobe. Whether she was playing a character in a film or just relaxing in her gardens, her sense of style transcended time and place, and she was always immaculately put together in an effortless kind of way. Growing up as a skinny Asian girl, she was my style icon, I adored her impeccable taste and I also gravitated to her because her boyish figure mirrored my own, but she exuded grace, elegance and femininity.

Plus her wardrobe comprised of some basic “building blocks”; essential items that form the foundation of any wardrobe, a shopping philosophy that I also hold.

Photo: Pixabay.

So if the gamine beauty is your style icon and you’re trying to build an ethical wardrobe of essential items that will help you channel your inner Audrey, here are some items you will need:

1. The Little Black Dress

Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s defined her as a fashion icon and the quintessential garment that cemented her place in the fashion history books, the Little Black Dress. A wardrobe staple, this versatile number can be worn to the office, on a date, at a cocktail party, at after work drinks and every in between.

Where to shop

  • Cue – Made in Australia, this brand produces a broad selection of LBDs, from classic shift dresses (A$265), off the shoulder dresses ($360) and funnel neck dresses ($295). This brand is also Ethical Clothing Australia certified.
  • Amour Vert – Made in the USA. Classic designs, feminine silhouettes; Amour Vert’s range of LBDs is broad. Our picks are the Colombe Ribbed dress (US$128) made from eco-friendly Modal fabric, and the organic cotton Pamela Dress ($198).
  • Carla Zampatti – One of Australia’s most influential designers, Carla Zampatti’s creations are truly coveted. One dress, The Homage To Audrey Dress (A$279 om sale), features statement puff sleeves and a timeless silhouette that captures Audrey Hepburn’s style in a nutshell.
Carla Zampatti The Homage To Audrey Dress
Amour Vert Colombe Ribbed Dress
Cue Funnel Neck Dress

2. The White Shirt

Audrey Hepburn was all class, and it’s unsurprising the white shirt was a key item in her wardrobe. In several films including Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she could be spotted donning a white shirt, fitted and oversized. If you’re emulating Audrey Hepburn, choose white shirt styles made of natural fibres such as cotton or silk, uncreased and unfussy; tied at the waist, short sleeved or long sleeved but no other bells and whistles thank you.

Where to shop

  • Thought Clothing – This UK brand has made a name in producing wardrobe essentials and work attire for men and women. The brand’s range of flattering white shirts are ethically made in factories that uphold high labour standards and are made of eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton and modal. We love the Christie Organic Cotton Tie Waist White Shirt (£59.95) and Annetta Shirt (on sale £26.00).
  • Reformation – This USA-owned American-made brand is known for its sexy, stylish collections made of sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled fabrics, hemp and remnant materials. Of their shirt range, the Preston Top is our choice, a slightly oversized collared shirt made from linen (A$162) that will look good no matter the season or year.
Reformation Preston Top
Thought Clothing Christie Organic Cotton Tie Waist White Shirt

3. A Dark Turtleneck

If you’re channeling Audrey Hepburn’s character in Funny Face and are in search of a dark turtleneck to go dancing in, or just heading out for a catch-up with the girls, we’ve got the ethical and sustainable brands for you.

Where to shop

  • Amour Vert – With several turtleneck styles on offer, we’re loving the bodytight Lux Turtleneck (US$68) made from Modal and the Flannery Turtleneck ($68) style also made from beechwood tree fibres.
  • KOTN – For responsibly-made ribbed turtlenecks in thick, luxurious Egyptian cotton, you can’t go past KOTN. And it’s reasonably priced at CAD$53.
KOTN Ribbed Turtleneck
Amour Vert Lux Turtleneck

4. A Jazzy Suit

Think Parisian suit jacket and matching skirt and you’ve captured Audrey Hepburn suit style to a tee; particularly if the suit incorporates a boxed jacket and tulip style or mid-length skirt. While we can’t all get our hands on a custom-fit Parisian suit, you can shop second-hand and hunt one day that way or check out the label below.

Where to shop

  • Carla Zampatti – Australian luxury label Carla Zampatti produces a graceful, contemporary style for women, pant suits and skirt suits included. Our pick is the Sand And Sea Audrey Jacket (A$929) paired with the Sand And Sea Audrey Skirt ($499) for a suit that will wow any passerby.
Carla Zampatti Sand And Sea Audrey Jacket and Skirt

5. Capri Pants

Audrey Hepburn wore capri pants on set and off, a style that suited her tall frame. While not “in fashion” currently, there are ethical brands producing pant styles that are similar to capri pants for their tapered pant leg and ankle length.

Where to shop

  • KOTN – The Box Pleat Trouser (CAD$104) features a flattering, high cinched waist and elegant trouser cropped at the ankle. If you’re short, it may be regular length for you, but you can always get it altered if you want it cropped shorter.
  • CUE – Made in Australia the Tapered Trouser (A$245) features front waist tucks, side pockets and a tapered leg, a classic style will never go out of style.
KOTN Box Pleat Trousers
CUE Tapered Trouser

6. Classic Trench Coat

Classic Audrey Hepburn style means investing in a classic trench coat. She wore this item on film (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and off; and was often captured walking about donning her trench.

Where to shop

  • Cuyana – A conscious brand producing timeless designs including this must-have Classic Trench Coat (US$395) ethically crafted in Portugal made from premium Italian-woven fabric. Available in black and olive colours too.
Cuyana Classic Trench

7. The Stunning Dress

Think Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina when she turns heads at the Larrabees in that stunning Givenchy creation and you get the drift. Since you’re unlikely to wear the dress again and just want to turn heads for one evening, we recommend hiring gorgeous (and usually expensive when purchased outright) designer dresses from popular fashion rental sites such as Rent the Runway (USA) and Glam Corner (Australia). If you insist on investing in a stunning dress absolutely convinced that you’re going to get lots of wear out of it, check out the conscious brands below creating stunning frocks, party and evening dresses.

Where to shop

  • Mara Hoffman – A modern twist on an Audrey Hepburn 50s strapless dress, Mara Hoffman’s strapless drop-waist Augustina Dress (A$617) has a fully lined bodice and sweetheart neckline.
  • Reformation – For more variety in the sustainable dress department, check out Reformation’s line of party frocks, cocktail and wedding dresses made in Los Angeles and featuring eco-friendly materials such as recycled fabrics, organic cotton and low-impact viscose.
Mara Hoffman Augustina Dress
Reformation Milena Dress $636

8. Full Skirt

Audrey Hepburn’s acting career took off in the 50s and 60s and her style embodies these eras, particularly where cinched waists and full circle skirts were concerned.

Where to shop

  • Mara Hoffman – Made in the USA from a fabric blend of Tencel and linen, the Tulay Skirt (US$350) features an A-line ankle-length skirt with belt loops.
  • Etsy – There are many Etsy marketplace stores selling authentic vintage fashion and you’re sure to find a genuine 50s full circle skirt there.
Mara Hoffman Tulay Skirt
lapoubellevintage on Etsy

9. Ballerina Flats

Audrey Hepburn trained as a ballerina and her penchant for wearing ballerina flats was obvious; whether she was cycling, walking or gardening, her footwear of choice were practical ballerina flats.

Where to shop

  • Nisolo – Known for its handcrafted footwear made by skilled leather artisans paid fairly for their work, Nisolo’s classic Ava Ballerina Flat makes the “forever closet staple” and can be worn with jeans, dresses, skirts and pretty much anything really.
Nisolo Ava Ballerina Flats

10. Polo Shirt

Off-duty style for the fashion icon meant polo shirts teamed with capri pants. Whether gardening, cycling, shopping or just hanging out with her pets, a fitted polo shirt is a wardrobe essential.

Where to shop

  • Everlane – The brand has stepped its sustainability game up over the years and notably since a Change.org petition placed a spotlight on the lack of supply chain transparency within its business. Nevertheless, Everlane is increasingly producing garments made from eco-friendly materials such as GOTS-certified organic cotton. So while its ‘ethical’ branding is being clarified and more transparency being demanded by ethical fashion advocates around wages and factory conditions, we’re glad that at least the label has made some progress – albeit super slowly – in the right direction. For polo shirts, make sure to check out the Organic Cotton Pique Polo Shirt (A$40), it’s a staple stand out.
Everlane Organic Cotton Pique Polo Shirt

11. Dark Sunglasses

Perfected in her role as Holly Golightly, a pair of dark sunglasses is a Hollywood star’s best friend when trying to maintain anonymity.

Where to shop

  • Warby Parker – The American eyewear brand with the buy one, give one business model offers an array of consciously produced sunglasses at affordable prices start from US$95.
  • Proof Eyewear – Ethical eyewear brand Proof offers a range of stylish sunglasses in a variety of eco-friendly materials such as recycled and sustainably-sourced wood. Prices start at US$65 in the sale section.
Warby Parker 2020 Spring collection

12. Scarf

Invest in a scarf, wrap it around your head, around your neck and wear it every which way. Audrey Hepburn prefered Hermes but it you don’t have the money to invest in one or can’t find one second-hand on sites such as there are plenty of ethical and sustainable scarf brands out there.

Where to shop

  • Made Trade – US-based ethical lifestyle marketplace Made Trade stocks a range of handmade and fair-trade scarves made from eco-friendly and natural materials such as silk and cotton. The Dune Scarf (US$171) for example, is a seasonless, trendless block printed scarf handcrafted by master artisans in India from silk and cotton.
Made Trade Dune Scarf

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Cover image via Pixabay.

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