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7 Ways to Make Audrey Hepburn Your Fashion Style Icon on a Budget


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According to Marie Claire, a 2015 survey by skincare brand Artistry by Amway found that, even after all these years, silver screen darling Audrey Hepburn is women’s most popular style icon. Others in the top 10 include Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Sophia Loren, so the competition obviously wasn’t easy. Audrey Hepburn’s style, grace, and sophistication have continued to influence women and designers alike, an inspiration for everything from commercials, to entire fashion lines dedicated to her memory.

When she was alive, Audrey Hepburn was the flawless face of Givenchy (Givenchy was responsible for a number of Audrey’s iconic costumes, including the ball gown from the Larrabee party in “Sabrina”). It was a natural pairing, since the fashion house has always been known for the clean, crisp, luxurious looks that Audrey pulled off.

However, just because Hepburn dressed herself in pricey designer clothing, it doesn’t mean that you have to. In fact, among all celebrities and stars, she might be one of the easiest to emulate. Thanks to her love of simple looks – such as striped tops, slim-cut pants, and ballet flats – Audrey Hepburn might be the budget style icon you’ve been looking for. Here’s how to incorporate her timeless looks into your own closet – all while maintaining a tight personal budget.

How to Dress Like Audrey Hepburn on the Cheap

1. Go for a Low-Maintenance Haircut

Audrey Hepburn was known for her simple pixie haircut. It was a natural fit for her delicate face, but it was also a low-maintenance cut that could be dressed up or down, depending on the event. You have to see your hairdresser frequently for trims in order to maintain it, but you can spend much less on styling products – no need for mousse, sprays, and other hair products – and reduce the amount of time you spend on your hair each day.

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If you’re thinking about cutting your hair short, confer with your stylist. A low-maintenance pixie with lots of layers makes for a classic, sophisticated, and super-cheap hairdo to maintain.

Here are several of the best no-maintenance haircuts (and celebs that embody the simple, chic look you’re going for):

  • Classic pixie cut (Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow)
  • Choppy bob (Dianna Agron, Julianne Hough)
  • Long, layered pixie (Michelle Williams, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting)
  • Shoulder-length blunt cut (Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker)

When at the salon, give your hairstylist some guidance – ideally a picture of your desired cut – and specify that you want a low-maintenance, wash-and-go style. Your hair can be cut according to your own natural shape and texture, so you’re not stuck flat-ironing and using pricey products every day.

2. Opt for Basics

If you see pictures of Audrey Hepburn out and about, chances are she was dressed simply, unless she was at an awards show. That’s because Audrey preferred tailored basics over trendy stuff. Basic items of clothing such as skinny pants, dark shirts, and simple dresses were often in her repertoire.

By going for basics, you save money on your overall wardrobe. Quality clothes might cost more at first, but they last much longer, and can see you through season after season of changing trends. Instead of rushing out to buy the latest fashion, you’ve always got the perfect foundation on which to build the rest of your wardrobe.

Consider some of these simple pieces:

  • Crisp, white, tailored button-up shirt (about $50)
  • Skinny, straight-cut pants in a neutral color such as black or gray ($50 to $75)
  • Well-cut, neutral-colored blazer ($50)
  • Trench coat ($75)
  • Cashmere sweater in any solid color ($75 to $100)
  • Pair of neutral, almond-toe pumps ($50)
  • Pencil skirt in a neutral color ($50)
  • Classic sheath dress in a neutral color ($75 to $150)

Tailoring your clothes to fit is a great way to make basic pieces look expensive – no matter how much you paid. Tailoring services, such as a simple hem, taking in the waist of a pair of pants, or altering a blazer, start at around $15 for hems and go up to $30 for more involved alterations, such as ensuring that a basic blazer fits you like a glove. Consider it an investment in your clothes and overall look.

By starting with the classics, you can add color and accessories, while always looking impeccable. These well-made basics might seem pricey, but by extending your wardrobe they save you money on future shopping trips and trends later down the road.

Dress Like Audrey Hepburn

3. Skip the Trends

No one would ever label Audrey Hepburn as trendy. In fact, her style is just as relevant now as it was in 1954. That’s because Audrey Hepburn routinely skipped out on the trends of the moment, instead continuing to wear her timeless pieces.

Sure, a trip to the mall is fun, but it can also mean spending money on pieces that might only last a season or two. For example, in mid-2014, a hot style was neons worn with neutrals. Less than a year later, that trend practically disappeared, leaving people with outdated neon pieces in their closet. Ignore the trends and instead cultivate your own personal style, no matter what the latest fashion magazine is telling you.

4. Concentrate on Accessories

Some of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic movie pieces are her accessories – for example, the crown she wore in “Roman Holiday” or the wayfarer-style shades from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Of course, those accessories were elements of costumes, but Ms. Hepburn was also known for her gloves, head scarves, and jewelry off the movie set. It was her way of elevating that classic, basic style to something a little trendier and more eye-catching.

If you simply must participate in trends, take a page from Audrey’s playbook and focus on accessories. Not only are they cheaper than, say, a trendy dress, but they can be easily changed to alter an entire look. A neutral outfit made up of a tan pencil skirt and white button-up has more personality when you wear a colorful pair of pumps and a flashy statement necklace. You can also add pattern and texture with a breezy scarf, or add shine with a pair of statement earrings.

When purchasing trendy accessories, it’s okay to bargain-hunt. Accessories get less wear and tear than clothes, and once they’re out of style, you won’t feel bad passing them onto a friend or donating them.

5. Choose a Signature Piece

When I think of Audrey Hepburn, her simple black flats are probably the first things that come to mind. She wore them with everything, from ankle-length pants to circle skirts, and somehow they always looked appropriate. Others, however, might hear “Audrey Hepburn” and think of her classic shades, or a sheath dress. The point is that she had a few signature items that went perfectly with the rest of her closet, resulting in a cohesive look that was completely her own.

There’s something to be said for choosing a signature piece or two for your wardrobe – it can take a lot of the guesswork out of getting dressed. What’s more, it’s a lot easier to ignore some of the trendier stuff in stores when you already have a look you love. Whether you always go for straight-legged pants, or you’re never seen without your perfect black blazer, take a cue from Audrey: One signature piece is worth more than 10 of the latest trend.

Don’t have your own signature piece? Try one of these universally flattering items:

  • Perfect pair of go-with-everything black pumps
  • Well-tailored blazer, which can be paired with a suit for work, and a sparkly top and heels for going out
  • Great pair of riding boots
  • Few sheath dresses, which you can dress up and down with jewelry and shoes
  • V-neck sweaters, which can be layered for a number of different looks

6. Focus on Grooming

Perfectly groomed eyebrows, manicured nails, a bold red lip – Audrey Hepburn definitely knew the power of good grooming. And sometimes, it’s more about your overall look than what you’re wearing. By focusing a lot of her style on grooming, Audrey could have worn a paper sack and still looked like the style icon we all know her to be.

Luckily, a lot of grooming can be done for free or on the cheap, and can really have an impact on your overall look, even if your wardrobe is more Target than Givenchy. Whether it’s clean, manicured, neutral nails, a great haircut, or nicely shaped eyebrows, good grooming is often more impactful than even the most expensive clothing.

Another note about grooming: When applying makeup, Audrey Hepburn was known for highlighting just one feature at a time. She either did demure eyes and bold lips, or heavy liner with neutral lips. Not only is this a great way to show off your favorite feature, but it means less makeup overall. Follow suit and choose one feature to highlight, and leave the rest of your face neutral for a timeless, always-appropriate look.

Perfectly Groomed Eyebrows

7. Good Posture Is Free

It’s likely the most recognizable of Audrey’s personal style factors: It wasn’t what she was wearing, but how she wore it. By carrying herself with grace she was always able to look stylish and poised, whether she was working in her garden or walking the red carpet for a premiere.

It’s a great reminder that sometimes style can’t be bought. The way in which you carry yourself is free, and it can make or break even the trendiest outfit, so stand up straight and feel confident. Ensure you’re doing your new, classic wardrobe justice by further emulating Audrey Hepburn – not only as a style icon, but as an excellent example of grace, confidence, and power.

Final Word

You might not have the international notoriety and legions of fans that Audrey Hepburn commands even decades after death, but using her as your style icon means that you might save money while actually elevating your look. Swapping out trends and brands for classic, well-made pieces in neutral colors doesn’t necessarily make for the most fashion-forward of styles, but it means always looking timeless. And, not having to constantly buy new clothes and follow trends means keeping more money in your bank account – not in your closet.

Who is your style icon?


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Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.