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‘Little black dress’ designer passes on, 91

Paris—Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer famous for the “little black dress” and styling Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, has died aged 91, his partner said Monday.

Givenchy set the template for ladylike chic in the 1950s and 1960s, dressing everyone from Princess Grace of Monaco to Jane Fonda.

His longtime partner, the former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, announced his death through the Givenchy fashion house, saying he had died in his sleep on Saturday.a

“It is with huge sadness that we inform you that Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has died,” it said in a statement to AFP.

With his perfect manners and old-school charm, the tall and handsome count was the very acme of French elegance and refinement.

But it was his 40-year friendship with his muse Hepburn, whom he met while she was making Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning comedy “Sabrina” in 1953, that helped make him a fashion legend.

The narrow-collared suits and slim woollen dresses Givenchy designed for the gamine actress in “Funny Face” and “How to Steal a Million” made both of them style icons.

The black sheath dress Givenchy created for the opening scenes of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was perhaps the most famous “little black dress” of all time—even if fellow Coco Chanel is credited with inventing the garment.

“His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality,” Hepburn once said of him.

“To dress a woman is to make her beautiful,” Givenchy once said. “In haute couture, we are cosmetic surgeons, erasing imperfections and refining the silhouette... for isn’t a couturier a magician of sorts, who creates illusion and perhaps beauty itself?” 

Givenchy was one of the first big designers to use black models, and in 1986 used only black models for one collection.

In the 1960s US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy adopted the Givenchy look for her White House years, sticking to a uniform of shift dresses, pillbox hats and low-heeled pumps.

The red coat she wore on the campaign trail for the 1960 presidential election was a Givenchy copy.

On a state visit to France the following year, she made a famously grand entrance in a Givenchy white silk faille dress at a dinner at the Palace of Versailles, looking as regal as any European monarch’s consort. 

Topics: Hubert de Givenchy , French fashion designer , little black dress , Audrey Hepburn , Jackie Kennedy , Princess Grace of Monaco , Jane Fonda
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