Through Thick and Thin

So recently I was watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as I am wont to do. It’s hard to imagine now, as Audrey Hepburn has become almost interchangeable with the character Holly Golightly, but the role of Holly was originally intended for Marilyn Monroe. Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote stated that “Marilyn was always my first choice to play… Holly Golightly”, and instructed the screenwriter to “tailor the screenplay for Monroe.”

Unlike Paramount’s casting choices, the screenwriter apparently respected Capote’s wishes; the parallels between Holly and Marilyn are as clear as day. So why did Paramount choose Audrey over Marilyn? It’s easy enough to argue that Audrey was an Oscar-winning actress, while Marilyn was mostly known for her portrayal of dumb blondes. I suspect, however, that the true reason was something far more superficial.

With her little black dresses and Tiffany’s pearls, Holly is presented as the last word in style and elegance. If the fashion industry, with its insistence on models who resemble nothing so much as coat-hangers, has taught us anything, it is this: a curvaceous, womanly physique, like Marilyn’s, is inherently unfashionable. A woman with curves is automatically seen as trashier, sluttier, less intelligent, less serious than her more slender counterpart. Case in point: Audrey projected such gravitas that Anne Frank’s father asked her to play Anne in the movie adaption of her diary. In contrast, Marilyn continued to be cast as the breathy sex kitten until her death, a year after Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released.

I believe that this concept, that skinny = fashionable, can also be found in current perfumery trends. When was the last time a mainstream perfume house brought out a robust, full-bodied perfume? Everything today is streamlined, minimalist, and, well, thin. The voluptuous perfumes of days past are now disparagingly referred to as “old lady” perfumes. A few examples: Chanel Eau Premiere, a lighter version of the more robust Chanel No 5, has been extremely successful. The airy Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue has been a best-seller for years. The recent Issey Miyake A Scent was “inspired by pure fresh air”.

Perhaps most tellingly, the famous torso bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier Classique is based on the bottle for Schiaparelli Shocking, which in turn was based on Mae West’s body. However, the Classique bottle is considerably slimmer than the original Shocking.

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11 thoughts on “Through Thick and Thin

  1. Ironic, considering a journal entry I had been mentally writing was about being a Monroe in a world of Hepburns.

    Marilyn & I share the exact measurements. It was something I found rather flattering for years — yes, a size 12 in 1955 is indeed around a modern size 4 contrary to what many would led others to believe (Liz Hurley I am looking at you). I deal with vintage patterns from time to time and the size for a 12 was 35 bust, 24 waist — but in recent years I’ll admit it to have become more or less the bane of my existence. Clothing is not designed for women who have hips, thus everything ends up hugging my hips tightly if I expect it to fit anywhere else. This leads to an assault of catcalls, misogynistic remarks, and generally being treated as though I’m some pretty sex object instead of an intelligent woman.

    My self esteem has taken a pitfall in the last five years thanks to fashion.

    But I digress. At least my perfumes suit my body type I suppose. I’ll continue embracing my vintage Guerlains & Chanels in lieu of whatever fresher, cleaner, diluted modern variations they keep churning out.

    1. This is insane, I literally could have written everything you just said. I can and have spent hours at Tyson’s, which is ginormous, and come out completely empty-handed. My body has not brought me one positive thing. It’s not an awful lot of fun to be unable to escape the catcalls no matter how baggy your tshirt is.

      It breaks my heart that your self-esteem has been affected by this. The negative impact that the fashion industry has on millions of women is disgusting. I eagerly await your “Marilyn among Audreys” post.

      1. I hate shopping for clothes. Tyson’s usually yields nothing for me, as well. For years Express has been my go-to clothing store. I have been a 4 or an XS there for the past 6 years … that is until this year. Dismayed that I had to return recent purchases due to sizing I quickly learned that it wasn’t my problem at all, it was the sizing itself. They’ve been sneakily making certain items smaller. The size 4 shorts I have from last summer are in fact a tiny bit -larger- than the size 6 I had to buy this season. The tops & dresses are all over the place. Some are too large, some are too small.

        Ann Taylor LOFT claims I’m a 00 Petite because of their vanity sizing. Bloomingdale’s always tries to make me think I need a 4 in their contemporary sizing chart when I’m actually a 2. It is ridiculous.

        I remember going into Limited a few months ago to buy a pair of skinny jeans and when I asked the SA if they had them in a 4 she gave me this disdainful look and commented, ‘Are you sure you need a 4? There’s a 6 right here.’ I suppose I’m an anomaly because I’m small but curvy — a term that also irks me because curvy clearly means plus sized now.

        I try not to let it affect me, but sometimes it’s hard not to. The fashion industry has convinced me that I need to be 95 lbs in order to look good and skewed my own idea of what I look like to the point that I see women who I know realistically are larger than me but perceive them to be smaller. It’s ridiculous and very frustrating.

      2. I am thinking we need to arrange to meet up and storm Tyson’s, dramatically tossing around their ill-fitting offerings with righteous indignation. That Limited saleslady needs to know that her shtick is not cute outside of Mean Girls. Someday, God willing, I will be wealthy enough to not have to bother with this ish and buy all my clothes from Black Halo (http://shop.blackhalo.com/Catalog/Detail.aspx?CCode=0%5eCatalog&cICode=2648)

        I know it is cold comfort, but I am 95 pounds (not particularly alarming at 4’10”) and the fashion industry doesn’t seem to think that I deserve to look good, either. Maybe if I maintained this weight while magically growing ten inches, they’d finally be satisfied.

      3. That sounds quite fabulous, actually.

        And that dress is exquisite. Oh, to have more money and the ability to avoid the horrors of mall shopping. I’ve recently fallen completely in love with Norma Kamali, but alas that is a tiny bit out of my budget considering I want to build my entire wardrobe around these collections. This number in particular was to die for: http://www.normakamalicollection.com/product60/BILL-DRESS-KNEE-MESH.aspx?cid=60400&idx=5

        I swear that model wearing it is stretched in Photoshop though.

        I figure at 4’10, 95 lbs you’re probably more in line with me than the models. Clearly, we’re all supposed to be 5’10 & 95lbs otherwise fashion isn’t designed for us. I’m 5’2 and have to hem everything and then wear 4 inch heels.

  2. Have you read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the short story? The character is much more crass than the one Audrey Hepburn played in the movie. I suspect that is why Capote wanted Marilyn. I’m not sure either why Audrey was chosen, but I’m glad she was. I enjoy watching her in that film.

    1. I haven’t, and now I need to! So they smoothed out her edges for the movie, eh? I love the end result, with Audrey, too, but I can’t help but wonder what Marilyn would have done with the part.

  3. I’ve often wondered if Audrey had an eating disorder because she was so rail thin. It would have been something if Marilyn was allowed to change her image, and take on more serious roles.

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