Audrey Hepburn’s Real Wedding Dress
Remember the Givenchy wedding dress Audrey Hepburn wore on the set of Sabrina? It turns out that the design of her real wedding dress was radically different from this one, and it has a rather touching story behind it that didn’t receive much publicity.
It is 1952, seven years after the devastation of World War II. Audrey Hepburn spent the last years of the second World War in the Netherlands, hoping she would survive the bombings from the Allied and the famine the Dutch endured as a result of Operation Market Garden. But the war is over and the budding actress was engaged for the first time to James Hanson. At the time of the engagement, Audrey Hepburn was in Italy filming the movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck – her first starring role. She was so excited about the wedding that she had her wedding dress fitted and made by the renowned Fontana sisters in the middle of filming the movie.
The Fontana sisters Zoe, Micol and Giovanna were the couturiers to the stars in Italy. After sewing lessons from their mother and inheriting their grandmother’s atalier, they opened their Rome store in 1944 and created glamorous clothes soon favored by the Italian aristocracy. Their most famous garment is probably the cassock dress worn by Ava Gardner, which created quite a controversy because it resembled the robes worn by Roman Catholic priests. The dress that Anita Ekberg wore in the Fellini film, La Dolce Vita, in which she splashed in the fountain, was even more controversial. But this was all to happen in the future. The year is 1952, and 23-year old Audrey Hepburn was looking for a dress to wear to her approaching wedding. For her, Fontana sisters created a simple dress made of ivory silk, with no adornments save for a large bow underneath the bust.
Unfortunately, the wedding was not to be. At the last minute, Audrey Hepburn decided her career was more important and realized that this would mean spending too much time apart from her husband. By the time she called the wedding off, her dress had already been made, and the sisters did not know what to do with it. With a lot of grace and generosity, Audrey told the Fontana sisters, “I want my dress to be worn by another girl for her wedding, perhaps someone who couldn’t ever afford a dress like mine, the most beautiful, poor Italian girl you can find.”
The dress ended up going to Amabile Altobella, a poverty-stricken girl who was engaged to marry a farm worker called Adelino Solda. Many years later, she would say, “I have had a happy marriage, so the dress brought me luck.” Indeed, Amabile and Adelino stayed married for decades, and went on to have three daughters and five grandchildren. Audrey Hepburn, on the other hand, married twice – first to the American actor Mel Ferrer, then to an Italian Doctor Andrea Dotti. She had a son with each husband, but both marriages ended in divorce. From the 1980s until her death, Audrey Hepburn lived with the actor Robert Wolders.