Revisiting Audrey Hepburn & Vivier's Sabrina Stiletto at the Bata Museum

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.

In the 1954 Audrey Hepburn classic, Sabrina, much is made of that white Givenchy sheath with its long overskirt, a fashion moment in celluloid that marked the beginning of a famously long-time collaboration between the movie star and celebrated French designer.

But just below the hemlines of that dress’s voluminous embroidered layers and brazen show of leg is a key anchor of the look’s high impact — those chic yet subtle Roger Vivier stilettos.

“I think in a lot of ways what Audrey Hepburn is representing in the film is sort of the epitome of 1950s beauty and glamour,” explains Bata Shoe Museum curator Elizabeth Semmelhack in a conversation with ARTINFO Canada. “But at the same time, a minimalist take on that.”

“Rather than [simply] being a construct of fashion, she was as much a part of the construction of that [1950s] ingénue.”

As the Bata Shoe Museum brings to close this week their highly successful Roger Vivier: From Process to Perfection” exhibition, this evening’s screening of the Billy Wilder film also caps off their accompanying “Glamour and Grace”: 1950s Fashion in Film movie series.

Vivier’s footwear innovations are endless: his "choc" and "comma" heels for Christian Dior are just as exciting today as they were back in the 1950s, and that iconic 1960s pilgrim buckle that Catherine Deneuve immortalized in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour has been continually repackaged by the label as a key brand identifier for their subsequent footwear and accessories.

“I do think the shoes are very classic Vivier from that time of Dior. We often think of Vivier as being the ‘Fabergé of Footwear’, and he did create incredibly bejeweled shoes at the House of Dior, but I think the function of the shoes with the white dress… creates balance by adding a graphic punctuation without overpowering it or calling attention to itself,” says Semmelhack, who is also the author of exhibit’s catalogue.

In her view, the concept of the stiletto was a very sleek and modern design that was so much a part of the 1950s zeitgeist of the moment, as well as a foreshadowing of Vivier’s signature narrow heel.

“The dress itself has a lot of connotations of [the] 18th century past, from its embroidery to its shape,” says Semmelhack. “He’s balancing between ornate and 18th French with midcentury modernism.”

For a gallery of 1950s Roger Vivier for Christian Dior shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum’s “Roger Vivier: From Process to Perfection” exhibition, click here.