How to be inspired by holly golightly

Many women inspired Truman Capote’s immortal character, from Gloria Vanderbilt to Marilyn Monroe.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

When the London residing hostess, Marguerite Littman, died late this year, she left behind a storied life filled with acquaintances both notable and quotable. However, most tributes farewelled her with the curious send-off that she had been the inspiration for Holly Golightly in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Littman may be the last of the would-be Holly’s, but, in fact, she has a few sisters who can also lay claim to the Golightly name. Starting as early as the novella’s 1958 publication, “half the women he knew and a few he did not claimed to be the model for his wacky heroine,” biographer Gerald Clarke wrote in his definitive biography of the author.

Indelibly linked to the iconic albeit sanitized image of Audrey Hepburn, the novel’s Holly was written as a slim girl, just shy of 19, piquant, breezy, and mercenary in her pursuit of a good time. “I’d rob a grave, I’d steal two-bits off a dead man’s eyes if I thought it would contribute to the day’s enjoyment—but unto thyself honest,” she philosophizes. A sly personification of a charm bracelet, she winks with tossed away bon mots, “darling’s” and the occasional four letter word. Explaining, “It’s useful being top banana in the shock department.” Capote’s Golightly darts her way through his pages taking the best the men of 1940s New York had to offer, while running away as fast as she could from the barefoot ‘Lula Mae,’ she’d once been in Tulip, Texas.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

On first glance, Littman ticks off a few boxes as a gamine brunette with a sugar-rimmed sidecar of a voice. “She was butterfly light,” says critic Ben Brantley, who came to know her along with at least three others who were supposedly Capote’s muses. Before she was Mrs. Littman, Marguerite Lamkin was born in Louisiana and eventually she made her way out to Hollywood in the 1950s. Once there, she found herself under contract to Columbia, but unable to shake her Louisiana lilt, she wound up as a dialect coach to the stars, instructing the likes of Elizabeth Taylor on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Brantley, who says that Marguerite, “spoke in good lines,” recalls she once drawled she’d “cornered a market that never should have existed.”

But, Clarke tells T&C, “It’s a nice allusion but it isn’t true. [Capote] never mentioned her to me.”

In fact, the list of possible Holly’s runs a confounding length. From Capote’s high school chum, Phoebe Pierce Vreeland, to less conceivably, Irish writer, Maeve Brennan. Supermodel of the day, Dorian Leigh, claimed she was the source because Capote had given her the homophonic nickname, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky.’ Her sister, Suzy Parker, is also occasionally thrown in the mix. Muddle things further with maybe a German refugee who was a neighbor of Capote’s brownstone, as he told to Playboy in 1968. Then a vague reference to a woman from Montana, who according to James Michener in Conversations with Capote, had “a minimum talent, a maximum beauty…Also, she was six feet, two inches tall.” Someone who went by Bonnie Golightly sued Capote for libel (and lost), the writer remarking of her, “Why, it’s sort of like Joan Crawford claiming to be Lolita.” And he began to refer to the confusing clamor as the Holly Golightly Sweepstakes.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

The fictional femme, at the beginning of the novel is speculated to be in Africa, and by the end her last known whereabouts is Buenos Aires. The real-life counterparts prove to be just as fleeting and flighty. One candidate with the absolute head-scratcher of a name was Anky Larrabee. Capote wrote briefly of her in a letter dated 1946, featured in Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote, “She most certainly is not the monster someone informed me she was, but I thought, a very entertaining, slightly crazy, but awfully sweet girl.” Matches our description, but another dead end.

It’s more likely Capote found inspiration in the pretty denizens of swanky nightclubs like El Morocco. Flush with first successes, the promising young Capote was a dance partner of the debs of the 1940s and ’50s, swilling nightcaps with the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O’Neill (later Chaplin), and Carol Marcus (later Matthau). Later, Capote wouldn’t so much be inspired by these women as use them as barely disguised versions of themselves in his mostly autobiographical roman à clef novel Answered Prayers.

Vanderbilt, as a writer, designer, and sundry artist, had so many viable descriptors in her lifetime that “possible inspiration of…” rings superfluous. Yet, the idea is oft floated, and she shared Holly’s knack for invention. “They were all fantasists, but in a really, really good way,” Brantley says, “Gloria said, ‘Everyone is fantasy.’” But not everyone had the background she and her girlfriends shared, “They were all rebels,” he adds, “Except the world they rebelled against wasn’t backwoods poverty.”

How to be inspired by holly golightly

While Oona O’Neill shared prerequisite whimsy, her marriage at 18 to Charlie Chaplin (an affront to her father, the playright Eugene O’Neill) stopped short of Holly’s many flings. Another in the set, Carol Marcus, later Carol Saroyan Matthau, however, was quick to embrace the insinuation she’d been the catalyst for the character.

She would write in her 1992 memoir, Among the Porcupines, of late nights out with Capote, divulging confidences into the morning, when the two would have coffee and doughnuts outside the jewelry store. (Alternately, Clarke’s biography sources the title to an anecdote Capote had heard of an out-of-towner, who when asked by their New Yorker host where they’d like to have breakfast, aimed for the toniest spot imaginable, saying, “Let’s have breakfast at Tiffany’s.”)

How to be inspired by holly golightly

The famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s character wasn’t entirely invented


During the 1950s, the American author Truman Capote would regularly socialise with a friend and fellow New Yorker called Carol Grace, whom he had known since their teenage years in the late 1930s. They would meet early in the morning at the Gold Key Club on West 55th Street, and after a long chat would leave around 7am and head for the famous Tiffany’s jewellery shop, outside which they would enjoy doughnuts and coffee from a cart on Fifth Avenue.

One day, Truman told Carol that he was creating a fictional character who would be partly based on her. It would also be inspired by another girl he had known, a young woman he described as “almost a hooker”, from one of the Southern states. The character he eventually created was Holly Golightly, in his 1958 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

As a girl, Carol became obsessed with movie magazines, and those movie magazines are blamed in the book for leading Holly Golightly astray

In addition to the Tiffany’s connection, there are some other striking similarities between Holly and Carol Grace. In his book, the writer describes the young Holly as “living with some mean, no-count” foster parents; this would have rung a bell with Carol, who once remembered that she was sent to “bleak and ugly” foster homes during the Great Depression. Another similarity concerns their choice of reading matter: as a young girl, Carol became obsessed with movie magazines – and those movie mags are blamed in the book for leading Holly astray.

Yet another important link is the 1939 film Wuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier. This is the movie that, according to Carol, introduced her to the idea of passionate love – and in Capote’s book, Holly says she has seen the same film 10 times and “cried buckets” over it. Holly also says in the novella that she once met the writer William Saroyan at a party – and Carol had married the same man in real life. (She had wed Saroyan in 1943, divorced him six years later, and then married him again briefly in 1951.)

And there’s more. Carol and Holly both dined at “21”, a restaurant on West 52nd Street, and both loved horse-riding.

Of course, the most famous scene in the 1961 movie sees Holly, played by Audrey Hepburn, singing ‘Moon River’ by a window. There’s something of a coincidence between that song title and Truman Capote’s first encounter with Carol. In a memoir three decades later, Carol (by now Carol Matthau, having married the actor Walter Matthau) revealed that she met the writer when he saw her through a window and declared: “your skin is made of moonbeams… You are directly from the moon.”

Truman Capote died in 1984, aged 59. Carol Saroyan Matthau, as his original Tiffany’s breakfast companion became known, lived to the age of 78, dying of a brain aneurysm in 2003. ♦

© 2014 Tony Barrell


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Holly Golightly (Lulamae) Quotes in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“And I swear, it never crossed my mind about Holly. You can love somebody with­out it being like that. You keep them a stranger, a stranger who’s a friend.”

Two men came into the bar, and it seemed the moment to leave. Joe Bell followed me to the door. He caught my wrist again. “Do you believe it?”

“That you didn’t want to touch her? ”

“I mean about Africa.”

At that moment I couldn’t seem to remember the story, only the image of her riding away on a horse. “Anyway, she’s gone.”

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

But if Miss Golightly remained unconscious of my exis­tence, except as a doorbell convenience, I became, through the summer, rather an authority on hers. I discovered, from observing the trash-basket outside her door, that her regular reading consisted of tabloids and travel folders and astro­logical charts; that she smoked an esoteric cigarette called Picayunes; survived on cottage cheese and melba toast; that her varicolored hair was somewhat self-induced.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

But there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from. Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of piney woods or prairie. One went: Don’t wanna sleep, Don’t wanna die, Just wanna go a-travelin’ through the pastures of the sky ; and this one seemed to gratify her the most, for often she continued it long after her hair had dried, after the sun had gone and there were lighted windows in the dusk.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

“Oh, you get used to anything,” I said, annoyed with myself, for actually I was proud of the place.

“I don’t. I’ll never get used to anything. Anybody that does, they might as well be dead.” Her dispraising eyes sur­veyed the room again.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

I […] asked her how and why she’d left home so young. She looked at me blankly, and rubbed her nose, as though it tickled: a gesture, seeing often repeated, I came to recognize as a sig­nal that one was trespassing. Like many people with a bold fondness for volunteering intimate information, anything that suggested a direct question, a pinning-down, put her on guard. She took a bite of apple, and said: “Tell me some­ thing you’ve written. The story part.”

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

“If I do feel guilty, I guess it’s because I let him go on dreaming when I wasn’t dreaming a bit. I was just vamping for time to make a few self-improvements: I knew damn well I’d never be a movie star. It’s too hard; and if you’re intelligent, it’s too embarrassing. My complexes aren’t inferior enough: being a movie star and having a big fat ego are supposed to go hand-in-hand; actually, it’s essential not to have any ego at all. I don’t mean I’d mind being rich and famous. That’s very much on my schedule, and someday I’ll try to get around to it; but if it happens, I’d like to have my ego tagging along. I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

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How to be inspired by holly golightly

Holly Golightly’s Home:

  1. A homeless Cat
  2. Twin metal bed fame
  3. Champaign saucers
  4. Bath tub sofa
  5. Liters of perfume and cake mascara on your vanity
  6. Pinata smoking a cigar
  7. a very large mirror leaning against the wall
  8. Green stuffed parrot in cage
  9. Zebra rug
  10. Old fashioned black telephone to be kept in a suitcase
  11. White rocking chair for those days when you are feeling domestic
  12. Three piece white vintage luggage set
  13. Old crate coffee table (obtain from your local grocer)
  14. Pink pillows
  15. Weather vane?
  16. White cherub lamp
  17. Vintage Brazil Poster
  18. Wall mounted bull head
  19. Red fleece blanket with Harvard written on it over a golden bread spread

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

Holly Golightly’s Wisdom:

  1. Don’t accept drinks from disapproving men
  2. Keep extra perfume and lipstick in your mailbox for last minute touch ups
  3. Combat the mean reds with a trip to Tiffany
  4. Operate on a cash only basis
  5. Steal things from the five and dime on occasion, to keep your hand in
  6. Have a cookie jar, ie a man who pays for the pleasure of your company with out expecting anything physical. this generally only works if that man is in jail and using you to send messages to his drug cartel
  7. Always know who the ten richest men under 50 are in your area
  8. A trip to the powder room is an excellent exit strategy
  9. Marry for money
  10. People don’t belong to people

Looking for more Audrey? Check out my Amazon store’s Buy to Be: Audrey Hepburn Section

Image sources listed in the description of each picture on flick r

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On a styling project last month I was asked to create modern day looks for various vintage film characters. You can only imagine how thoroughly exciting that task was! Of course, on the list of characters was none other than Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s character – Holly Golightly. Today I am going to be showing you how to wear a modern day Holly Golightly inspired look. Plus, I am going to be giving you a behind the scenes insight into how I created this style and why I chose these particular garments.

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How to be inspired by holly golightly

Shop The Look

How I Created this Modern Version of the ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Holly Golightly Inspired Look

Before a stylist is able to dive head first into the wardrobe department to find suitable outfit pieces, they must first plan. Curating the perfect style of real people and for characters requires a lot of character research. The stylist must be able to complete an accurate character evaluation before they rush into buying clothes and styling them. Here is my personal evaluation of Holly Golightly and how I’d imagine the character to develop after all these years.

Holly Golightly is very feminine but with a touch of tom boy. She is involved with gangsters and is very street wise. Although her appearance is very feminine and chic, I can’t help but think that there is something more to Holly’s character. Something a little more Miss Congeniality. When thinking about how her modern day costume should look, I didn’t want to transform her image too much because I didn’t want to lose the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s glamour. Instead, I wanted to create a costume that was both highly practical and elegant! This is why I chose the black jumpsuit, nude flats, trench coat, handy cross-body bag, stud earrings and delicate necklace. Perfect for long days strolling around New York, but glamorous enough for her never to be underdressed!

Personally, I feel that Holly’s original look from the film and book focused on Holly making the most from what she had available to her. She wasn’t the richest girl but thanks to her classic sense of style and fashion ideals, she knew how to look very presentable at any given moment, using the limited fashion items she owned. I believe that the new, updated Holly Golightly costume should be an upmarket and improved version of her original costume.

How to be inspired by holly golightly

How to be inspired by holly golightly

Curating the Style: The Modern Day Holly Golightly Inspired Look

Mastering the Colour Palette for this Breakfast at Tiffany’s Inspired Look

  • I decided to stick to the colour palette she sported in the original film, which included cool tones in black, white, cool beige, Tiffany’s blue, and silver grey.

Would Holly Golightly Still Wear her Famous Little Black Dress?

  • Holly’s outfit choices in the original film included the famous little black dress. Her look was very feminine but I feel that today, she could be portrayed equally as glamorous in a trouser suit as she was when she wore dresses back then.
  • I thought it would be fun to swap her little black dress for today’s hot trend – a black jumpsuit. I love how modern day fashion icons of today, such as Emma Watson wear classic items such as trench coats and black jumpsuits without sacrificing any femininity.

Sunglasses: to keep the sun and the ‘mean blues’ at bay

Cat eye lenses are a more subtle version of the oversize dark shades that are often teamed with a black dress, heels a Burberry coat (think Bond girl), so I have made sure that the sunglasses are in a flattering cat eye shape.

Did Holly Golightly Ever Own A ‘Little Blue Box’ from Tiffany & Co Jewellery?

In the original film and story, we see Holly lusting after Tiffany’s jewellery. I have added a couple of small, tasteful pieces to Holly’s updated look because I think that after all these years Holly should finally get her ‘little blue box’ from Tiffany’s, which should be incorporated into her outfit because I think that she’d wear these items with pride for her everyday look.

The Perfect Footwear for Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I’d imagine that Holly’s original costume was inspired by brands such as Chanel and Burberry, as well as Tiffany’s (jewellery). While these are both very popular brands, I felt that choosing Louboutin footwear would reinforce the new, modern image that I am trying to create. I think that a fashion-forward female like Holly would be a fan of stylish, cutting edge footwear such as Christian Louboutin.

I didn’t want to change the colour palette too much because I think this is a key part of Holly’s overall look. In the original film, Holly wore black pumps with a low heel, but I have decided to swap these for 2 varieties of nude Louboutins. Nude shoes are modern and classic. On my board you will see that I have chosen a flat pair of nude Louboutin pumps for Holly to wear during the day time, and a pair of nude heels for evening wear.

Which Type of Bag Would Holly Golightly Wear Now?

Cross-body bags are very versatile, easy to carry and are on-trend at the moment but are not a fad trend. For these reasons I have chosen to swap Holly’s typical 60’s arm bag for a modern, fuss-free cross-body bag.

I recently read an incredible book called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The book immerses you into the world of old Hollywood and is full of scandal, glitz, and glamour. I devoured it from cover to cover in one sitting—it was just that good. In fact, it was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time (and I read a lot). Since the novel swept me away into the world of old Hollywood, I’ve been inspired to watch some classic Hollywood films as a result. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was my natural go-to, as the film has gone down in history as a fashion staple (and it had been about a decade since I last watched it). Holly Golightly, played by the exquisite Audrey Hepburn, will always be synonymous with chicness. Her black Givenchy dress, oversized sunnies, and pearl necklace in the opening scene are the very definition of style, and I found myself obsessing over every single outfit she wore throughout the film. Sure, her character may be a bit flawed, but the girl knows how to dress. Released in 1961, it’s a true feat that I envy the costumes from the film today, as it is coming up on nearly 60 years since the anniversary of its release.

Holly wears many covetable outfits throughout the film, and one of my favorites was when she donned a pair of black cigarette pants, a simple grey turtle neck, and a killer bag. The bag is patent croc-embossed, has a kiss-lock closure, and a gold chain strap. I seriously can see myself carrying this bag today, tomorrow, and perhaps for the rest of my life—it’s proven to be a classic. My best guess is that Holly’s bag is a vintage Chanel, and although I’m sad that this exact style would be nearly impossible to get your hands on today without an insurmountable amount of luck and fortune, there are several bags available for purchase today that emulate the same classic, chic aesthetic. I’ve been on a hunt to find some bags that would be Holly Golightly approved and I’m excited to share my findings. While I’ve been known to dabble in trends, I’m feeling inspired by Ms. Golightly’s clean, classic style. After all, who doesn’t love a timeless bag?