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Posted on: Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fairest lady of them all

By PAULA RATH
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Breakfast at Tiffany's, anyone? Chang emulates Hepburn in a secondhand dress she edited (it originally had sleeves) and had tailored to fit, Victoria's Secret slingbacks and Calvin Klein tortoise-shell sunglasses she found at Off 5th about seven years ago.

Photos by NORMAN SHAPIRO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ann Taylor wrap top circa 2000, '60s vintage beaded pumps from Hong Kong, earrings so old she can't remember their origin.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

No funny face here — Willow Chang is serious about her adoration of Audrey Hepburn, whose iconic style she says will always be in vogue.

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It's Fashion Week — what better time to run our occasional series, "My Fashion Icon," when we find out the style muses of Advertiser Fashion Forum members, a group of highly individual women who often pair vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces with off-the-rack garments. It's about originality, not logos or price tags. This month we talk to dancer, singer and educator Willow Chang.

My fashion icon: Audrey Hepburn

Why I chose her: I have a lifelong love, respect and wonderment for Audrey Hepburn. The summer before my senior year in high school, it came to a fever pitch. I was constantly asking myself, "What would Audrey wear? What would Audrey do?"

Her style is something that's more of a lifestyle, and she represents the best of what I aspire to be. She's timeless and classy, classic and educated, and powerful by being subtle, extremely feminine and innately graceful. She's a survivor, a dancer — trained in ballet, so strong and graceful — and a Taurus, like me.

I strive to emulate the life she led. Before Angelina Jolie there was Audrey Hepburn, traveling the world for UNESCO. She represents a society that doesn't exist in today's world. I miss the polish of her era.

Her style evolved and changed with the time; she never got stuck in a look. She was acutely aware of her body and was always self-deprecating. That self-awareness set her apart — she knew what looked good on her; she knew how to edit. She had dignity and dressed to conceal, not reveal.

She was all about quality and simplicity, and that's why her style still looks fresh and modern decades later. She never had any weird stumbling blocks — she was forever the ingenue. She had poise, grace, style and manners. She was a lady, and we are in an era where there aren't many ladies.

My Hepburn history: In my rich fantasy life as a child and teenager, she was always on my mind. At age 17, I channeled her when I left Hawai'i to go to college in New York. On the plane I had on the little black dress, the shades, the gloves, stockings with garters, pointy-toed '60s heels and a structured handbag.

Failures to launch the look: A lot of celebrities right now are trying to go for Audrey's look: Nicole Richie and Posh Spice are pathetic interpretations. I think Natalie Portman is the most obvious heir to the Audrey Hepburn crown. Her style is often the rehab for fashion victims. When a celebrity has gone to extremes and becomes really skanky, a stylist sweeps in and tries to reinvent her as Audrey Hepburn.

What are her key style elements: Ballet flats, a little black dress, big "bug" shades, a trench coat and trench coat dress, pedal pushers, capri pants, mock turtle necks and skinny black pants.

Where would she go for cocktails? The Hanohano Room.

What would her favorite handbag be? She'd go for something discrete and well-made, like an HermEs Kelly bag.

What would she have in her handbag? A compact that's beautiful, mints because she was a smoker, a linen monogrammed hankie, a beautiful eyeglass case, photos of her kids and her family, and a key fob that had sentimental value. Each item would combine form and function.

Where would she go for coffee? Waioli Tea Room, because it's inherently feminine and private and fosters intimacy. Or maybe Café Laufer if she's homesick for Europe.

How to update hair and makeup? Her look is timeless. It's all about doe eyes with strip lashes and light lips. The palette wouldn't change, but the application might — they used a heavier hand in her day. In 2007, it would be a tinted moisturizer instead of heavy foundation; a shadow for the brow instead of a heavy brow liner; matte lipstick instead of a semi-gloss.

What car would she drive?: A '72 Benz, with the possibility of being convertible.

What would be on her iPod?: Pink Martini, Mozart, Chopin and Brother Iz's version of "Over the Rainbow."

What shows would she TiVo?: "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Cold Case."

What current movie roles might she choose? Anne Hathaway-type roles such as "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Becoming Jane." Perhaps some of the same choices made by Natalie Portman, a little risky.

Reach Paula Rath at paularath@aol.com.