WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) -- The world's rich and powerful men may be justifying their attraction to Angelina Jolie by citing her good works with the United Nations, but Hollywood's glamour girl is hardly the only one who has raised her own profile by taking on a worthy cause. If she's looking to secure her place in the public limelight long after her Tomb Raider films become outdated, Jolie may well have to revamp her wardrobe to stand the test of time.
To be sure, supporting poor children worldwide by becoming a United Nations' goodwill ambassador has been a marketing technique not just for UN agencies but also for celebrities themselves since 1954. But the practice became particularly popular when actress Audrey Hepburn agreed to become an official spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund in 1988.
Hepburn's personal story about how she was helped by international agencies including the Red Cross and UNICEF after World War II certainly made her call to governments worldwide to do more to help starving children in Africa and Asia more compelling. From visiting flooded villages in Bangladesh to helping feed children in Ethiopian refugee camps, Hepburn's presence brought the plight of those in need to a wider audience than any lawmaker or bureaucrat could.
But while the film legend continues to live on both through the 19 films she starred in over 42 years, and her legacy as a philanthropist is something that actors now aspire to, it may well be her sense of style that makes her such an icon to this day.
That's certainly the argument made by Melissa Hellstern, author of "How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life" (Dutton, 2004).
And it may well be that her transatlantic look of chic understatement is something that might be a breath of fresh air across generations, even for those who were just young children when she died in 1993.
Take the ubiquitous Olsen twins, for instance. Mary-Kate and Ashley are two of the few self-made billionaires who started college this year, but their choice of couture is that of designer rags, as both opt for dark olive and rugged grey baggy bottoms topped with shapeless shirts and sweaters in perhaps what is an attempt to blend in with the not-so-rich crowd of fellow undergraduates.
The alternative, on the other hand, is the style that has reached the masses through the advent of singer Britney Spears, whose star appears to have faded as her signature navel-revealing, ultra-low-riding bottoms and slinky tops began to be sought after even by pre-teen girls.
But while such fashion sense is barely holding up even now, Hepburn's penchant for Hubert de Givenchy's couture as well as the little black dress and oversized sunglasses continues to influence the fall-back look of casual chic for many women today.
Hepburn "exuded a subtle confidence all her own and avoided trends. 'Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it,' said Hepburn," according to Hellstern.
Admittedly, even as she knew what looked good on her and what didn't, Hepburn was a self-confessed clothes horse and admitted, "Some people dream of having a big swimming pool. With me, it's closets."
Yet the slim, doe-eyed actress's look was not universally admired, especially as the voluptuous blonde continued to prevail -- and still does -- as the true beauty for many, especially for men. Still, Hepburn's pursuit of subdued elegance won over many female fans from the days when Roman Holiday hit the screens in 1953.
But her allure hasn't just been about appearance. In fact, one major reason for Hepburn's continued appeal is the sense of grace she conveyed from the big screen, perhaps a result of her privileged upbringing as the daughter of a Dutch baroness until the outbreak of World War II.
Whatever the source of attraction, however, Hepburn has proven that some styles have timeless elegance, and that look can keep even an ephemeral Hollywood star on a pedestal long after she has passed away.
Shopping malls across America this spring season will demonstrate that the subdued elegant look that was so much in vogue half a century ago is now back in style yet again. The bag-lady look, on the other hand, is likely to share the same fate as the platform shoe.
(GoTo Shop is a biweekly musing on where or where not to spend one's hard-earned paycheck. If there is, indeed, an opposite and equal reaction for every action, then shopping is no exception. The fine art of shopping can be a political statement, a social manifestation, an economic triumph -- or simply a dud decision on the part of the consumer. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)