In early drafts of the story Holly was named Connie Gustafson; Capote later changed her name to Holiday Golightly. He apparently based the character of Holly on several different women, all friends or close acquaintances of his. Claims have been made as to the source of the character, the "real Holly Golightly," in what Capote called the "Holly Golightly Sweepstakes," including socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O'Neill, writer/actress Carol Grace, writer Maeve Brennan, writer Doris Lilly, model Dorian Leigh (whom Capote dubbed "Happy Go Lucky"), and her sister, model Suzy Parker.
According to Joan McCracken's biographer, Capote used McCracken's violent outburst in the Bloomer Girl dressing room in 1944, after learning of the World War II death of her brother, as a model for a scene in the novella in which Holly reacts violently after her brother dies overseas. McCracken and her husband Jack Dunphy were close friends of Capote's, and Dunphy became Capote's companion after his divorce from the actress. In the novella, Holly Golightly is shown singing songs from Oklahoma! (in which McCracken appeared) accompanying herself on a guitar, and owning The Baseball Guide, which was edited by McCracken's uncle. 
Capote’s biographer Gerald Clarke wrote "half the women he knew...claimed to be the model for his wacky heroine" Clarke also wrote of the similarities between the author himself and the character. There are also similarities between the lives of Holly and Capote's mother, Nina Capote; among other shared attributes both women were born in the rural south with similar "hick" birth names that they changed (Holly Golightly was born Lulamae Barnes in Texas, Nina Capote was born Lillie Mae Faulk in Alabama), both left the husbands they married as teenagers and abandoned relatives they loved and were responsible for going to New York, and both achieved "café society" status through relationships with wealthier men, though Capote's mother was born two decades earlier than the fictional Holly Golightly. Capote was also unsuccessfully sued for libel and invasion of privacy by a Manhattan resident named Bonnie Golightly who claimed that he had based Holly on her.