Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen

Last week I took the time to visit one of my favorite museums, Kent State University Museum.   The museum is a favorite because of the intimate nature of the place; one gets the feeling of viewing a friend’s collection.  There are no ropes or barriers, no scowling guards, no uptight vibe.  Instead the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and I’ve never had to fight off a crowd in order to see the clothing.   Best of all, the clothing is positioned so one can see from different angles.

I was so happy to learn that KSUM has acquired the clothing from the Estate of Katharine Hepburn.  I’ve been looking for an excuse to travel north since the first showing of it opened in October.

When the museum received the gift, they realized that some of the clothing was identified, while other pieces were not.  They are still working to match garments with stage and screen roles.  What a chore, having to sit and watch Hepburn movies, trying to spot the clothing!  I’m joking, of course.  That would be the dream job of many people I know!

Here are just a few of the 31 pairs of slacks that were included in the gift.   Many of the pairs were custom made just for Hepburn, and the cut is very similar.  This is a woman who knew how she wanted to look, and she stuck with a formula that worked for her.  The pair of jodhpurs came from Abercrombie and Fitch.   The blue shirt was possibly the one she wore in On Golden Pond.

Can you tell how small her waist was?  Most of these have a waist measuring around 20 inches!

These are the costumes from Long Days Journey into Night which was filmed in 1962.  It was directed by Sidney Lumet, who died last week.  The costumes were by Sophie Devine of Motley.

Guess Who’s coming to Dinner was filmed in 1967, and the costumes were designed by Joe King.  The two seen here were not actually in the film, but were used in the publicity shots for it.  This was Hepburn’s last film with Spencer Tracy, who died just a few days after the filming was finished.  Was it the sadness associated with this that kept her from saving any of the actual costumes?

This dress is from the 1937 film, Stage Door.  The dress is by designer Muriel King, and is of gray marquisette and silk chiffon.  The belt is a reproduction, based on the film scene and the many photographs available for the museum to study.

We tend to think of Katharine Hepburn as a movie actress, but she was also very active on the stage and also on television.   The red robe and the green jumpsuit were designed by Valentina for the stage production of The Philadelphia Story. The wedding dress is from a major flop called The Lake, which was in 1933. Next is another dress by Valentina, made for Miss Hepburn to wear in Without love, 1942.  The last two costumes were made for the play, Coco, in which Hepburn portrayed Coco Chanel.   She actually traveled to Paris and bought two Chanel originals to wear in the play.  The black suit is by Chanel, and the white jacket and black slacks were by the play’s designer, Cecil Beaton.

To learn more about the clothes, you can view a video by museum director Jean Druesedow.  I watched it before my visit, but I was also very lucky to be there when Druesedow was giving a tour to Leonardo Ferragamo and his two children.  They were there because Ferragamo was being honored by the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State.  So if anyone runs across photos of this event and there is a middle-aged woman in a white blouse in the background, that would be me!

Exhibition Images Courtesy of Kent State University Museum


Filed under Museums, Road Trip

8 responses to “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen

  1. Wow 20 inches?! I know she was real sporty tho, maybe its about time I got off the couch hehe 🙂


  2. James N Harris

    For those of you who want to see more videos of the exhibit and keep informed as to what is going on there, please friend KSUM’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ksumuseum. There may even be a link back to your blog!


  3. Thank you so much for posting this, and for the pictures. Wonderful! I’ll tuck them into my K. Hep file.


  4. It’s interesting to me that she owned her costumes, since this is usually not the case–they just get recycled back into the studio wardrobe stock. Did they mention anything about that?


  5. Pingback: Exhibition Journal – Katherine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen | The Vintage Traveler

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