Exhibition Journal – Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen

This exhibition was at the Kent State University Museum in 2010 and 2011 after receiving a gift of Katharine Hepburn’s clothing from her estate.  Since then the exhibition has traveled, and it is currently showing at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 2007 the Kent State Museum contacted the estate of Katharine Hepburn as they were interested in acquiring her collection of her performance clothes.  The estate administrators agreed that the collection should go to Kent State.  There were almost 700 pieces, most of which were identified, but others that needed research in order to identify in which film or play Hepburn had worn the item.  Many hours were spent watching films and looking through publicity photographs.

There were also items from her personal wardrobe including thirty-one pairs of slacks, many of which were beige or tan.  Many of the clothes were so small that special mannequins had to be carved of foam.  In order to get a clear picture of how the costumes looked, photos of Katharine Hepburn wearing the costumes were shown as posters behind the displays.  The pieces that were on display were the most important and the ones that had, at the time, been identified.

I often take my journal on museum visits if I think the atmosphere might be right for sketching.  Kent State is rarely crowded, but they do not provide a place to sit, so I only did a few drawings.  I know the dress and jodphurs look too long and skinny, but Hepburn was tall, and the waist of her pants measured 20 inches.

I did a review on this exhibition soon after I saw it in 2011.  I don’t know if it will continue to travel, but if it comes to a museum near you, it is well worth a visit.


Filed under Journal, Museums

11 responses to “Exhibition Journal – Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen

  1. I wish my exhibit notes were that beautiful!


  2. Great notes, Lizzie! Had no idea KH had such a teensy waist & long legs. No wonder she looked so good in trousers. Thanks so much for the heads up on this travelling exhibit.
    (Your snow gone yet? Ours is, except for the piles.)
    xx del


  3. Wow! A 20 inch waist? I knew she was tiny but . . . . . !!! I recall seeing something on TV a while back where the actresses playing alongside Katherine felt massive in comparison – even though they must have all been very small too.


  4. This is an exhibit I would love to see! “20 inch waist” makes me think of someone quite tiny and delicate, but Hepburn always gave off such an aura of athleticism and strength. I’d love a pair of those monk strap shoes in my size!


  5. I just saw a dress of hers in the Gene London collection display at the Philadelphia Flower show and I was AMAZED at how tiny her waist/hips were – as well as all of the other dresses. You really don’t get an idea of how petite these women are until you stand in front of these dresses. And you end up feeling quite beefy in comparison!

    Here’s a link to his collection – some of the most iconic Hollywood dresses are part of his collection, it was amazing to see them in real life! https://www.facebook.com/genelondoncollection


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