Tag Archives: Kent State University Museum

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

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

Fashion Journal – Kent State University Museum

The main exhibit at Kent State last fall when I was there was “An Eye for Design ~ 18th and 19th Century Fashions” It was a beautiful exhibit, beautifully presented. They also featured Linda Allard, who is a graduate of Kent State. The exhibit was interesting, but her career at Ellen Tracy started in 1962, and most of the items on exhibit were late 1980s and into the present.

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Filed under Journal, Museums