News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Greater Akron Chamber


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Arts and Entertainment


Couture to khaki, Katharine Hepburn kept it all
Kent State University Museum unveils Hepburn performance clothing exhibit this weekend
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Hepburn made detailed notes about what her characters should wear and wanted her outfits made by top designers.
Courtesy of Dawn Einsel
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A new exhibit at Kent State’s fashion museum offers a glimpse of six decades of the simple, sophisticated and individual style that was Katharine Hepburn. WKSU’s Amanda Rabinowitz has more on the range – from couture dresses to casual slacks.

Click to Listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (5:14)


(Click image for larger view.)

 

The Katharine Hepburn exhibit at Kent State’s fashion museum shows the legendary actress’ versatility. From a long, flowing silk chiffon gown she wore in “Stage Door” to a unique sequenced sari she donned in “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry.” But the first items on display are simple, wool khaki slacks. Hepburn had hundreds of pairs, and started wearing them when it was considered taboo for a Hollywood bombshell to dress in anything less than feminine fashion. But museum director Jean Druesedow says Hepburn cared little about what others thought – her priority was comfort.
Druesedow: She was intelligent, and feisty and independent and able to make her own decisions. And says, you know, "when people ask me, why pants? I say, try a skirt. Just try one."
Hepburn’s costume wardrobe is unique for other reasons. The museum had to specially carve much smaller mannequins to display her dresses. Gazing at a dress from 1937’s “Stage Door,” Druesedow notes that Hepburn was five foot seven with a strikingly thin physique.
Druesedow: It’s the one she wears when she says that famous line “The calla lilies are in bloom!” and look how tiny it is. I mean, in those early years her waist was about 20 and a half inches…very slender.
The Kent State museum acquired more than one-thousand pieces of the actress’ performance clothes in 2008 from her estate. Druesedow traveled to a warehouse in Hepburn’s Connecticut home town and sifted through the collection. A former Kent State fashion school intern spent all of last summer watching Hepburn films to identify the pieces.
Hepburn wanted her costumes to go to an educational institution, and Druesedow says Kent State was well-positioned to display them.
Druesedow: Because the museum is very involved helping students see different things and learn about the history of those fields, we were able to do it whereas most of the major institutions in the United States don’t collect performance clothes.
One of the first tours through the new exhibit was a group of senior citizens from Columbus. Ann Drake felt a personal connection to the wardrobe – she says her son lived two doors down from Hepburn’s Manhattan townhouse in the 1960’s. She underscores Hepburn’s simplicity and independence. 
Drake: One time we observed her…she had brought wood in from her farm and then she carried in the house. My son offered to help her and she said “no, no, no I can do this myself."
Despite Hepburns’ casual, tomboyish style, the actress had a strong passion for making sure her characters were well-dressed forher parts. She made detailed notes in her scripts about what each character should wear in every scene and she wanted her outfits made by top designers. Druesedow points to a Valentina dress Hepburn wore in the 1945 movie “Without Love.”
Druesedow: There’s a sketch that she made of the dress at Lincoln Center in the Library for Performing Arts and in the sketch she says “it was a heavenly dress! It just floated, pale blue, pale rose, pale grey and ecru.
In addition to Valentina, Hepburn made an impression on – and with -- Coco Chanel. Hepburn starred as the designer in the 1969 musical “Coco.” Unhappy with the costume designers’ renderings, she had the director fly her to Paris to meet Chanel herself. The two got off to a rocky start when Chanel thought she was meeting Audrey Hepburn.
Druesedow: And when she heard that it was Katharine Hepburn, she was absolutely outraged and she said, “she is far too old to play me!” There was some sort of rapprochement because Katharine Hepburn actually bought two complete couture outfits from Chanel to wear on the stage and of the two she actually wore the black one that’s actually in the exhibition.
On a tour of the exhibit with her Columbus senior center group, Ethel Mooney says she has a new appreciation for performance clothing – especially seeing the designs up close andin color.
Mooney: You can see how a costume would help an actor to interpret the part when you see the real costume and when you just see it being performed, you have no idea that that’s putting them in the role.
Still puzzling to museum director Jean Druesedow is why Hepburn kept every piece of clothing, every costume and everyhat she wore – enough to fill a warehouse. She even kept the dresses she wore when the industry called her box office poison in the mid 1930’s.
Druesedow: One of garments is from “The Lake,” which was a great flop. But she kept that dress of Howard Grier. So why did she keep it? Was it to remind herself of one of the greatest lessons or what she considers one of the greatest lessons of her career, that when you are the star, the burden is on your shoulders and you better carry the load.
The Kent State Museum still has hundreds of pieces from Hepburn’s collection that are unidentified. An intern is researching them all. Dresedow says the museum may sell some pieces it doesn’t need – after all it hasmore than 100 pairs of Hepburn’s khaki slacks. The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through September of next year.

 

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Three exonerated of murder convictions from 18 years ago
Thanks heavens that none of them have been condemned to death. This alons should convince the USA to join the civilized world by abolishing the death penalty. E...

Kombucha: a sweet business brewed with fermented tea
Stevia is not an artificial sweetener. It is a plant. I have one growing in my sunroom. The leaves are dried and added to teas. It's harvested commercially and...

Bringing back ballet in Cleveland
I do think Ballet in Cleveland is doing good things, but the fact that director says "When we have flourishing companies like the New York City Ballet and the A...

Report confirms some Vietnam veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange
was in nam 1969 exposed va stated lost medical records was in lawsuit from 197? till settled 0 $ 2010 ? said all nam vets will get back disability till 198? jus...

Mentorship grant program redefines "faith-based" provision
Can't anyone have values, beliefs, and morals anymore? How is it anymore unconstitutional for a school partner with a "faith-based" organization than any other ...

Exploradio: The challenge of finding a healthy balance with technology
Thank you, Jeff, for another well done Exploradio. I always learn something interesting about what is happening in NE Ohio.

Northeast Ohio's transgender community rallies around restroom issue
A good first step would be for Cleveland to require restaurants to have a public restroom. Cleveland is the only city I've ever been in where restaurants somet...

Vapor shops say tobacco tax hikes could hit them hard
Maybe you should be DOING a study, since every time you've tried to villianize them all that's happened was the opposite. I'm not a fan of alcohol that's flavor...

New law gives access to birth records to Ohio adoptees
Can siblings also look for their missing brother or sister? And how do we go about it?

Ida McKinley's tiara comes home, with the help of "Pawn Stars"
I donated to the fund to keep the tiara at the museum where I believe it belongs. I took my 16 year old granddaughter to the showing I dont think it will be som...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University