Katharine Hepburn Exhibition Debuts
After a series of sold-out pre-opening events and the 25 Years of Dazzle gala celebrating the museum’s 25th anniversary, the Kent State University Museum opens its highly anticipated exhibition Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen on Oct. 2, 2010, making its world premiere. The new exhibit, which closes Sept. 4, 2011, showcases the screen legend’s performance clothes, which include stage and film costumes spanning Katharine Hepburn’s career, as well as apparel she wore for publicity purposes.
Hepburn is universally recognized among the greatest actresses of all time. She was nominated by the Motion Picture Academy a record 12 times in the best leading actress category and won four Oscars – for “Morning Glory” (1933), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967), “The Lion In Winter” (1968) and “On Golden Pond” (1981). This record has never been equaled.
“Katharine Hepburn has had a profound impact on American popular culture and fashion, and she has influenced generations of women,” said Jean Druesedow, director of the Kent State University Museum and curator of the exhibit.
“On screen and off, she epitomized the modern American woman – smart, independent, active, honest, feisty, and outspoken. In terms of fashion, Katharine Hepburn blazed trails by popularizing slacks for women, wearing or adapting men’s suits as women’s apparel, and helping internationalize what is now called ‘The American Style.’”
The museum acquired Hepburn’s performance clothes in 2008 from the star’s estate. Before her death in 2003, she had made clear her collection of performance clothes should be given to an educational institution instead of being sold at auction. The Kent State University Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is known internationally for its costume and fashion collections. The result is a perfect fit.
“Katharine Hepburn’s costumes were designed or overseen by some of the greatest 20th century designers for fashion, stage and film,” Druesedow said. “Valentina, Adrian, Irene, Muriel King, Cecil Beaton, Coco Chanel, Walter Plunkett, Edith Head, Patricia Zipprodt, Jane Greenwood, Noel Taylor – it’s an ‘A’ list all the way.”
Though the collection’s ownership is indisputable – they were literally hanging in Hepburn’s closets – the museum had to correctly identify which movie or play the garments came from since they were untagged. Movie frames, stage stills and publicity shots of Hepburn have helped immensely and will be displayed alongside the costumes.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, the costumes will be presented according to genre, with “screen” including film and television. A series of Hepburn’s iconic beige trousers, linen vests and tailored jackets will be placed as guideposts through the exhibit. Highlights include:
- Stage costumes from “The Philadelphia Story” and “Without Love,” as well as later Broadway shows “Coco,” “West Side Waltz” and “A Matter of Gravity.”
- Film costumes and publicity clothes include those from “The Little Minister,” “Adam’s Rib,” “The Iron Petticoat,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “A Delicate Balance,” “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” and “The Lion In Winter.”
- Costumes worn in many of her later television movies, including her Emmy-nominated performance as the title character in “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry” as well as her Emmy-winning performance in “Love Among the Ruins.”