Photo: New York Public Library
Katharine Hepburn is to the U.S. what Coco Chanel is to France - a fashion icon whose home country can forever boast of her style prowess. After all, Hepburn did change the way ready-to-wear runways would look for the decades following her. Wearing slim cut trousers in the 30s and 40s, eras in which skirts reigned supreme, and claiming to be seeking comfort while still being fashionable, the sharp-tongued actress was known for telling men who disapproved of her wear, "[You] try it. Try a skirt."
Now, a new exhibition at the New York Public Library will be giving a nod to Hepburn's undeniable style, showcasing her khaki trousers (with a mere 20" waist!) among the stage costumes she preserved as keepsakes. And while the dresses and skirts found amongst the costumes showed well on screen, Hepburn consistently rebelled against their wear in daily life, refusing to be anything in her personal style choices other than herself.
In her essay for the book "Katharine Hepburn: Rebel Chic," Nancy MacDonell wrote that when RKO executives hid Hepburn's trousers in an effort to encourage her to seek other, more appropriate clothing options, "Her response was to threaten to walk around the lot naked. Though she only stripped down as far as her silk underwear before stepping out of her dressing room, she made her point — and she got her trousers back."
Hepburn is truly the definition of a woman being herself, being different, standing by her assertions, and not apologizing for her way of life. Her attitude brought her fame and fortune, and though it's doubtful she would have been found in a spread eagle pose featured in the photo above, Hepburn pushed the fashion limits of her time, and her style remains an icon to this day.
May we all be so daring, courageous and memorable.