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Kent museum exhibit spotlights Hepburn’s style

“The Hepburn Style: Katharine and Her Designers” is on display at the Kent State University Museum

The museum’s collection includes the estate of Katharine Hepburn and her theatrical costumes throughout her career, as well as personal items.

The Academy Award-winning actor left the New York stage for Hollywood in 1930. The rise of movies offered audiences an affordable form of escapism from the Great Depression, while costume designers delighted movie-goers by creating glamorous costumes worn by stars like Hepburn. The costumes were fashionable, contemporary garments that blurred the line between costume and fashion. Women in audiences wanted to emulate the styles they saw.

Often perceived as a conflation of her on-screen costumes and her personal fashion taste, Hepburn’s style has been described as: “all-time movie chic,” or “easy, un-self-conscious and American.”

As an actress, Hepburn worked with costume designers, always pushing for comfort, movement and proportions that complimented her. Costume designers incorporated these key elements into their designs, which naturally blended Hepburn’s personal style preferences with their costume designs.

The designers that helped Hepburn meet these criteria were Elizabeth Hawes, Valentina, Adrian and Irene.

The exhibition showcases Hepburn’s style with examples from her personal wardrobe, costumes and the contemporary designers she wore. The personal wardrobe ranges from her “uniform” of pants and a simple top, to dresses, and lingerie. Throughout the exhibition, viewers will see the elements of Hepburn’s style: comfort, line and proportion represented in her fashion choices and in the costumes she wore.

According to professor and museum curator Sara Hume, “This exhibition is a great opportunity for us to display some of the most popular pieces in our collection. We have had tremendous response with past exhibitions of Hepburn’s costumes, and ‘The Hepburn Style’ will allow us to showcase pieces that haven’t been displayed before as well as to contextualize her wardrobe with garments from our collection by designers that Hepburn admired.”

The exhibition, which is curated by KSU Museum Collections Manager Joanne Fenn, runs through May 25,2205, at the museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, Kent. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, $5 for children / students ages 5 to 18 and free for Kent students, faculty and staff and children ages 4 and younger. Admission is free for everyone on Sunday. For more information, go to www.kent.edu/museum or call 330-672-3450.

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