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Katharine Hepburn: Dressed For Stage and Screen to Open Oct. 2

Posted Sep. 21, 2010
'Screen legend's personal collection of performance clothes spans her six-decade career and features never-before-exhibited costumes from stage, screen and television'

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.

Photo from Katharine Hepburn exhibition 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.”

For more information, call the Kent State University Museum at 330-672-3450, visit the Kent State University Museum website or go to the Kent State University Museum Facebook page

About the Kent State University Museum
This year (2010-11) marks the Kent State University Museum's 25th anniversary year. Opened to the public in October 1985, the Kent State University Museum was founded with an initial contribution from New York dress manufacturers Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rodgers. Their gift included 4,000 costumes and accessories, nearly 1,000 pieces of decorative art and a 5,000-volume reference library. Today, the museum's collections total more than 40,000 pieces, and it holds one of the most comprehensive teaching collections of fashionable design from the 18th century to the present. Its eight galleries feature changing exhibitions of work by many of the world's great designers and an extensive collection of American glass, fine furniture, textiles, paintings and other decorative arts combine to give context to the study of design.

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Photo Caption:
Gowns in the Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen exhibition include those from (left to right) "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (film), "Without Love" (stage) and "Adam's Rib" (film). (Photography by Herbert Ascherman/Jeannette Palsa. Courtesy of the Kent State University Museum.)

Media Notes:
1. Hi-res and low-res photos relating to the exhibit and Katharine Hepburn are available upon request. Proper credit for specific photographic images: "Photography by Herbert Ascherman/Jeannette Palsa." Proper acknowledgement for any images and or ephemera supplied: "Courtesy of the Kent State University Museum."

2. At the Oct. 2 opening and continuing through the exhibition's duration, special programs and events on Hepburn's influence on fashion, her life and artistry, stage and screen costume design, and the impact of the entertainment industry on fashion will be presented at the museum and throughout Northeast Ohio.

3. To arrange a media tour, request further information or images, or schedule interviews relating to the exhibition or programming supporting it, contact James Harris at jharris@hlcommunications.com. Office: 440-729-1426; cell: 440-759-0075.


Media Contacts:
James Harris, jharris@hlcommunications.com, 440-729-1426
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595