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Kent State University Museum Director and Noted Dress Historian to Discuss Katharine Hepburn's Influence on Fashion

Posted Apr. 19, 2011

Patricia WarnerOn April 28, after the 6 p.m. screening of the Tracy-Hepburn comedy Pat and Mike (1952, directed by George Cukor), Kent State University Museum Director Jean Druesedow will hold a public conversation with noted dress historian Patricia Campbell Warner on Katharine Hepburn's influence on women, fashion, sports and popular culture. Dr. Warner holds the title of Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is a Fellow of the Costume Society of America.

The 6 p.m. screening and post-film conversation is part of the programming supporting the museum's exhibit "Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen," running through Sept. 4. The program is presented with support from Kent State University's Women's Studies Program, College of Arts & Sciences, and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

As a dress historian, Dr. Warner specializes in women and sports, and movie history as it affects American fashion. Her influential book When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear (University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), describes the evolution of American women's clothing from the 19th to the mid-20th century and how the history of modern sportswear as a universal style broke down traditional gender roles, especially after World War II. As one reviewer put it, regarding the complex interweaving of women's clothing and cultural roles, "Which came first, the sportswear or the female athlete?" 

Apart from being a highly entertaining comedy, Pat and Mike is arguably the first major Hollywood movie to present female professional athletics as a career choice. Much of the movie was filmed on location around Los Angeles, with many golfing scenes taking place at the Riviera Country Club. The flattering, comfortable outfits designed by Orry-Kelly, Hepburn's obvious prowess as an accomplished golfer and tennis player, and cameo appearances by women sports legends Babe Zaharias, Betty Hicks, Helen Dettweiler, Gussie Moran, and Alice Marble all add to the movie's authenticity.

Hepburn considered Pat and Mike her favorite Tracy-Hepburn film partly because it reflected so much of her personal style, unique personality, considerable athletic abilities and sporty taste. "Kate was lissome and athletic, self-confident and independent, a product of her upper-class, East-Coast upbringing," says Dr. Warner, noting that Hepburn had adopted sports clothes as her own long before most women had the courage to do so. "No questions: she embodied American Style, and the world followed her lead."

The April 28 film will be shown in Murphy Auditorium on the museum's 2nd floor at 3 p.m. in addition to the 6 p.m. screening and post-film discussion. Both screenings and the post-6 p.m. discussion are free with admission to the museum. The museum is in Rockwell Hall, 515 Hilltop Drive (corner of E. Main and S. Lincoln Streets), Kent Campus. For more details, call 330-672-3450 or go to www.kent.edu/museum.

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Important Note to Media: To request exhibition or movie images, and/or to schedule a pre-event media interview with Patricia Campbell Warner and/or Jean Druesedow, please contact James Harris.

Media Contact: James Harris, H/L Communications, jharris@hlcommunications.com, 440-729-1426, c. 440-759-0075.