Style Icons: Katherine Hepburn

Post by CM

When I think about Katherine Hepburn, I think about not only her greatest roles – Jo Marsh in Little Women, Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, Christina Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to name but a few – but of her impeccable style, how it endures and how her confidence and tenacity were the driving force behind it.

Not everyone can carry off the whole white socks, black shoes thing

Born into a wealthy and socially conscious New England family, Hepburn was always head-strong and capable, inheriting from her Suffragette mother and doctor father progressive views and an unerring sense of the right to be herself. She was a tomboy, and it wasn’t until she attended college that the acting bug bit.


Treading the boards led to the silver screen, where she enjoyed great success thanks to her natural charisma and obvious talent, but when she reached the beginning of her thirties she suffered a series of flops, and when her film Bringing up Baby bombed (while now it’s considered one of the best comedies ever made), she was officially considered box office poison.

Bringing up Baby

She was an unpopular figure in the press, being notoriously prickly and difficult to deal with, and her mannish style baffled them. Things took a turn when she signed on to play Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, a play that became a huge hit and catapulted her back into Hollywood when she reprised the role for the film adaptation.

As Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story

It was at this time that she was in a relationship with Howard Hughes, eccentric millionaire and movie maker, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator. Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Hepburn earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and revived interest in Katherine’s life and style.

Cate 2
Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator
Cate in a photo-shoot by Annie Liebovitz inspired by Katherine

Katherine continued to make popular movies and settled naturally into roles she considered worthy of her, up until her 90s. Her personal life was just as interesting as the films she made, as she continued to do the things she wanted to do, like play golf, fly planes and have a good time. She moved on from Howard Hughes to Spencer Tracey, the great love of her life.

A gown to die for
The Aviator
Actress Katharine Hepburn
23 Mar 1940 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Even though her heydays were in the 30s and 40s, her style was always on point, and endures to this day. We wouldn’t have Annie Hall without her pioneering pants-wearing, we wouldn’t have the wide-length pants resurgence that we’re seeing all over the place for this Spring Summer!

Wide Leg 3

Wide Leg
Milan Fashion Week, February 2016

Wide Leg 2

If you’re thinking about hopping on the wide leg pants trend, you’d be as on the ball in taking inspiration from the great Katherine Hepburn than you would be by the contemporary street style shots above. Hepburn was never one for letting clothes wear her, and she sure wore the hell out of clothes. A stance, and an image, to aspire to.



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