Katharine Hepburn’s reputation has always been difficult to pin down.
During her career she was either an irrefutable goddess or “box office poison” — rarely anything in between. If possible, her legacy becomes even more complicated with every passing year, but it’s safe to say Kate is now consistently getting some of the recognition that is due to her as a true fashion icon, in addition to an exceptional actress. (To this day, she holds the record for most Oscars awarded to any single performer.)
Kate’s fashion sense fed directly into the deeply polarized opinions about her and the trends of her time. Prizing comfort and practicality above gender norms and fads, the actress stubbornly insisted on wearing suits and sporty separates despite the criticism she faced for being “too tomboyish,” or “too athletic.” As headstrong as the characters she frequently portrayed on-screen, Kate loved her roomy trousers and fine cut suits, no matter what people said about them.
That’s not to say that she didn’t wear skirts — she did. And she proved many times over that she was fully capable of wearing gorgeous gowns with effortless poise, looking statuesque in the process.
To put things in perspective, a woman wearing a suit was revolutionary in the 1920s. While still controversial, it was not tremendously shocking by 1940, the year The Philadelphia Story made Kate’s career and set her on the path to serious stardom. She wore dresses throughout that film, but none of those outfits are quite so memorable as the riding suit she appears in at one point. Trousers were Kate’s forte, in film as in life. She knew that, and she played it up.
Kate’s fearlessness and confidence infuse today’s fashion in more ways than one. Salvatore Ferragamo’s Fall 2018 show is the most recent example of a collection that was directly inspired by the actress, who was an original client of the Italian house.
The legendary icon passed away fifteen years ago this June 29. In her honor, here’s a collection of wide-legged pants and suits Kate would have approved of. — jas