Sunday, June 5, 2011

Katharine At Kent

Kent State Museum
The Kent State Museum was our destination yesterday - me, Tonia, PJ, Marie, and Kate packed up a picnic lunch and our cameras, and headed the 150 miles north to Akron, Ohio for a day of historical costume admiration, education, and inspiration. When you have good company in tow, it's amazing how quick a 3-hour trip can whiz by! Hehe - it could have been a 2-1/2 hour trip, but two women I know (*uh hem* - Tonia and PJ) had to do a bit of impulsive shopping at Wally World in Mansfield - like the Walmart in Columbus doesn't carry the same stuff?  I knew it though - letting them enter a store together is an erroneous affair, indeed - lol!

Recent museum acquisition - c. 1912
But, my concern over the Walmart shopping visit was legitimate. I thought we'd need a good bit of time to get through all the clothing exhibits - the museum was closing in a few hours and we ladies were barely half way there! I said to Tonia, when we were planning the trip, "I imagine it will take us about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to make it through the galleries." Well, an hour later -! Despite the small size of the exhibits, the collections that were featured were stunning. And better yet, unlike any other fashion exhibit I have visited over the years, this exhibit was open - no glass, no ropes, no encasements - I could literately get within millimeters of a garment and inspect its stitching and construction. So, so close to touching, without touching, of course (that's a big no no)! Also, how the garments were presented for viewing was very balanced and accessible - for most of the pieces, I could examine them from almost every angle. These different viewing points really accentuated the aesthetics of each garment and it allowed me a greater opportunity to appreciate the designer's work. I was impressed by the whole experience (and so were the girls) - so much so, that we are going to pay another visit to the museum in late September when their Civil War exhibit opens on the 30th! 

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - Hepburn
For me, the most affecting of the exhibits was the Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen in the Broadbent Gallery on the second floor. You know, I have tried to imagine what Hepburn must of looked like in real life (since I never had the privilege of knowing her), how tall she was, how she was built, maybe the color of her hair, etc. In other words, I have tried to imagine her as a real person. My impressions of her have been formed and fashioned mostly in black and white and by the giant images of her on the silver screen - whatever I have come to imagine or know about Katharine Hepburn is superficial at best and based solely on her acting career and Hollywood persona. So, to see her clothing (especially those pieces that she wore in the movies I love, like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy) is to see some permanent impression of her, even though it's just a glimpse of her ghost (she really wore these - these were her things).

Adam's Rib - Hepburn
Of course, her costumes are magnificent, but so was Hepburn! At 5'7", she was a very, very slim woman. I am going to guess that her waist measurement was 20" and her dress size about a 0-2? Seriously. No wonder Hepburn always looked wispy and light on the screen. PJ and I were looking hard at both the black evening gown and the ivory night gown she wore in Adam's Rib - we kept circling and circling these dresses with our mouths gaped open like idiots astounded by the absolute tininess of Hepburn's waist - even Vivian Leigh would have been pea green with envy - lol! But one thing is for sure about Katharine - she loved her khaki trousers (as PJ pointed out)! For me, Hepburn's love for breeches is one thing that set her apart from other old Hollywood actresses - I have always been intrigued by her fashion choices and find it curious that no other actress in her generation followed her example - no matter and no loss to posterity, here! Hepburn was a woman of her own making and I greatly appreciate her practical fashion sense as well as her willful character and infatuation for life. Her legendary status is well earned. 

Hepburn loved her khakis!
The Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen costume exhibit continues through to September 4, 2011. Regular admission is $5 (special admission rates for seniors and students are available) - for more information, please follow my Window Shopping link to the right of the page to access the Kent State Museum web page. 

In the meantime, happy sewing! :)

(For more pictures of the Katharine Hepburn exhibit at the Kent State Museum, as well as pictures of the Vincent Quevedo exhibit, please view my Dressmaker's Album)

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