Style Inspiration: Katharine Hepburn

One can’t help but think of Katharine Hepburn when looking at this fall’s tailored menswear trend. The trousers, the blazers, the low-heeled shoes – she started it all! Back in the 30s and 40s when women were still expected to wear dresses and heels, Hepburn was forcefully refusing to wear anything but pants. She even famously walked around set once in her underwear when her slacks had been stolen in the crew’s attempt to force her into a dress. There was no making this woman conform to the times.

Many of her male Hollywood bosses weren’t so impressed with her defiance, but women all over America were inspired by Hepburn’s gall and started wearing trousers themselves. Although there is some debate on whether we really can attribute the revolution of women’s dressing to Hepburn’s championing of the style, her influence is undeniable. As a major movie star, her fashion choices were news, but her wonderful acting and colorful personality were also part of what made her style appealing. Her pants came to symbolize independence for women not only because they provided freedom of movement, but Hepburn herself was an inspiration as a talented, successful, outspoken woman known for being able to hold her own with the men of her industry, both executives and actors.

Personally, I’ve always admired Hepburn for her talents and her lifelong commitment to a simple and chic style. My research only led me to feel even more like a kindred spirit as I learned that she was also a fellow tall woman, a women’s college graduate and her family heritage lies in the British Isles. It’s no wonder I always found myself drawn to her style and persona! At five feet and seven inches, she was the tallest leading lady of her time, and her years at Bryn Mawr college were formative in the development of her acting skills and outspoken personality. Hepburn was also known for her athleticism (did her own stunts!), so maybe that’s where our similarities end. Training for road races is in my future, though!

To achieve the status of style icon means you must be more than a pretty face, and Hepburn was clearly so much more. Not only was she strikingly beautiful, she was passionate, trail blazing, intelligent and immensely talented. She remains the only person to have received four Best Actor/Actress Oscars, and she was declared by the American Film Institute to be the greatest female star of American cinema. She left her mark on American style, film and women’s liberation – no small task. So when I choose which pieces to add to my wardrobe this fall, Katharine Hepburn won’t be far from my mind as I pick through high-waisted trousers, button down blouses with the perfect collars for casual popping (as she so effortlessly does below) and kitten heels to give me just a little lift, the whole time striving to look just as classic as the lovely Kate.

All photos courtesy of Corbis Images

Emulate the Great Kate:

Find the perfect button down:

Modcloth: Dapper Ann Blouse, $35

Banana Republic: Monogram silk tuxedo shirt, $60

… and then match it with a fabulous pair of trousers:

Forever21: Business Pant, $23

Victoria’s Secret: Belted Trouser Pant, $40

Victoria’s Secret: High-waist Pant, $78

TopShop: 70s Cord Flare by Boutique, $160

Theory: Alleen Pants, $255



Filed under Side Notes

9 responses to “Style Inspiration: Katharine Hepburn

  1. Jaime @ La vie...J'aime

    Loving all the pants you found- the F21 ones are so cute and cheap!

  2. God, is that last picture of her not STUNNING??

    Great finds!


  3. Alice

    Has anyone ever bought VS trousers? They always look so great but I’d be worried about quality from them.

    • I have purchased VS trousers and jeans before. First of all, they are great for tall women because you can get 32″ and 34″ inseams. The jeans are excellent and I wear them ALL the time. My only problem with the pair of trousers that I bought is that the color was not as it had been described. I thought that I was buying a pair of heather gray trousers, and instead I got something more like blue. I’d be willing to try again, though, because the fit is pretty great.

      – Meredith

      • Alice

        Good to know, thanks! I find that generally for work trousers I need a 36″ inseam as I’m all leg.
        That second pair you posted is so tempting, though. I’m very curvy so it could be a disaster, but it could also be fab, and I love the clove colour.

      • @Alice: You beat me in inseam length! Hahaha. I also love the color and the style, so maybe it’s one of those items that’s worth trying with the option of returning? Or trying something similar on in stores so that you have an idea of how it will look on you.

        @Sandy: And here’s to Friday! 🙂

  4. Sandy

    Here’s to you, here’s to Kate – Bryn Mawr’s most famous alumna! Here’s to tall women! And here’s to Fall!!! Finally almost here.

  5. Love it! Kate Hepburn is such an inspiration. She turns menswear into feminine-wear and looks damn good doing it!

  6. Stephanie

    Oh, I LOVE this article. Katharine Hepburn, god, what a lady. Great to see her spotlighted!

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