Katherine Hepburn &
Katherine Hepburn’s moto, “if you obey all the rules you miss all the fun”, certainly rang true with her approach to fashion.
A poster girl for androgynous chic, Katharine Hepburn almost single-handedly broke down the female dress code by wearing men’s trousers, oversized shirts and, if rumour has it, never owning a single dress or skirt. Nowadays menswear inspired clothing for the fashionable femme fatale is hardly a sartorial shocker, but in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Hepburn’s relaxed approach and apparent aversion to typically feminine clothing caused a stir and carved the way for the tomboy looks of today.
The daughter of a suffragette, Katharine Hepburn’s style has transcended from rebel to runway and finally culminated in a timelessly classic style. Wide-leg trousers, oversized trenches, men’s shirts and boyfriend blazers, each of these and many more hark back to Hepburn’s casual yet elegant style. With fashion typically reflecting the era (think Woodstock hippies in the 60s and 70s, excess glamour in the 80s and pared back minimalism after the recession swept us into it’s purse-string-tightening clutches), it’s hardly surprising that Hepburn’s style took force when it did. The second world war meant that many women were forced to give up their glamorous clothing from decades past and take up work in factories to help with the war effort, and Queen Elizabeth II famously saved up ration tokens to buy the material for her wedding dress. A plain colour palette and an oversized fit gave off a coolness that no one else was wearing at the time and a (albeit reluctant) style icon was born.
Strong, beautiful and feisty, many would see her as setting the bar for today’s independent woman. In 1986 the Council of Fashion Designers of America honoured her and her nonchalant style in recognition of her role as a non-conformist in the world of modern fashion, and she has been referenced by designers consistently for years. Calvin Klein’s All-American and simple collections repeatedly contain a link to Hepburn’s masculine style, with loose shirts and blouses tucked into wide, ankle skimming trousers. Burberry, the undisputed champions of the trench coat, clearly took inspiration in abundance from Hepburn, with oversized coats, super wide trousers and an androgynous chic that has stayed with them right up to the present day. Today, we can see Hepburn’s style in sleek trouser suits, crisp tailoring, our apparent love affair with fedora hats and our seemingly never ending desire (not to mention the instant cool factor) to throw on an oversized blazer. Katharine Hepburn, we salute you.
By Sian Levett,