Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cinema Connection--Kate Hepburn's Ongoing Style Story from THE PHILADELPHIA STORY

Last Monday was Katharine Hepburn's birthday--May 12th--and it seemed like the whole world was celebrating.  There is just so much to appreciate about this talented woman.  The national media sang her praises from every conceivable angle as did many of my friends and colleagues who contributed articles to a blogathon dedicated to the Great Kate.  Of course my own ode to her had to toast her influential style, so I chose to look at one of The Style Essentials on GlamAmor--The Philadelphia Story (1940).  Katharine is fascinating because she, unlike many other stars, truly had her own personal style offscreen before she brought it to Hollywood.  Her style was so ahead of its time that she often combated the heads of studios when she tried to take it onto the silver screen.  Thankfully, at this time in her career, she had possibly the greatest ally of all time--MGM's head costume designer Adrian.

Their collaborations began with The Philadelphia Story, which was also Katharine's comeback to her somewhat stalled career.  "Adrian was my favorite designer," she said. "He and I had the same sense of 'smell' about what clothes should do and what they should say." Another of her favorite designers, Valentina, had created the costumes for the stage version of The Philadelphia Story, but Katharine deeply admired Adrian and trusted him to offer a continuity to those costumes.  She also knew he would create his own spectacular designs while respecting and reflecting her strong personal style.

It is not too much of an overstatement to say that The Philadelphia Story is revolutionary in its costume design.  It features not one, but two examples of menswear...three, if you include her equestrian ensemble as well.  All of these outfits essentially open the movie, too, which was unprecedented.  It's hard to remember that this was a time when women weren't really wearing pants; even with icons like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich blazing the way in the 1930s, it was not often seen onscreen.  Kate's desire to wear pants, particularly in the opening scene of this film, was objected to by both producer Joseph Mankiewicz and Louis B. Mayer.  But her arrangement with MGM allowed a tremendous amount of control, and she literally showed them who wore the pants in their relationship.  Though Woman of the Year (1942) tends to be celebrated more often for its menswear (once again by Adrian) and has been especially influential in fashion, it's important to remember that it all started with The Philadelphia Story.

Adrian's gowns for her are also iconic, especially the Grecian 'goddess' gown Tracy wears to the party on the eve of her wedding.  It is a perfect combination of soft and strong--almost an armour for the character to wear while she does battle with the men in her life as well as her own emotions.  That gown and the one for the wedding itself would immediately impact fashion in the 1940s and both continue to influence designers today.  Yet another of Adrian's costumes includes a gown-like robe that would go on to inspire John Mollo's Oscar-winning costume design for Star Wars (1977).  All this said, tragically, the costumes for The Philadelphia Story were ineligible for their own Oscar...the Academy would not designate an award for costume design until 1948.

Though it didn't win an Oscar, it certainly won when it came to creating a lasting legacy in costume design and fashion.  Versace, Givenchy, Balmain, Lanvin, Miu Miu...these are just some of the fashion houses whose collections continue to be inspired by Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.  Take a look at just some of the influence of Adrian's iconic costume design and this stylish film.

ABOVE: Miu Miu Fall 2011

Katherine Hepburn in Adrian's Grecian 'goddess' gown for 1940's The Philadelphia Story

Shailene Woodley in Zuhair Murad at the 2014 premiere of Divergent
and in a similar silhouette with Valentino at the 2012 Oscars

Jane Fonda and Halle Berry both in Versace at the 2013 Oscars

A poolside cover-up by way of Adrian in The Philadelphia Story

Carrie Fisher in John Mollo's Oscar-winning and iconic costume design for Star Wars (1977)

Cate Blanchett in Givenchy at the 2014 premiere of The Hobbit
and Ashley Olsen in her own label The Row for the 2009 Met Gala (both gowns are backless)

Florence Welch in Yves Saint Laurent at the 2011 Met Gala

Katharine in Adrian's over-the-top tiered gingham gown for The Philadelphia Story

This is how high fashion does it--
Florence Welch in Alexander McQueen at the 2008 Met Gala

Much more wearable--Naomi Campbell in longtime friend Azzedine Alaia at 2013 premiere
and again in Alaia at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival

Ziyi Zhang in two tiered gowns by Christian Dior at the 2008 Oscars

Kerry Washington in gingham Prada for the 2014 Season 3 premiere of Scandal

Katharine was a huge proponent of life and onscreen thanks to Adrian

Lanvin's visionary designer Alber Elbaz clearly referencing Adrian in Spring 2013
with his cropped jackets and pants (even jewelry below is inspired by The Philadelphia Story)

Menswear should be considered classic but will also be on trend in fashion 
as seen here in Harper's Bazaar for Spring and Fall 2013

Naomi Campbell in Alexander McQueen at the premiere for Skyfall in 2013

The influence of 1940s Katharine Hepburn at Miu Miu Fall 2011


Marline said...

Fantastic as always!! Love the beautiful examples of modern day Adrian style garments! Sooo wonderful! Loved this report, Kimberly!

FlickChick said...

Love, love, love it! How swell to see Kate everywhere!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Kay! Had to do something on the heels of my interview with Christian about THE PHILADELPHIA STORY to really illustrate how influential it is!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Flick Chick! I love it all so much...Katharine is so influential and I love celebrating her style!

Chromeheart said...

There is going to be an exhibit of Adrian at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC from 07mar-01apr2017. Really look forward to it.

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