Katharine Hepburn at the Hotel Australia, Sydney, 1955 / Australian Photographic Agency (APA) Collection. Flickr. No known copyright restrictions.
Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
June 29, 2018
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” (Katharine Hepburn)
It’s a hallmark of innovation and rebellion that what was once outrageous is eventually mundane. After all, what could more unremarkable than seeing a Western woman wearing a pair of pants?
But when Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) shunned the girdles, petticoats, stockings, garter belts, and high heels considered “normal” for women of her time, she was brazenly defying fashion and social convention.
Hepburn wore pants.
She even wore sneakers.
In 1930s Hollywood, such comportment was deemed scandalous. Elsewhere, it was practically illegal.
In November 1938, a kindergarten teacher named Helen Hulick arrived at a Los Angeles courtroom to testify against two burglary suspects. Judge Arthur S. Guerin, noting that Hulick was wearing pants, would not let her testimony. He ordered her to return, but only is she wore a dress. Hulick returned five days later, but she again chose slacks.
Guerin held Hulick in contempt and sent her to jail with a five-day sentence — where she was promptly issued a prison denim dress. Letters by the hundreds flooded the courthouse and the contempt citation was soon overturned by a higher court. Hulick was told she was free to wear pants to court but instead defiantly wore a dress to testify. Point made.
Back to Kate
Meanwhile, reviews for Hepburn’s 1936 film Sylvia Scarlett — in which Kate spends almost its entirety in short hair and men’s clothing — had been sarcastic, to say the least. Time magazine declared “Hepburn is better-looking as a boy than a woman” while the New York Herald-Tribune named her “the handsomest boy of the season.”
Her bosses at RKO decided to commandeer Kate’s slacks — in the hope of forcing her to wear a skirt. Unmoved, Hepburn strolled the studio lot in only her underwear.
Her pants were returned. Point made.
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