“Stockings are an invention of the devil.” (Katharine Hepburn)
It’s the hallmark of innovation and rebellion that what once was outrageous is eventually mundane. After all, what could more unremarkable than seeing a Western woman wearing a pair of pants?
When Katharine Hepburn shunned the girdles, petticoats, stockings, garter belts, and high heels considered “normal” for women, she was brazenly defying fashion and social convention.
Hepburn wore pants. She even wore sneakers. In 1930s Hollywood, such behavior was deemed scandalous and worthy of public scorn.
Reviews for the 1936 film Sylvia Scarlett—in which Hepburn spends almost its entirety in short hair and men’s clothing—were 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.”
In real life, Kate’s bosses at RKO went as far as commandeering her slacks in the hope of forcing her to wear a skirt. Unmoved, Hepburn strolled the studio lot in only her underwear. Her point was made. Her pants were returned.
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun,” said Hepburn…and by doing what came naturally, her public mutiny became a high-profile example of independence and individuality.
(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)