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A Cultural Icon Comes Calling

I have a small confession to make: fashion baffles me.

Maybe baffle is not the right word. It’s just that I never cared much for it – with the exception of my teen years when I wanted to be seen as anti-fashion. So when the Katherine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage & Screen exhibit opened at the Trout Museum of Art, my reaction was a bit lukewarm.

I thought it was great that the exhibit was here in Appleton, and I could appreciate that Hepburn was a Hollywood icon, but seeing the costumes and clothes didn’t really appeal to me. But the fact Hepburn had such a long and storied career eventually won me over.

I am glad I went.

As presented in the exhibit, which is was organized by the Kent State University Museum, which received Hepburn’s personal collection after her death, you get not only a sense of the different periods of her career, but how much she played a role in the costume design. Working with iconic designers, Hepburn influenced many of the costume decisions to fit her personal style and taste.

She knew what worked for her and was not afraid to voice her opinion, a headstrong approach that was not always appreciated in the Hollywood studio system.

To me, though, what really makes the exhibit work are the photos, movie posters and other supporting materials along the outer wall of the exhibit. They show Hepburn wearing the clothes featured in the exhibit and provide a broader historical context.

The costumes and clothing are the centerpiece, but the posters, photos and other supporting artifacts are the trimmings that make it a bountiful presentation.

The overall presentation seems to be having an effect.

“We are learning that people are going through the exhibit, then going to watch the films, then coming back again to see the costumes,” says Pamela Williams-Lime, executive director of the Trout.

The Hepburn exhibit runs through Dec. 15. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is sponsoring free admissions on Tuesday in November. The Trout is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday thru Saturday, and Noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays.

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