Red in a Black and White World

By: Belle Wilmot

Would you believe that an actress who was once known as “box office poison” became one of the most renowned actresses of Hollywood in the 1940s? Well, such is true for the spirited and headstrong Katharine Hepburn. The Philadelphia Story, Katharine’s first non box office flop after a two year slump, is a romantic comedy, which I’ve got to say is belly-laugh funny, in which she plays Tracy “Red” Lord an elite Philadelphian on the eve of her second marriage. This movie’s success had her powerful mastermind behind it after its triumph on Broadway. Katharine being the fiery and business minded woman she was, bought out her contract from RKO Radio Pictures and obtained the rights to The Philadelphia Story and sold it to MGM with the stipulation that she play the starring role.

Now, lets talk about fashion. If you were to Google, or use Bing if that’s your thing, 40’s fashion for womPicture8en the majority of what would pop up is dresses and skirts. And yes, the majority of the memorable outfits in The Philadelphia Story are exactly that, but Red wears some killer outfits revolved around pantPicture9s. With the awesome styling and costuming and Katharine’s fashionable notoriety, The Philadelphia Story helped popularize and make pants stylish for women; something that I will be forever grateful for because I am one of those girls who prefer pants or shorts over a dress or skirt any day. Adrian, the Madonna of costume design apparently, only one name needed, described the costumes of this movie as “glamour, goddess, independence and self-possession”. The epitome of that being the floor length, white silk gown, with art deco sequin beading party dress, Red wears the night before her wedding.

Now, if you have been keepinPicture7g up with fashion week shows, you may have noticed that gingham has found its way back on the runway. I was one who found it whimsical and fun and loved the exaggerated size of the gingham found on the Oscar de la Renta runway. While watching this movie I noticed that Oscar must have recently done his research on Katharine Hepburn and stumbled across this movie because he took on the playfulness of it and used gingham just like two of the dresses Red wears in the movie and enhanced the size and included many of the flirty and feminine shapes of her dresses and incorporated them into his collection.

So, the next time your professor assigns you to a movie you have never heard of don’t grovel and roll your eyes because what you watch may surprise you. Your movie may be full of hilarity and gorgeous costumes that you would have missed out on without that push to become the forecasters that we are learning to be.


The Ancient Greek Motif in “The Philadelphia Story” (1940): Katharine Hepburn as the Modern Goddess. (2013, September 2). Retrieved September 23, 2014, from

Loomes, V. (2013, April 1). The Philadelphia Story: Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from


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