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Pantsuits Take Broadway

NEW YORK — Suits have become a stand-in for many women, but a new off-Broadway show, "Tea at Five," puts pantsuits in a starring role.<br><br>The show is based on the life of Katharine Hepburn, who adopted trousers the way some women acquire...

NEW YORK — Suits have become a stand-in for many women, but a new off-Broadway show, “Tea at Five,” puts pantsuits in a starring role.

This story first appeared in the March 4, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The show is based on the life of Katharine Hepburn, who adopted trousers the way some women acquire jewelry. Kate Mulgrew of UPN’s “Star Trek: Voyager” fame breezes through the one-woman show’s first act in a custom-made ivory pantsuit and the second act in Donna Karan beige pants pared with a preppy ensemble.

Costume designer Jess Goldstein said he drew inspiration from Hepburn’s men’s wear-inspired outfits in “Philadelphia Story,” “Holiday,” and “Woman of the Year.”

Just as Hepburn worked with wardrobe designers at such studios as MGM and RKO to soften the men’s wear looks she favored, Goldstein made a point of adding feminine touches like saddle stitching and bell-shaped pants legs to Mulgrew’s attire. He also gave her high-heeled, cadet blue Capezio sandals and an ivory straw hat with a heart-shaped brim, reminiscent of the Adrian bridal hat Hepburn wore in “Philadelphia Story.”

“Today that would be like a man wearing a skirt,” Goldstein said. “But she just did it to be comfortable.”

Goldstein, who is also costume designer for the new Broadway show “Take Me Out” and the forthcoming “Enchanted April.” “Tea at Five” opens March 9 at the Promenade Theater.