05/16/2012 03:08 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2013

Why Katharine Hepburn Deserves To Be A Bigger Style Icon

Katharine Hepburn wore pants back when it was considered morally wrong to do so. But had someone had the temerity to tell Ms. Hepburn that, they would've been reduced to a smoldering spot on the ground from her glare.

And that was the thing about Katharine's style: It was effortless, confident and unimpeachably hers. While you could credit the other Hepburn's style to a designer (Givenchy), Katharine's was all her own doing. It's trite to equate power to clever tailoring, so I'll let this photo speak for itself.

Photo by Getty Images

Here we have the classic Katherine Hepburn stance: Defiant, leggy and completely in command of the situation. She doesn't love the camera; she dares it. At the time, her lanky frame and killer cheekbones made her an "odd" beauty, which is laughable nowadays.

Katharine defined power dressing before such a term existed. In movies like "Adam's Rib" and "Woman Of The Year," she wore sharp jackets and lean skirts. Strictly business, but without sacrificing femininity. The latter is key: Katharine always found the balance between strength and softness. Her trademark white button-down and slacks ensemble (worn off-screen and in her later years) might, on the surface, seem a touch masculine. But the pant always had a defined waist, the shirt was always just tailored enough. She was the living embodiment of "American style" way before Ralph Lauren got to it.

And boy could she do glamour. I feel that over the years, as Katharine Hepburn's sharp personality eclipsed her career, history has forgotten what she looked like in a dress. She stunned in pared-down, sleek looks that wouldn't look out of place on today's red carpet. She also never had "too much" going on: Never too much make-up (she usually favored a bare face with lipstick), never loads of jewelry. Simple.

That simplicity could easily translate to you, or to me. Unlike Audrey Hepburn, who was undoubtedly elegant, you don't need to have a certain willowy frame to pull off a Katharine Hepburn look. And much more, you wouldn't look as if you were wearing a costume (the very unfortunate effect of "Breakfast At Tiffany's," which I think only 3% of people have actually seen). To achieve a hint of Katharine Hepburn, you need little more than pants, a button down and confidence. And if that isn't style, I don't know what is.