With an undoubtedly impressive career, the style influence of this entertainer is still felt today

Eartha Kitt sitting on cabinet, Eartha Kitt as Catwoman and Eartha Kitt in front of Heineken crates
Left to right photo by: Express Newspapers / Getty Images; ABC Television / Public domain; IISG / CC BY-SA

Who She Was

Though Eartha Kitt achieved icon status just fine on her own, being called “the most exciting woman in the world” by Orson Welles definitely didn’t hurt her reputation. Born in 1927 on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, Kitt was sent by her mother at a young age to live with her aunt in Harlem. With a mother of Cherokee and African descent and little knowledge of her father, Kitt was ostracized from an early age due to her mixed-race heritage. Despite her disadvantaged beginnings, Kitt rose to stardom after starting out with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe for which she auditioned off a friend’s dare. Soon Kitt found herself on Broadway in “New Faces of 1952” and eventually the big screen for Twentieth Century Fox’s film adaptation of the musical. Kitt went on to make many more films such as “Mark of the Hawk,” best-selling records like “Santa Baby,” and an enduring mark on television with her role as Catwoman in the television series “Batman.” With a career impossible to condense into a single paragraph, Kitt has made a name for herself across practically every medium of entertainment, having been nominated for three Tonys, two Grammys, and two Emmys. 

What She Wore

Eartha Kitt wearing cheetah print dress and coat next to live cheetah
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This real-life Catwoman brought animal print from the television screen to the mainstream. Never shying away from bold fashion statements, Kitt began wearing tight, cheetah-print dresses in the 1960s—departing from the silk and satin dresses of the decade and paving the way for the animal print to reach enduring ubiquity. By this time, Kitt’s image was entirely her own and she came to be considered by many as one of the first black sex symbols. Calling herself “the original material girl,” Kitt never failed to exude Hollywood glamour. By the 1970s, tightly fitted, satin turbans became a staple of Kitt’s style. Whether sporting a casual yet sophisticated style in the studio or stunning gowns on stage, Kitt is an icon based on her talents alone. Considering her fierce fashion sense, Kitt’s influence is still felt today.

Earth Kitt wearing a headscarf
Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images.

David Livingston/Getty Images.

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