It’s a wet day. One of those cold, itchy, drizzle days that get into your clothes and shoes and bones. Laura opens the door in a long, burgundy, velvet gown with a dangerously deep, plunging neck line. She reminds me of a mischievous, Medieval nobleman’s daughter. Maybe it’s the 50’s eye liner or her godly shapes; either way she’s a divine appearance. She seems relaxed. She just finished her daily bikram yoga work-out, a new post on her blog and fed her two cats Laser and Misha. I met her the week before Christmas. We were introduced at least three times by different people who all claimed “she has great vintage. You should shoot her!”.
And so I am here at the teeny apartment on the edge of McCarren Park, curious to see where the treasure lies. There’s only 2 doors. One leads to her bedroom behind the kitchen, the other, where the living room is supposed to be, is her closet, a twelve-by-seven-foot room packed with nothing but vintage dresses, two-times-two rails on top of each other, the floor lined with shoes and the walls decorated with hats and scarves. When she opens the door I am perplexed. “Great” vintage? It’s a god damn store!! I decide then and there that I need to come back. We need to take this shoot outside! We can’t have these fabulous hems dragging through puddles or her golden locks wet in this dreadful weather. We need to let these incredible clothes marvel in the sunlight!
A few days later I am back at her house, taking notes and drooling over her closet. The sun is out in all her glory. Laura Kitty is 28-years old. Her real name is McLaws Helms – she got her nickname because she “purr and meows” and loves cats. She’s a PhD Candidate in Fashion History at the London College of Fashion and working on two book projects and museum exhibitions. Her dissertation examines “the influence of Middle Eastern culture on British Fashion in the 1960’s and 1970’s”, her 2 favorite eras. Her interest in historical fashion goes back as far as her childhood when she would visit her grandmother in Switzerland – she had a couturier in Geneva who made all her clothes – or when her mom, an Art Historian specializing in Italian Renaissance bronzed casting, would take her to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s costume galleries. Her first piece of vintage was a black Ossie Clark dress with pink scalloped edging. (It was stolen a few years ago, along with a suitcase full of vintage she was traveling with – a traumatizing experience.) Shopping is like research; it’s part of her every day routine, whether it’s on-line or through auction or dealers. She doesn’t cook or hike; she belongs to her work.
Laura Kitty doesn’t wear pants or jeans. “I wore them as a metal chick,” she admits, “when I was a teenager and still like my look from that period but it doesn’t suit my current life.” She describes her favorite color as a “spectrum of hues that I call my ‘colour’ – from mint to aqua to turquoise to lavender, lilac and mauve.” Her day-to-day outfits typically consist of a long, vintage gown, paired with platforms, usually Terry de Havilland and in winter, with a fur, “but I have so many clothes from so many eras that I am just as likely to one day wear a 1940’s skirt suit and the following day wear an Edwardian lace shirtwaist with a 70’s velvet skirt. I’m always mixing and playing with fashion and vintage – fashion is a dialogue with the external world, and by virtue of being seen, it is never private but that doesn’t mean it can’t be highly personal and intuitive.” Spoken like a true academic.