Katy K’s Ranch Dressing, located at 2407 12th Ave. S. in Nashville is one of the best places to get cool rockabilly and western wear. Most Nashvillians have heard of Katy K’s Ranch Dressing and probably shopped there a time or two or at least meant to. But, how many people actually know Katy Kattleman, the owner, and her history in the fashion business? I bet few people know that she partied with Andy Warhol (there were tequila fountains, people!) and that her designs were featured in magazines such as Vanity Fair and WWD (Women’s Wear Daily)!
Well, I admit that I didn’t know any of that. After doing a little research and learning that Katy moved here from New York and was actually designing western wear there before moving to Nashville, I knew I had to meet her for myself and get the scoop.
Well, I did finally meet Katy K. Prior to our face to face meeting, I asked her a few questions via email. I figured that might be a good way to start the conversation. Turns out, I was right! Check out some of the questions and answers below for yourself! Wow! I had no idea!
My Fashion Maven (MFM): How long have you been in Nashville? What brought you here?
Katy K: I have been in Nashville since 1994. I always had a fascination with classic Country Music which included the visual style. I was impressed at a young age with Nudie suits before I even knew what they were. There was a lady on TV who hosted a cartoon show when I was growing up in Philadelphia named Sally Starr. She used to wear a turquoise Nudie suit with rhinestones and leather fringe. This to me was the coolest thing I had ever seen. That image was burned into my brain. Also much later, when I lived in Canada, I saw the Porter Wagoner show with Dolly and that awakened this childhood memory. Later on in NYC I found a Kitty Wells album with her in a gingham dress puffed out by crinolines. This became a focal point for my “look” of the 1980′s. I had Nashville video stylists coming to me in New York when I had a space in Screaming Mimi’s looking for Western type clothes for their artists. I perceived that there
must be a shortage of this type of clothing in Nashville. I was burned out in New York by this time and followed one of my best friends, Kristi Rose who moved down here. I thought I’d give it a try and have been here every since.
MFM: What is your favorite item that you have designed? For whom?
Katy K: I made some bustiers for Cyndi Lauper that I quite liked, also a Marilyn type dress for Russ Meyer superstar, Kitten Natividad. Another source of pride was a retro baby doll set I designed for The Frederick’s of Hollywood catalogue which was influenced by an old Jayne Mansfield calendar shot.
MFM: What is your connection to burlesque?
Katy K: Again, when I was very young I saw ads in Phila newspapers for the Troc Burlesque theater. They had pictures of gorgeous women like Blaze Starr. I wanted to look like them too. Later on in my New York club days we put on burlesque type reviews in clubs like the Limelight, Club 57 etc. One of my dear friends, John Sex was at the center of a lot of this. I got to see Blaze Starr and a few other great classic Burlesque stars at the end of their performing careers. By this time, the Burlesque theaters were gone and we had to go to depressing “sex” clubs to see them perform. I got to meet some of these ladies and make clothes for them. I also hung out in a lot of drag bars in the late 70′s and early 80′s which was one of the only places I could find the glamor I craved.
MFM: How would you describe the Nashville fashion scene? How do you think it differs from NY?
Katy K: The Nashville fashion scene right now seems influenced by outside sources. It differs from NY in so many ways. New York has a street fashion which is so much more evident since you have to walk, take subway or bus to get anywhere. Here in Nashville, you are in your car so that interaction is not possible. That being said, there are definite personalities in Nashville who have cultivated great original style.
MFM: What is the craziest thing you have seen while working in the fashion industry?
Katy K: One of my first fashion jobs was working for a large design firm where my duties included using company credit card to shop at Bloomingdale’s for specific items. I was then taught to do “rub offs” which is copying patterns without taking garment apart. After I got the tissue paper pattern made, I would return item to store. This of course was blatant stealing. I didn’t last too long at this job but at least I learned how to make patterns from existing garments which came in handy when I wanted to copy a vintage dress to fit me.
MFM: Whose style do you admire (current or past fashion icon, designer, or regular person)?
Katy K: I like a lot of the 1950′s sex bombs like early Jayne Mansfield, Barbara Nichols, Abbe Lane, Tempest Storm. I also like a lot of movie costume designers like Jean Louis, Adrian even Cecil Beaton. There are certain movies such as “Girl Can’t Help It”, “West Side Story” “Sweet Smell of Success” “Some Like it Hot” that did it for me as well.
Take a look at some of the photos of Katy’s designs from the 80′s.
One can’t help notice the resemblance to Dolly Parton, whose style Katy admired.
It’s not hard to imagine how these designs might have turned more than a few heads in New York in the 80′s before this look was the rage.
Fast forward about 25 years and Katy K has one of the coolest shops in Nashville. Not only that, she is super sweet and very friendly. When I met her on Saturday, March 26th she was very gracious with her time. She showed me her portfolio of magazine and newspaper clippings from the 80′s which was quite impressive! Shirley MacLaine and Paulina Porizkova were among some of the notables who were photographed wearing her designs. Not too shabby!
After chatting with me for a bit, Katy gave me a tour of her store. The place was buzzing with customers on a cold and rainy day in Nashville. I was thankful to be inside to take refuge from the nasty weather and what a great place to spend a Saturday! Katy’s got an excellent collection of new and vintage western and rockabilly clothing for men, women, children and babies. And, the prices are very reasonable. Closet Case Vintage has a room up front that you should definitely check out if you love vintage like I do. Very well chosen pieces and great prices. Carmen Jaudon has great taste! I saw more than a few pieces that I want to go back and snatch up before someone else does!
Check out my photo tour of Katy K’s Ranch Dressing below.
When you enter the store, you see Katy’s kitschy area which houses t-shirts, coasters, stickers and other items perfect for out-of-towners wanting to take a piece of Nashville home with them!
Thanks Katy for your time and generousity!