Friday, July 7, 2017

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Junior Sophisticates

It's easy to forget that DARK SHADOWS was a product of New York City. While contemporary programs like STAR TREK, BATMAN and THE MONKEES were able to pull from resources around the world, DARK SHADOWS had to rely almost exclusively on the talent residing within single city. Most of the show's creative teams were veterans of the NYC theater community, which proved to be up to the task of quickly finding actors to feed to the show's ever-changing narrative demands. At the close of the '60s, New York City was a place where you could see Brother Theodore perform one night, the Velvet Underground the next, and close out the weekend with an off-Broadway show featuring such actors as Al Pacino, James Earl Jones or Christoper Walken. Had DARK SHADOWS been produced in Los Angeles, it might have been a little more polished ... but it would have been a lot less interesting, too.

New York City even contributed to the fashions of DARK SHADOWS. Ohrbach's, a "moderate-priced department store," famously contributed to the show's costumes. Also pitching in was Junior Sophisticates, a clothing line launched in 1948 by Ben and Anne Klein. While Anne would later become a legend in the fashion world, it was a lesser-known designer for the company that brought Junior Sophisticates to DARK SHADOWS. Below is a surprisingly interesting puff piece about actress Kathryn Leigh Scott, who reveals in this interview from 1970 some surprising facts about our favorite gothic soap, shows an understanding of fashion that would make David Bowie blush, and displays her ability to deliver a good interview no matter how airy the subject matter.

Fashions for a Star: Clothes That Move

Afternoon TV
By Jay Edwards

Kathryn Leigh Scott, the long-suffering Maggie Evans of Dark Shadows, was standing in a pouring rain in front of her apartment building, wearing a rain suit with boots to her hips, when she had her first real conversation with Tom Nasarre, the young designer who is her neighbor and now the major influence on her very special fashion look.

"Every time I see you in the elevator," a young designer said to Kathryn Leigh Scott, "you look smashing. I think you'd look absolutely marvelous in my clothes."

"I loved the idea," Katie remembers. "Up to that time I'd been designing and making almost everything for myself — I love design, and I'm very particular about what I wear because my wardrobe has to be right for my way of life. Fortunately for me I knew Tom's work — he designs for Junior Sophisticates, and his clothes were featured in the May issue of Cosmopolitan — and I admired it very much. We had dinner together after that, and he sat there all evening sketching. Things I dream of making he actually does — his clothes are beautifully refined, very contemporary and very wearable."

An example of Scott's Junior Sophisticates wardrobe, from the May 20, 1970 episode of DARK SHADOWS.
That "very wearable" is a very important quality to Kathryn Leigh Scott; besides her natural feminine awareness of beauty and fashion, she is also a young actress very much on the go, and it is absolutely necessary that her clothes can be packed easily for traveling, and that they be totally comfortable.

On a recent whirlwind visit to Birmingham, Alabama, for the Antique Charity Auction Fair, she made seven personal appearances, including a visit to the mayor to accept the key to the city, and all her luggage went on board the plane in one leather satchel and a dress-bag containing one dress.

"The outfit I took with me for that trip happened to be one I designed myself. It's a 1930s fabric; bottle-green." (Unfortunately, the pictures with this story are not in color — Katie's hair is a gorgeous red). "It's a crushed panne velvet suit with a very long jacket closed by four little covered buttons. It has a deep neck and sleeves that are tight at the top and then flute out. The blouse I wore is 75-years-old; my great-grandmother made it for my grand mother."

Kathryn Leigh Scott manages to travel in style, but she never travels cluttered: "One day when I was at the studio doing Dark Shadows I got a late call to go to Philadelphia that night to replace someone in a show. I was wearing a pants suit and I just had time for a cab to run me home and wait while I grabbed my toothbrush and a skirt that goes with the suit. I was in Philadelphia for two days but that gave me a complete wardrobe that I packed — literally — in one large purse. I believe in clothes that move with you!"

Katie hasn't given up designing for herself altogether, but since working exclusively with Nasarre she does much less, and she never sews any more.

"For me to meet a designer I like enough to completely stop sewing is really something," she said, "but I think that much of his work. I've gone to every one of his fashion shows since, which is also great; he actually got a standing ovation at his most recent showing.

"He paid me a compliment once that I treasure. He saw me in a pants suit I had made, and said 'I love it — I'd put it in my own show!' Coming from a designer, that's like getting an Academy Award."

Working with Nasarre has also taught Katie a few lessons about making clothes that she had ignored before, when she was creating her own wardrobe: "I always used to make a lot of things that I just threw away, because they didn't work out right. Now, when I have an idea that I like, I make it first in muslin or crepe; sometimes I make three or four trials before I actually finish the dress. This way, if I don't like the result, I can just buy some more cheap fabric and make another test instead of giving up and hanging my mistakes in the back of the closet."

Interestingly, Kathryn Leigh Scott's fascination with design is not simply the usual style-consciousness that one might assume — the subject fits in with her whole attitude toward the world around her. "I'm fascinated by our way of life right now," she said. "All the sights, the sounds, the political unrest — design is just an extension of all the senses that make our awareness of life. The important thing to remember is that design isn't just the look of clothes; it's an expression of all your attitudes and values. I love making things because they're all mine — the same way that I love wearing Tom's clothes because he understands me.

"The important thing for a woman to remember — even if she doesn't feel she can design and make her own clothes—is that simply selecting things expresses the same personal values. Putting one special lorgnette with one special vest; one special blouse with one special suit — the important thing is that what you wear should express what you are."

And — if you happen to be a popular young actress starring in one of television's most successful daytime shows — it should be something that you can pack in one large handbag and still look as though you just walked out of a salon in Paris. 

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