I sometimes wonder how much of the Internet’s traffic is driven by Kate Moss slideshows. She is one of those creatures, and the digital age seems to support less and less of them (unless you count cats), that can sustain abiding obsession.
Some people attribute this to her Garboesque relationship with the press; she is reported to have taken former boyfriend Johnny Depp’s advice, ‘never complain, never explain,’ to heart and rarely gives interviews (or explanations, for that matter). But I don’t think that’s it. I suspect she could talk all day every day and remain endlessly mesmerizing. The truth is Kate has been speaking non-stop since she appeared in her first Corinne Day photo way back in 1990; it’s just that she’s been speaking in the complicated, often loaded, language of clothes. Few and far between are the people who can speak this language fluently, and in all this time Moss has never uttered one mundane word. Not one.
I love her.
Of course, it’s easy to love Kate Moss now. Hindsight favors originality. I happen to be the same age as Moss, however, and I have a crystal clear recollection of the first time I encountered her, in real time, at a magazine shop in my local suburban mall. She was on the cover of the May 1995 issue of W magazine wearing a Vivienne Westwood corset; inside she was featured in a spread titled ‘Midnight Cowgirl’ shot by Craig McDean (one of the shots above) and she looked unlike anything I’d ever seen. I tracked down a copy of this issue on eBay a few years ago and even now when I open it to certain pictures I can still smell the greasy, claustrophobic, aroma of the food court that was located around the corner from that newsstand, and also feel the same sense of exhilaration brought on by the promise of escape she immediately represented.
This was still the heyday of the glamazon super model. Jeanne Beker’s FashionTV, which eventually went international, was throughout my high school years still only a local Toronto show that aired Sundays. The half-hour show mostly featured endless reels of those rarified creatures sashaying nearly naked down far-off runways: utterly, beautifully, unattainable (as nearly everything from the vantage-point of suburban high school life always is). In contrast, there was something about Moss that struck me as just so perfectly strange. It’s funny now to think of Kate Moss as being relatable but right then, in that fluorescent lit mall, that’s exactly what she felt like. Weird and accessible. With cheekbones.
Nearly two decades later, Moss has proved worthy of that early devotion. At least she’s held up under it. (Obviously. I mean, we could run this post in the Scientific American and likely even readers there wouldn’t have to Google who we were talking about.)
But perhaps she’s made no greater impact than the one she’s left on the world of vintage. Purely based on anecdotal evidence (which I am about to provide in picture form) I think there is an argument to be made that she is responsible for the mainstreaming of vintage; not least because she herself has repeatedly plundered her own vintage wardrobe to create her blockbuster lines for TopShop.
Her latest line launches this month (those of you equally obsessed with Kate will likely recognize a few golden oldies in this collection, also) and so what better time to revisit some vintage (literally) Kate favorites. Herewith, I present my purely subjective Top 10 Kate Moss vintage looks:
10. The yellow Fifties prom dress. On most lists I’ve come across this usually ranks at or near top spot. It’s never been my favorite, but I get it! Of all the outfits she’s worn this is easily the most accessible and she’s finally replicated it for this current collection.
9. Studio Kate. The only reason I know this jumpsuit, by seventies designer Stephen Burrows, is vintage is because ‘Kate Moss: Style’ says so. Moss just knocked it off for her recent collection. More on jumpsuits in next month’s column.
8. The flowerpot chandelier earrings. According to a 2001 Vogue interview with Moss done by Plum Sykes, these are Victorian diamond flowerpot earrings. Really, there is an entire book to be written about the Moss jewelry collection.
7. Flapper. Flapper dresses seem very de rigueur now thanks to Gatsby etc. But I remember seeing a picture of this dress in a magazine at the time and being blown away (also, note the original Manolo Mary Janes, coveted by SJP here). The dress allegedly belonged to Errol Flynn’s wife Lili Damita. Moss has knocked variations of it off for different TopShop collection.
6. LBD. What I love about this sleek fifties bombshell dress is how Kate transformed it into straight-up nineties minimalism. A version of it also made it to one of Moss’s TopShop lines.
5. Shampoo. Technically this is not a vintage dress. (Though maybe it is now? This picture is from 1995). It’s a knock-off of the dress Julie Christie wore in ‘Shampoo’, which Depp had made for Moss. I’ve never been a nostalgic for the Moss-Depp relationship (he reached his peak of fascination for me here) but the sheer awesomeness of that gift, paired with the fact at age 20 Moss was even familiar with the film, is not to be denied. However, at the risk of being blasphemous, I will say this: I think Christie wore it better. That in and of itself makes the dress unique in the history of everything Kate Moss has ever worn.
4. Cannes 1998. Moss established herself as a fashion influencer to be reckoned with when she appeared on the Cannes red carpet in 1997 in a grey Narciso Rodriguez sheath dress (note the afore-mentioned flowerpot earrings). But this was always my favorite. I love how she owned the too tight bodice. And the simplicity of ensemble. And the diamonds. And the hair. Claudia Schiffer looks downright garish next to her. For years I wondered about the origins of this dress. Then I bought ‘Kate Moss: Style’ and discovered it’s a Madame Gres.
3. Her 30th Birthday. I mean. C’MON. The hair alone is worthy of devotion (and is reminiscent of this 1994 Vogue spread, also a favorite). The dress is from the Twenties and according to Britt Eckland, who recognized it from a photo that ran the day after Kate’s party, is the same one Eckland wore to the ‘Man With the Golden Gun’ premiere in 1973. There are not enough pictures of this dress on the Internet, and none that I can find of what it looks like without the shawl, or from the back (though the knock-off version Kate did for her ‘final’ TopShop line provides some clues). I consider both these things to be a crime against fashion.
2. That Dior. Is this the greatest red carpet dress in history? I think it might be. And that was before it got ripped (because Courtney Love stepped on it? Because Kate was drunk? Does it matter?) and was promptly tied up around Kate’s waist in what is easiest the chicest recovery from a debaucherous mishap in history. *It’s not actually a Dior. Christian Dior did not open his house until the mid-forties and this dress is clearly from the Thirties. Not that it matters. As Diana Vreeland says it’s not really about the dress, “it’s the life you’re living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later." Though, obviously it’s also about the dress. (I wonder what Vreeland would have done with Moss; lots, I imagine.)
(PS Just a bit of gossip from behind the scenes - Courtney Love was actually one of the first people that tipped off Cherie during a phone convo that this is not a Dior as widely reported at the time. She was already highly suspicious but since Courtney was with Kate that night we definitively call that one confirmed)
1. Halston split-leg gown. For argument’s sake, let’s just say that if Kate Moss ever came to me and said “Glynnis, I want you to choose one item from my closet for your very own” this would be it.