Gilded Age kinksters

I was recently watching the PBS documentary The Gilded Age and was struck by an image of a partygoer at the 1883 ball thrown by Alva Vanderbilt as a housewarming for the newly completed 5th Avenue Vanderbilt mansion (since demolished, alas). This was a gathering of the crème de la crème of New York society at the time, all of them competing with each other in a display of wealth and privilege (the newspapers even promoted the event with headlines about “The Amount of Wealth to be Displayed”). But it was the “youthful and precocious” Kate Fearing Strong who showed everyone up in her Catwoman costume.

The idea of a society lady attending such a party wearing a collar with her nickname “Puss” on it struck me as wonderfully 50 Shades. Animal lovers should cringe, however, at the fact that her headpiece was a real taxidermied cat and her skirt had seven real white cat tails sewn against a black background. I don’t know if Strong was the inspiration for Cruella de Vil, but the connection is pretty obvious. All-in-all a pretty disgusting costume then, though the collar is timeless.

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