There’s a little bit of the 50s in everything that Kat Flesfader does.
Her clothes, her makeup, her hair, her work - they’re all influenced by an era when women were at their most feminine, rock ‘n’ roll was “sinful” and life was centred on family and domestic duties.
It was a time when women who had held wartime jobs were expected to abandon their careers to provide employment for men returning from war.
Women were encouraged to stay at home, raise children and care for their husbands, which they dutifully did (while plotting a feminist revolution).
Kat is very much a product of the journey of women through the 50s, 60 and 70s and the epitome of independence and freedom, but she holds tightly to the best bits of her mother’s era and given a chance, she says she’d probably go back in time.
“If only to see Elvis,” she says on the 40th anniversary of his death.
“But what I love about the 21st Century is that I’m free to pick and choose from history. I can take all the classic glamour and apply it to the now,” she said.
And apply it she does.
Kat’s bread and butter is as a beautician, specialising in vintage style hair and makeup - a job that often has her joining the Pop Up Weddings Tasmania team at Cradle Mountain and other lovely locations for traditional and themed weddings.
“Of course I love doing the 50s hair, makeup and styling in particular - I think any woman looks beautiful with this style because it’s so flattering with high waists, big curls and winged eyeliner,” she said.
Kat runs Big Tease Pop Up Parlour, a mobile salon, sharing makeover tips and tricks, like how to apply false eyelashes and define perfect brows - a fun-for-all-ages ladies’ outing and tutorial combined to achieve all things classic glamour.
On weekends she fronts the increasingly popular rockabilly/retro rock band Kitty Martini and the Tom Collins Trio, mesmerising as her alter ego and often sporting pink bouffant hair and vintage sparkles.
A resurgence in all things rock ‘n’ roll has led to a growing list of gigs for the band at car shows, festivals and rockabilly events across several states - always complemented by dancers with sharp moves and spinning skirts jumping and jiving to the big beat music.
Kat’s huge vocals not only cover the likes of old school Elvis and Chuck Berry, but modern songs with a rockin’ twist such as Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King and Umbrella by Rihanna, as well as a growing repertoire of original songs, written by Kat herself.
She’s supported by guitarist extraordinaire Scott Mainwaring, king of the double bass Dave ‘Gringo’ Runciman and drummer plus Studebaker driver Dave Mason.
“I was a late bloomer when it comes to singing,” Kat admitted.
Music lessons just weren’t possible for my single mum growing up and it wasn’t until grade 10 at Devonport High, when I was picked as the lead in the school musical, that I realised I could sing and how much I enjoyed it.
“Even then I didn’t do much about it until I was 19 and I started doing karaoke at Spurs at Devonport. I was invited to compete in a karaoke competition, and won a trip to Melbourne. Anyone can be a rock star for three minutes!
“In three attempts over three years I went from third place, to second to first and I finally made it to the World Championships in Queensland where I picked up a fourth.”
Kat and karaoke went hand in hand for years, until eventually, Kat started singing with a friend’s band before eventually joining a burlesque dance group, singing old Connie Francis tunes with the odd combination of a pole dancer, a drag queen and a couple of comedians in a 1940s/50s-style cabaret in Hobart.
"One of the girls wanted to perform to a live rockabilly band, just like they had seen at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Thus, Kitty Martini and the Tom Collins Trio was born!
“We had two weeks to learn about 30 songs and we pulled it off - although I wrote off my husband’s car when l I aquaplaned in the wet on the way to the venue and ended up performing with a massive bump on my head.”
Kitty Martini and the Tom Collins Trio have just recorded their first single and video clip - to officially be released in November (keep an eye on website:tomcollinstrio.com for details).
Kat’s third job is working for the band’s drummer and signwriter David Mason - as Restoraliana's Project Manager, assisting with promotion and lending some elbow grease to the restoration of anything from an old car to an old petrol bowser.
Restoraliana is all about airbrushing, old school pin-striping and restoration of vintage machinery, as well as furniture, retro relics and custom artwork.
I’m so lucky that I get to combine the things that I love - 50s culture, music, clothes. I love that the dancers follow us around and it’s all good, clean family fun.
“One day I’m making girls look like Marilyn Monroe, the next day I’m sanding back a motorbike, the next I’m singing on stage.”
At home, Kat is often found baking and sewing clothes like a modern Martha Stewart - but with Netflix.
The front room of her Port Sorell home is a 50s time warp, with a record player, an old wardrobe harbouring her vintage clothing treasures, from original 1950s Dolly Varden tulle prom dresses to slinky, sparkly 60s numbers.
She has a collection of old bulbous commercial hair dryers, heated rollers and hose-heated plastic caps plus a brag-worthy collection of vintage jewellery and cocktail hats.
There are sequins, slitted skirts and soft fur stolls galore - the clothing carefully separated into reproduction and true vintage - most of it sourced from op shops and Etsy.
Kat feels she’s come a long way since she delved into the 50s fashion pageant circuit where she found national success in 2011.
“That was fun at the time - I was just getting over glandular fever, I wasn’t working, my self esteem was low - it was lovely to hang out with girls with a similar interest,” she said.
“The pageants led to quite a bit of modelling, especially bridal modelling, and while I’m classified as ‘plus size’ - I really feel like I’m just average - I hate those stupid labels.
“I think that’s why I appreciate the 50s style, women were feminine and curvy and embraced it.
“Even though I appear outgoing and super confident I still hide behind my persona on stage a bit and have the same self doubts that most people have - I’m an extroverted introvert!
“And I wish everyone would strive to find a way, like I have, to express their true selves and enjoy every day.
“My grade 5 teacher told me, if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And I can say that it’s honestly true. I am living my dream, I made that dream a reality.”
Catch Kitty Martini and the Tom Collins Trio at the following local events:
Iron Horse Bar & Grill, Prospect
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Convicts to Classics
Car & Bike Show at Woolmers Estate
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017
Butterflies & Purple Ties
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Hundred Acres – Ghost Rock
Fundraiser for Kyla's Foundation with tickets from their Facebook page here.
Rockabilly Night at the Masters' Games
Friday, October 20, 2017
Pier 01 - Ulverstone
Masters Games Opening Ceremony
Saturday October 21, 2017 8:00 - 9:00pm
Devonport Oval, TAS
Day of the Dead @ Holy Guacamole
Saturday October 28, 2017
2:30 - 5:30pm
The Quadrant, Launceston
Halloween at Port Sorell
Port Sorell Bowls Club
Saturday, October 28, 2017