Carroll County librarian doesn't dress by the book

Candid Closet

December 11, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

When Kathy Keen, a library clerk at the Westminster branch of the Carroll County public library, searches for a historical era in her mind's eye, she sees it in costume. "That's the way I always remember periods of history, when people did certain things," she says. "I think what people were wearing and place it with the period."

Keen, model-tall and in her late 40s, will herself be remembered for an extravagant flair for clothing. She "dresses unlike any librarian in the world," one friend says.

How do you describe your style?

I buy what I like and a lot of it. I try not to buy things that are too trendy. I don't like people looking and saying, "Oh, that was out in 1995."

What have you bought recently along those lines?

I found a blue velvet dress that reminds me of a Renaissance dress. It's calf-length. I like to think of my clothes as costumes that put me in a certain mood.

How else do you define your fashion derring-do?

I wear short skirts, and they're fitted. A lot of people make the mistake of buying clothes too large. A lot of people look at something and think it's not going to look good. It doesn't cost anything to put it on and see, to take the chance.

Were you always a clothes horse?

When I was a teen-ager, I used to draw clothes. Deep down, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I drew sports clothes, gowns. I guess my favorite is evening wear. I'm kind of a party person.

Did you buy a lot of clothes as a girl and young woman?

No, my family is real poor. My mother used to sew most of my clothes.

Did she sew your high school graduation dress?

Yes, as a matter of fact. It was a white eyelet sheath. It was pretty.

Librarians aren't usually known for dressing up.

You wouldn't think librarians would be big party people, but they are.

Still, your colleagues probably tease you about your obsession.

A little. If I've been shopping again, or spending more money, they'll say I don't have enough cocktail dresses and party dresses. I get teased about that.

What do you do with a dress after you've worn it to a party?

I lend a lot of them out so they get used. If you're going to a party with the same people and you don't want to wear it again, somebody else can use it.

Do you hang on to your old clothes for sentimental reasons?

No. I'm not a big nostalgia person. I don't keep things. Once it's done, it's done. I did try on a little sweater dress from the '70s a little while ago. As I went out the door, my son said, "Mom, you forgot your pants." He thought it was just a sweater.

Where do you shop?

Hecht's and Macy's. I like Carole Little and Liz Claiborne. And when I can afford it, some Donna Karan. I love Donna Karan. The fabric in her clothes is just wonderful because it's flowing. I'm so thin, if I have heavyweight fabric on, it pulls me down.

What do you have lined up for the holiday party season?

I have a great black gown for New Year's. It's all kind of gathered in the bust line, and long and has a big split up the front.

You make shopping sound like a party in itself!

I take gobs of clothes into the dressing room. I just love trying them on. I hear people in there complaining, while I'm having so much fun. My hope is that when I die, I'm in the Macy's dressing room trying on a little black dress.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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