Long Blondes play in fine fashion 

Kate Jackson dresses to impress. The singer for U.K. alt-pop sensations the Long Blondes arrived for a recent interview wearing all-vintage fashions — a ’60s leopard-print skirt, a ’50s black sweater and turquoise scarf and heels straight from the ’70s.

"But I do like to mix and match," said the glamour queen, who’s been featured in several fashion spreads back home. "I bought this top at H&M."

How did her group — which plays at the Great American Music Hall on Monday — become one of Britain’s best-dressed? Two reasons, says Jackson, 28: her dress-designing mother, who passed down countless originalpatterns for her daughter to wear onstage, and her unusual day job at Freshman’s, Sheffield’s most popular thrift store.

Jackson signed on at the second-hand shop fresh out of college to avoid the tedium of 9-to-5 office work, she says. Her knowledge of classic designers was so extensive, she was soon promoted to Internet buyer, with the duty of visiting apparel warehouses to sort through their castoffs.

"I also knew a lot about Levi’s, knew exactly what to look for, like the rivets and the seams," Jackson said. "So I’d research everything we found, put it up for sale on eBay and just see it fly. One leather jacket I found sold for $1,600."

The down side? The warehouses themselves, says Jackson, who frequently stumbled upon nesting rat families.

"I used to come out all black, just covered in dirt," she said. "But sometimes something vintage would fall out, in perfect condition, and that was what kept me going, week after week."

The Long Blondes are currently topping the overseas charts with "Century," the frothy single from their Blondie-esque sophomore set, "Couples" on Rough Trade.

But the Freshman’s manager still saves the grooviest gear for his old employee to grab whenever she’s back in town. Which suits Jackson fine — she doesn’t follow fashion trends, and admits to stealing her scarf fetish from Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde."

It was her sartorial style that first got her noticed by guitarist Dorian Cox.

"He seemed to believe that because of the way I looked and the records that I liked, that I would be a good singer or frontperson," Jackson said."

Under that premise, the Long Blondes formed four years ago, learned to play their instruments, and honed their songwriting chops in trial-by-fire club dates.

"And when we chose our name, we weren’t necessarily thinking about its meaning," said the foxy leader. "We just wanted something that sounded good, that conjured up images of faded film stars from the ’40s."

IF YOU GO

The Long Blondes

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $15

Contact: (800) 225-2277 or www.gamh.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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