A harmonious hurricane of style, Kali, 28, knows fashion from the inside. Her day job finds her making corsets for a company in Greenwood; before that, she worked in the costume department of a professional theater in Phoenix. Both jobs kept her swimming in the raw materials of fashion, but it was the theater post that most benefited her home closet. Both Kali's dazzling op-art dress (with its sassy shoulder cut-aways) and her stately hat are treasures she was permitted to plunder from the avalanche of vintage goodies constantly falling on every pro theater worth its muslin. (Big theaters receive bountiful donations from the superrich, who believe Goodwill is for peasants.) "It's the dress of a dead woman," says Kali cheerfully, before naming another dead woman as her fashion idol: Edith Head, the Hollywood costume legend who worked on over 1,100 films, ran the costume design department at both Paramount and Universal Studios, and dressed every female movie star of the '40 and '50s worth remembering.
Spicing up her astounding résumé—35 Oscar nominations, 8 wins—is the fact that Edith Head: Costume Designer™ was invented out of whole cloth. After spotting a newspaper listing for a fashion-artist position at Paramount, the twentysomething Edith cobbled together a portfolio of drawings (some her own, some the work of her art-school classmates) and presented herself for the job. Head's stylish hustle worked, and over the next four decades, she would distinguish herself as the most celebrated costumer in cinema history, creating signature looks for such screen legends as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich, Tippi Hedren, and Mae West, many of whom stipulated costuming by Head in their contracts. In addition, Edith Head all but invented the television makeover, via regular appearances on Art Linkletter's House Party, where she would stroll the aisles presenting audience members with real-life fashion tips. On October 24, 1981, at age 83, Edith Head suffered a violent coughing fit (caused by a rare bone-marrow disease) that ruptured her esophagus and killed her in her sleep.
Meanwhile, Head's number-one fan Kali remains dazzlingly alive. "I just watched The Women and realized I need to wear more hats," says Kali, who, it must be acknowledged, doesn't get all her clothes free from the dead. Case in point: her dramatic peep-toe heels ($30, Target, 302 NE Northgate Way, 494-0897). As for that coin tattoo on her right forearm: "It's a wheat penny." It cost her 10,000 pennies at Super Genius (1017 E Pike St, 322-1630).