Antique 1883 Taxidermy Cat PUSS Dress Vanderbilt Gilded Age NYC Costume Photo

Alva Erksine Smith, the youngest Vanderbilt bride, hoped to throw a party so unforgettable that she would break the Astor’s high society monopoly. Twelve hundred socialites, costumed as opulently as their dressmakers could conceive, flooded the new home and celebrity photographer Jose Maria Mora was on hand to document the most lavish.

Mora’s family were forced out of their own wealth in Cuba by the revolution and emigrated to the U.S. After a quick two year apprenticeship to Napoleon Sarony, Mora built his own studio catering to the theatre and society crowd with European inspired scenes and historical tableaus. His subjects, mostly young women, are loving draped over romantic props.

Kate Feering Strong (Mrs Welman), affectionately known as PUSS to her friends, saw fit to wear a dress embellished with taxidermy cats (another as a crown) with a collar and bell around her neck! The Museum of the City of New York archives show this image with others from the party, only the hostess had a costume more outlandish (her torch was powered by a battery in the dress.) Inquire at curleysden@gmail.com. $675.

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