Planet Sputnik loves meeting businesswomen who brighten up modern-day monotony with 1950s glamour. One of our favourite vintage mavens is Katie Thomas, who has recently expanded What Katie Did, her retro-inspired lingerie boutique in central London, by opening a second store – in trendy LA, California. We asked her about her inspiration, drive and goals; what sparked her dreams, how she’s fulfilled her ambitions so far… and where she plans to go next.

"What Katie did" show in Portobello market , London, Katie Thomas

A career as a corset fitter in a fetish store provided the perfect inspiration for Katie to set up a stocking business – but she had no idea when she started on her own in 1999 that What Katie Did would eventually become the world’s leader in faux vintage lingerie.

"What Katie did" show in Portobello market , London, Katie Thomas

“My job had introduced me to vintage-style boned corsets, fully-fashioned stockings, girdles and longline bras,” she recalls. “I loved wearing 1950s styles myself, and back in the 1990s fetish stores were the only place you could purchase these items. However, with the likes of ’50s’ burlesque model Bettie Page re-emerging as a pin-up icon and her modern-day successor Dita Von Teese appearing in fetish magazines, it was a taste of things to come.”

"What Katie did" show in Portobello market , London, Katie Thomas

Having searched in vain for a retailer of her favourite seamed nylon stockings, Katie decided to market them herself. She purchased £100-worth of stock from the manufacturer, and started selling at vintage fairs under the What Katie Did label.


To help things along she set up a website that, despite internet shopping being in its infancy, proved a success. By working incredibly hard as well as diligently reinvesting her profits into the company, she eventually expanded her range to include lingerie.



“I imported vintage-inspired brands from the USA, and also developed a 1950s-style bullet bra, as no one in the UK was still manufacturing them,” she explains. “I was talking such small quantities that no British factory would work with me. Eventually I found a place in India which had made bullet bras in the 1960s; I’ve been working with the same ethical manufacturing facility ever since.”

Lingerie 1

French knickers

MarleneToday, What Katie Did manufactures entire lingerie collections, and sells them online and via its London and Hollywood boutiques. Says Katie: “We used to do a lot of retail shows, print advertising and catalogue mailshots. However, the internet has come to the forefront now; it is where we’ve invested most heavily. We also have more than 100 stockists from Brazil to Iceland, our products are worn by many celebrities, and we receive an amazing amount of press coverage worldwide.”

Corsets 2

Corsets 1

Despite her success, Katie looks back on her fetish store days with fondness and gratitude: “That shop had both a boutique and a mail-order company, so it was perfect training for me,” she says. “It covered all bases – from customer service to accounts, advertising, shoots and fashion shows. There’s no way I’d have been able to set up What Katie Did without having had that experience.”

"What Katie did" show in Portobello market , London, Katie Thomas

What Katie Did also carries retro fashions from other leading vintage-inspired brands, including Miss L-Fire shoes and Bernie Dexter clothing.

Miss L Fire



"What Katie did" show in Portobello market , London, Katie Thomas

Photography: copyright © Elke Bock and © Steve Hart, Miss L-Fire and Bernie Dexter.
All words © Planet Sputnik 2013.
Words and images may not be copied or reproduced by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose whatsoever!

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