When touring became impossible in 2020 over you-knowwhat, Death Valley Girls drummer Laura Kelsey took her rock ’n’ roll bona tides back to the garage—but this time she was working on frills, not fills. “I’ve always loved and collected T-shirts, and I wear a baggy tee most days,” says Kelsey, “so I wanted to take that idea and create something that was easy to throw on but was also a full outfit in itself.” And thus was born LiFER, a line of custom dresses constructed out of vintage tees at her L.A. home. Kelsey’s dressmaking venture soon led to her parting ways with Death Valley Girls in order to outfit scores of stylish, happy customers, including such onstage luminaries as Phoebe Bridgers, Baby Queen, and even her former bandmate, DVG singer Bonnie Bloomgarden. Though she misses getting behind the kit, Kelsey isn’t complaining: “It’s great because even though I’m not out playing live music anymore, I still get to be a part of that world.” Here’s a peek at her process.
1. “First you have to find as many of these vintage rock ’n’ roll shirts as you can. I recommend thrift stores, eBay, or under your burnout boyfriend’s bed.”
2. “Make sure you have a steady hand when you start cutting these into pieces. You can’t just run out and get another Poison shirt from 1988 if you screw up.”
3. “If you haven't sewn in a while, I suggest practicing on something you don’t care about before trying to stitch together a couple of classics like Kate Bush and Dee Snider. And don’t watch TV while you’re making one of these, eyes on the prize.”
4. “I start out with a pile of shirts, some good tunes, and a two-liter of Mountain Dew, and somehow when I wake up the next morning there’s another winner hanging on the rack. Who wants one?”