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Somehow I managed to hold onto this assumption until, as a young married woman, I came to know Jeanne Prescott, the wife of my husband’s boss. She had done a fine job of raising a good boy and a sweet girl.Her style of dress was always tasteful, appropriate, and pretty.A Kate Spade was a splurge, but unlike so many others of that era (the Fendi baguette, a box of Blahniks) it wasn’t a wholly unattainable one — and for so many women who came of age when we did, it was a special hallmark of being able to own a tiny piece of luxury entirely for ourselves, because we wanted to, because we could. Jessica’s was a classic Kate Spade box bag, raspberry and matte, maybe flannel, which she bought because an older and more glamorous friend — also sadly gone before her time — convinced her it would be a wise investment.
Although Atticus discreetly shakes his head, Scout protests, “But he’s gone and drowned his dinner in syrup.” At that point, Calpurnia, the loving woman who’s helped Atticus raise the children, gets Scout in the kitchen and explains manners, Southern style: “That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the tablecloth you let him, you hear? If ever there is a time when Southern ladies shine, it’s when someone dies. My Aunt Ann always kept a red velvet cake on standby in her freezer.
And there is no doubt what my friend Rosa’s mother, La Velle Kirkpatrick, often carried.
The Kate Spade table was our Mecca, and we regularly came to worship.
Tragically, Kate Spade was found dead in New York this week at age 55, having apparently taken her own life.
We were not — and we probably shouldn’t have dropped even a relatively tame amount of cash on a bag when we had actual adult bills, too — but those purses were talismans of the possibility that, one day, we might be the person they made us feel like we were.
Spade hadn’t been personally involved with her eponymous brand in more than a decade — she sold her last shares in 2006, it was bought by Liz Claiborne Inc., and it went around the corporate merry-go-round before becoming Kate Spade & Company — and Deborah Lloyd designed it from 2007-2017 before passing the torch to Nicola Glass.She could be counted on to be kind, thoughtful, and genuinely interested in you.And to my delight, beneath her calm and reserved manner lurked a wicked wit that would leap out unexpectedly and send me into fits of laughter.Eight anthologies of classic feminist writings and historical descriptions and analyses of women's history are reviewed.The selections are concerned with the history of American feminism and provide an overview of the women's movement and its major causes and crusades in the last two centuries.And, of course, both were adorned with the iconic Kate Spade tag: a black cloth rectangle, her name in simple lowercase white letters.For both of us, this was our first designer purchase — that item in your closet where, at last, the brand name is the only descriptor you need.No longer new college grads but certainly not fully-minted adults (no matter how much we wanted to be), we were in that phase of reaching for things that at least might make us look self-sufficient and independent and grown-up, even though we knew that we still had no idea what we were doing.And so anytime we stepped into that accessories department, our longings took us straight to a cheerful, colorful display strewn with nylon box bags and satiny single-strap evening purses, slim baguettes, and makeup cases — all in rich hues, sassy stripes, witty little cherries, or that signature large black polka dot.This afternoon, the company website took down its splashy pictures and prompts for e-mail discounts, replacing them with a somber black page that calls her “the visionary founder of our brand” and notes, “We honor all the beauty she brought into this world.” Her influence is still widely felt, and not just in our memories of the early years of the millenium.The brand’s punny, sunny aesthetic grew on the foundation Spade laid and reinforced the notion that high fashion need not be high drama, nor high misery; that those of us who wanted to look like colorful quirky prepsters were not as sartorially alone as we might have felt emerging from the era of grunge; that it was not a sin to opt for a small wicker bag shaped like a dog if we wanted one; that clothing could have a sense of humor; that “cheerful” could, in fact, be a reasonable personal style.