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The love affair, like so many, started at Bloomingdale’s.It was the early aughts, and we were in our early 20s.
We, of course, never knew her as the many other things she was — a businesswoman, a journalist, a mother to Frances and aunt to actress Rachel Brosnahan, a wife to Andy — but, like so many other women, we carry in our hearts the indelible image of that corner of designer sunshine and what it meant to us.
There was something profoundly formative about being able to call one of her purses your own.
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.
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.
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.
Fifteen years ago, it felt like every girl you met had a Kate Spade bag — or a knockoff, which was close enough when you’re 24 years old.
Today, that kind of fashionable ubiquity might be sniffed at as being “basic,” but for us, there was comfort in it, a warmth in finding a kindred spirit in a bar’s bathroom line, and an opening to chirp a winking, “I love your bag! Kate Spade purses were not intimidating, and that’s a blessing, not a backhanded compliment.