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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.
By Ann Dorer Born and raised in the South, I have naturally known Southern ladies all my life, starting with my momma, her friends, and my aunts; moving on to my schoolteachers, Sunday school teachers, and the mothers of my friends.
As a child, I simply assumed all women were like these wonderful ladies who, each in her own way, strongly, gently, and often unintentionally shaped who I grew up to be.
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.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.As a newlywed, she found herself plunged into a culture foreign to her.She felt like an outsider who didn’t fit in with Southern ladies—that is until, after studying us, she finally figured us out.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.(It was, certainly more than the leather pants she also recommended.) Heather’s was a petite, single-strap over-the-shoulder style, soft and almost sateen, in a smoky medium blue with aspirations of being periwinkle.It was gratifying to possess an item that also was its own perfect adjective.No one ever says, “Hang on, let me grab my Bag I Stole From My Sister’s Closet Five Years Ago,” but “I left my lipstick in my Kate Spade” makes perfect natural sense — a satisfying sentence to utter, something that also says, “Hello, I am an adult woman with a real professional purse.” We both recall unwrapping our bag from the store’s protective tissue and feeling, finally, ever so mature and self-possessed.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.