When I first discovered Kate Spade, I’d moved from a very casual place (Santa Fe NM) to Washington, D.C. I had two little girls, and a new life, and no idea what to wear. I wasn’t the athleisure type. I didn’t want to run around in Lilly Pulitzer neon, or jeans, either. I was a stay-at-home mom transitioning to work in a conservatively-dressed city, and I had. No. Clue. Some people are indifferent to clothing styles. Some people are confident in their style. I was lost.
Enter Kate Spade. Do you remember the original fragrance, a bombshell of gardenia, muguet and newly mown grass? I wasn’t into perfume then, but I loved that scent, and I wish I’d bought a dozen bottles on deep discount at Macy’s when they discontinued it.
But it was Kate Spade’s clothes that really changed things for me. I’d never seen that kind of fashion with built-in whimsy that also managed to look fully adult and stylish. I didn’t have the money for a bunch of Kate Spade clothes and accessories, but I used the line (and Kate Spade herself) as an informal guide to putting together a similar, less expensive wardrobe for myself. I’ve always played with clothes – more costume, less career. I dove headfirst into the Santa Fe broomstick-skirt and cowboy boot look when we lived there. And I’ve always loved vintage clothes, especially the fit-and-flare styles that suited my girl-next-door looks.
Kate Spade was a more office-friendly, pulled together and professional version of clothing that still catered to my love of costume. And it was fun, in a city that favors navy blue suits and flesh-colored pantyhose. Decades later I’m still wearing a pared-down version of that look.
So Kate Spade’s death felt almost personal to me. You never really know what’s going on inside someone else’s head. And (as with Anthony Bourdain) a successful life from the outside can look so very, very bright and shiny, to the point that any indication otherwise comes as a terrible shock.
I’ve had my own quiet bombshell the last few weeks (can a bombshell be quiet?) As my sense of smell returns slowly and unpredictably, with more recovered scent-memories and less meat-sweat phantom miasma stalking me, my beloved winter honeysuckle bloomed. It’s bloomed twice this winter, once in late January and a fuller, sweeter bloom now. I can smell it all the way across the yard. I mean, just look at that extravaganza! OK, I’m teasing. That bush looks like a whole lotta nothing even in the aggregate, because the blossoms are so small and pale and unassuming. But each tiny blossom is a powerhouse of fragrance. I’ve even got a few early spring bees wandering around on it, delirious. I didn’t think it was possible, but this year I appreciate the scent of those tiny, hopeful blossoms more than ever.