When I dressed up for career day in elementary school, I carried an old boxy brown leather briefcase that belonged to my father. I believe my official career day title was “business woman.” Very original, I know. But the briefcase is what really pulled the whole 4th grade future female business leader of America ensemble together. It said I mean business, and I have the papers and pens right here in this bag to prove it.
I guess that’s why I felt so grown up and legit when I actually purchased my own real workbag when I had my own real job and actually what was the beginning of a career many years later. It was the mid 1990s and the bag of choice was the Kate Spade nylon tote bag in black similar to this 21st century version. I purchased the bag at Bloomingdales one night after work and walked out onto Lexington Avenue with a spring in my step and smile on my face channeling my inner Mary Tyler Moore. Had I been wearing a hat that night there’s a pretty good chance I would have thrown it out into the crisp evening city air. I was going to make it after all. I had the bag to prove it.
The Kate Spade bag that I, and so many of my contemporaries, carried two decades ago was professional looking enough to pass for a real I’m not messing around anymore workbag, but also feminine and stylish enough to distinguish itself from the old leather briefcases carried by my father and by Don Draper. (Note: My father is nothing like Don Draper.)
Just like Mary, the Kate Spade bag had spunk. And who (besides Lou Grant) doesn’t like spunk? The Kate Spade bag stood for what I believed in and still do – that a woman should dress like herself, be proud of who she is and make it after all in the profession of her choosing. I’ve seen so many women on the street, on the news and up close and personal dressed like how they think a man would dress if he were a woman. That doesn’t really work – for me at least.
I carried the Kate Spade bag for many years to and from work. It held my notebooks and folders, sometimes my laptop and also a small makeup bag plus lots of hairbands that always fell to the bottom of it getting mixed up with a stray pen or hidden under a scarf. It was big enough and soft enough too so that these essentials could all fit in and coexist.
I left the job to go to graduate school. It was then that I swapped out the Kate Spade bag for a North Face backpack, which held my textbooks, binders and a new laptop. I put Kate in the back of the closet knowing that I would bring her out again one day, and I did. At some point though, the Kate Spade bag disappeared in the shuffle of a move.
Lately I’ve been transporting my laptop and notebooks to and from my home office and my Starbucks office in my new gray fringe shoulder bag. The new bag is really cute and seems to fit in more with my casual style these days. It works.
But I still I think about Kate Spade a lot, and about Mary too. I miss them both.