At the beginning of fall season, some predictable things start going on in my girly self: I buy a Vogue Magazine, pull garments from my “tired of” closet, and go shopping at Macy’s, Dillards, TJMaxx, and small, locally owned dress shops. In the Macy’s fashion-jewelry area at the Betsey Johnson counter, a jewelry counter that has made me smile for ages, but a place that seemed wild, I finally sprang for my first pair of Betsey earrings to be worn by me, not someone younger.
stud earrings, preferring instead leverback earrings, not as likely to fly away when you pull a top over your head or use the shower and hair dryer at the fitness center, I chose the gold-toned leopard-print hearts accented with tiny enameled black bows. They were under $40, half as expensive as the single amethyst stud that went missing. I had no idea how happy that Betsey purchase would make me. The Betseys were comfortable, played up my complexion, and provided a feeling of pride of ownership because they seemed well made. Within a few days, I had also bought two other pair of earrings, a watch, three necklaces, a tote bag, and a wallet, all sporting the hot pink sales tag with Betsey’s hand-printed first and last names, followed by a period.
With every purchase, I chatted to whoever was at the counter and learned that Betsey is seventy years old. Reading about New York Fashion Week, I learned that, although seventy, she continued her tradition of turning a cartwheel at the finish of her runway designs each year. I learned that she is a grandmother like me, but that her daughter does not wish to continue the company, now that her mother is retiring or selling. Rumor has it that Liz Claiborne Company has bought Betsey Johnson. I would not be surprised if this is true, as the Liz Company owns the Juicy Couture and Lucky Brands, both with some sass like Betsy Johnson’s merchandise.
The happy feeling continues every time I put on Betsey Johnson items, or even thinking of what she represents gives me a happy kick: fun with fashion, courage to dress for oneself, and a kind of Andy Warhol freshness in understanding semiotics and iconography. Let this essay bring tribute to the youngest-feeling seventy-year-old grandmother I’ve ever encountered. Betsey Johnson, I really appreciate the work you have done in costume jewelry, bags, wallets, and totes. I am a happier older person for having met your designs.