“It’s Not Even Leatha’!”

posted in: Day In The Life, Fashion, Story 13
This one's leather. Hermes Ostrich Birkin Bag. Photo: Wikipedia.
This one’s leather. Hermes Ostrich Birkin Bag. Photo: Wikipedia.


I had an experience yesterday that made me happy in my heart, though even as it was happening I thought, “Mary, you are so weird.” But I’m okay with being weird if it means moments like these.

On the way back from my infusion appointment yesterday, I felt all right. Actually, I felt pretty good. I decided to get a coffee for the bus ride home. It just so happened that the nearest place to go for a coffee was Nordstrom’s. I was right outside the doors! Nordstrom’s has a good cafe! Don’t look at me like that.

I went inside and noticed big red signs plastered everywhere announcing a one-of-a-kind, do-not-miss-this-or-you’ll-never-forgive-yourself sale (this happens a lot at Nordstrom’s.) Though I was in no mood to shop — really — I decided that after I got my coffee, I’d look at the handbags. There was a sale, after all, and I was iron-enriched. My evening would be simply be reading and writing and hanging out with my couch; some innocent designer handbag perusing before I headed home couldn’t hurt. Knowing me, it would help.

I made a beeline for the designer side of the handbag section. There was a wide table with a shallow lip full of bags of various sizes, all of them gorgeous. There were Alexander McQueen clutches embellished with Swarovski crystals and silk flowers. There were a couple structured leather Proenza Schouler satchels. There were Fendi totes. My heart went pitter pat as I looked through them all. I love a great bag.

But it wasn’t going to happen for me yesterday.

The bags, even at 40% off, were expensive. Like, slap-yo-mama expensive. What’s 40% off $2700? I don’t know, either, but that’s how much one of the satchels cost and I just don’t have that kind of scratch to drop on a purse right now. Oh, I’ve purchased some expensive handbags in my day. But I could count on one finger the number of times I’ve dropped [INSERT FIGURE HERE] on something that will soon contain exploding pens and smashed cashews and get kicked under my seat on my next Southwest flight.*

There was a Nordstrom’s clerk standing near the table. She was super pretty, a little older than me with white-blonde hair. Her job was to keep an eye on the merchandise, of course; those handbags were usually under glass or hooked to security cords. I greeted her and smiled; she smiled back.

Right before I decided to head out, I took a second look at a killer denim shoulder bag. It was Stella McCartney. A heavy, shiny chain ran up the sides and ran along the top. It was padded, but only slightly. It might not sound like much (puffy denim??) but trust me, this was one hot purse. Then I looked at the price: on sale at $830 dollars. Eight-hundred-thirty dollars! On sale! In that instant, I heard in my mind one of my all-time favorite lines from a movie:

“$830 dollars?! It’s not even leatha!”

It comes from Joan Cusack in Working Girl. Since so many readers love the exact same movies I do (Overboard, Baby Boom, etc.), I’ll bet many of you know this line, too. It happens when Melanie Griffith (Tess) is at her boss’s house, trying on her boss’s clothes. Tess’s friend Cynthia, played by Cusack, is with her. When Tess takes something off a hanger that still has the tag on it, Cynthia looks at the price, splutters, and says, in her thick Bronx accent, “Six-thousand dollas?? It’s not even leatha!” It’s so great.

Standing there with the Stella McCartney puffy denim handbag, I really had to laugh. And then I thought, “I’ll bet the clerk would laugh at this, too. Should I tell her?” I decided to roll the dice, a la my Uber tour of Savannah.

“You know,” I said, coming around to her side of the table. “I think you’ll appreciate this. One of my favorite lines in a movie comes from Working Girl. Have you seen it? Do you know what I’m talking about? Melanie Griffith? It’s an eighties movie.”

The clerk sized me up right away, like, “What is she saying? Why is she talking to me like she knows me? Is this woman safe to talk to? ”

There was no time to waste. I told, very quickly, about the line in the movie, how Joan Cusack looks at the price tag and goes, “It’s not even leatha!” and how I thought about it when I looked at the denim puff bag.

The clerk loved it. She legit laughed, as in threw-her-head-back and laughed at the line. “Oh, wow,” she said. “That is so good. It’s great. You have no idea how much merchandise we have in here that that line applies to. Thank you. Seriously, thank you for that.”

So there you go. I’m weird. I sidle up to store clerks and launch into lines from Melanie Griffiths movies from 25 years ago. I have no intention of stopping this kind of behavior as long as it makes sense. Making people laugh while they’re at work makes sense to me.


*I fully intend to be the sort of person who sees a handbag on a table like this and says to no one in particular, “Would [SISTER/FRIEND/MOM] like this?” and then promptly buys it without blinking. Be patient, sister/friend/Mom. I’m working on it.


13 Responses

  1. Liz
    | Reply

    You’re hilarious, Mary! It’s ridiculous the price they charge for designer bags, especially the ones made out of canvas, or nylon … though I admit I own at least one overpriced-non-leatha-bag too!

  2. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    Like the movie & like the quote!
    I shopped at Nordstrom’s lots back in the mid 70s when we lived in Redmond, WA. Love that store! They used to have the greatest “back to school sales! Our older daughter was in K through 2nd grade when we lived there. Nordstrom was only in WA at the time, but there was soon one in CA when we moved back there. We didn’t have one in CO for several more years. By that time, I wasn’t doing much back to school shopping anymore!

  3. Martha Moore
    | Reply

    I was born and raised in the Seattle area. My grandmother went to school with the Nordstrom boys. Their dad started the store with a small shoe store in Seattle. I remember riding the bus downtown for a yearly birthday shopping trip with my gram. We visited the big Nordstrom’s department store that shoe store had become. They did have a great cafe, and a fancy restaurant and hair salon. I was excited when one opened in my new state. I still like visiting and looking, even though it is not the same exquisite experience it was 60 years ago. Thank you for the memory, Mary. Those are “leatha ” always.

  4. Terri Fryman
    | Reply

    Reading PaperGirl in the morning is a great way to start my day. Love it!

  5. Barbara
    | Reply

    I’m also not averse to saying something out of the blue if I really feel it. I heart you Mary.
    When we were shopping around for a house many years ago, the realtor at one point said “and look at this chandelier it comes with the house” . . . . and I said very pointedly, “it’ll be the first to go”. We didn’t buy the house.

  6. Michelina maguire
    | Reply

    I went to your lecture at the quilt show in CT recently, I must tell you how much I enjoyed your talk!!
    Also how much I love reading your post. I try to read them every day, they haven’t come up on my FB lately and I can’t tell you how much I missed reading them!!
    Thank you for the great stories!!

  7. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I talk like that to people around me when I see/think something bumorous. It definitely embarrasses my children, ( who are now in their forties). Why let humour go to waste? Maybe it makes someone’s day better, as you did.

  8. Nann
    | Reply

    What women need now is a good leather handbag at a reasonable price!

  9. Sue
    | Reply

    Speaking of handbags, I heard this story on NPR this morning. http://www.npr.org/2017/05/27/530239150/art-you-can-wear-on-your-arm-for-judith-leiber-its-in-the-bag

  10. Carol King
    | Reply

    I remember that movie and that line! Think I’ve seen it about 4 times!

  11. Karen Cyson
    | Reply

    Working Girl is one of my all-time favorite movies! The sound track is splendid also. Check it out.

  12. Jennifer Moore
    | Reply

    Soooo true!!!! And it also applies to clothing. Sometimes I’ll see an item online and it’s a $400 dress made out of polyester. Not even a better quality fabric like cotton, voile, silk. Premium prices for cheap fabric! Crazy town!

  13. Jennifer Moore
    | Reply

    Oh, and on the leather aspect… An old friend actually started his own leather bag company – Saddleback Leather Co – making super awesome, top quality leather bags and accessories. (Like top of the line full grain leather with a 100 year warranty) They actually ARE leather and aren’t even as expensive as most of those handbags you just described. A large leather briefcase is $789 – less than that denim purse , practical to carry, and much higher quality!

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