In her later years, Nancy Talbot grew frustrated with the direction the store was headed. “There is a shop here [in St. Louis], and I always would go in and wander through with her,” says her daughter, Jane Winter. “Sometimes that was hard because she was disappointed and sad that it hadn’t kept up. She would never say it, she just felt angry about it. It was frustration—it was just ‘Why can’t they get it right?’”
“Chic, smart, and snappy, were her favorite words,” says Jane Winter. “She hated the word cute. ‘You’re anything but cute, she’d tell me.’”
The Talbots catalog was namechecked in The Preppy Handbook in 1980, officially putting it on the map as “the best selection of women’s Prep fashions anywhere.” According to Lisa Birnbach, the editor behind the original book and the 2010 followup: If you were outside of New England and wanted to dress like a New England preppy, the catalog was a godsend,” says “It was reliable, it wasn’t too fashionable, it wasn’t too expensive. It had sizes that would fit everyone. It has all of the virtues of preppiness.”
. . . . .
Nancy would often convince designers to change their looks to meet her requirements. “We would customize things for the Talbots, and rightfully so,” says Jerry Finegold, a friend of the family who grew close to Nancy and Rudolf as a salesman representing Gordons of Philadelphia, a classic women’s suiting line. “She had an amazing eye. It’s the reason Talbots became such a brand.”
“She was this formidable woman,” current CEO Trudy Sullivan remembers today. “When I started at Jordan Marsh, I used to go to New York for buying trips. When Nancy Talbot showed up at an Evan Piccone or a Pendelton, it was like the queen arrived. She was so highly regarded and fierce about who her consumer was.”