Memories of Kathy Egstad
Phyllis Menne, Chair of Madison and Western WI
Kathy Egstad died peacefully in September from lung cancer. Kathy was born in 1941 in Madison, Wisconsin. Kathy and Jim Egstad were married in 1960, and his career allowed their family of five children to live in Sweden, Belgium, and various locations in the United States.
Kathy was a self-taught seamstress who made numerous, possibly even hundreds, of gowns for the Wisconsin members of JASNA and beyond. Regency ball frocks and head attire were Kathy’s specialty. She never included zippers or other modern-day inventions. Kathy viewed Austen novels adapted to the screen for their authenticity to the Regency style of dress. She sewed Regency costumes beginning with the Austen Festival in Madison, WI in 2001 through the AGMs in Toronto in 2002, Louisville in 2015, and beyond. Kathy was an active member of JASNA for decades, hosting our local Jane Austen book club and tea gatherings, attending Wisconsin region activities and AGMs.
Kathy will be remembered for her warm engagement, lasting friendships, seamstress expertise, her famous double layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and beautiful geraniums and orchids. During the last two years of her illness, Kathy was able to participate in some of the JASNA-Wisconsin events when her health allowed, including several informal teas at her home with a few other members over the last year. This last summer, she joined a few members for a luncheon at La Brioche in their outside terrace in Madison. It was a beautiful day. We chatted for more than two hours, reminiscing about her Jane Austen Society experiences, including making Regency costumes and varied head coverings for members.
For Kathy’s Celebration of Life, her husband Jim welcomed JASNA members to wear their Regency gowns to honor Kathy’s contribution as a seamstress to the Jane Austen Society for over 20 years (see photo). As we think of Kathy, we realize Kathy has been woven into our lives and stitched in our hearts forever.
Jane Austen tea and book clubu at Kathy Egstad's house in October 2018. From left to right: Sarah Chilton, Kathy, Janet Johnson, Liz Cooper, Ann Gordon-Walker, Phyllis Menne, and Sandra Rutherford.
Kathy and her famous chocolate cake!
Eulogy: Remembering and Honoring Kathy Egstad
Judy Beine, Chair of Milwaukee and Southeastern WI
Hello everyone, my sympathies to you Jim and all your family. I’m Judy Beine and a member of the Jane Austen Society in Wisconsin. As Liz just told you we are a literary society focusing on Jane Austen and her writing.
I am honored to talk about Kathy today. I came to know Kathy through JASNA and have known her for more than 20 years. The dress I am wearing was created by Kathy. Sara Bowen and I came to her home in Middleton in the spring of 2005, and we were off to the fabric store. Kathy came to Milwaukee’s Hyatt Hotel in October that year, brought the dress and surprised me with this overlay look.
She and I were roommates 5 times. We had a very large hotel room at the Biltmore in Los Angeles in 2004 and a teeny room on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago in 2008. Kathy was in Portland with me in 2010 and at the end of the conference was picked up by Jim and her son’s in-laws to go further south on the Oregon coast. In 2013, Kathy was again my roommate in Minneapolis. Here we were in the fashion show and the promenade was led by the Bingley sisters, our own Liz Cooper and Molly Philosophos, in dresses fashioned by Kathy. In 2015, Kathy stayed overnight at my home and the next day we drove to Louisville. Kathy immediately saw that the Kentucky folks who designed the AGM’s logo got it wrong. The sidesaddle on the horse was on the wrong side!
At the Box Hill picnic in Ixonia, in 2018, Kathy brought me a day dress she had sewed. She had called me and told me that she had lots of fabric and would I like a day dress. It was always so fun to be in costume, no matter the occasion, so I readily said yes. I believe Jim has photo albums that Kathy put together showing all the wonderful gowns and I hope you all will have a chance to look them over. I have a photo I brought with me which shows 9 ladies in Regency period costumes. Kathy made 7 of those ensembles.
Kathy’s creations live on. In August of 2021, at Kathy’s request, I came to Middleton and she said I want you to have these dresses and Jim carried 6 of them out to my car. I already had 3 costumes that Kathy made and, since they didn’t fit me, I took them to the AGM in Chicago and a clothing vendor there sold all 6 in just a few hours. These ladies loved them.
Over the years, I always sought out Kathy to sit with at our luncheons. She was a lady I admired. She had joy in her life, had sparkling eyes, a clear complexion and was always ready to talk about Regency fashions and all things that would decorate a lady for dancing at a ball.
I will cherish the memories I have of Kathy. Thank you.
The picture is of the Wisconsin members in Regency gowns at Kathy’s Celebration of Life. Many of the gowns were sewn by Kathy. Members from left to right are: Molly Philosophos, Diane Burns, Sandra Rutherford, Vicki Teal, Judy Beine, Liz Cooper, Dee Kuech, Phyllis Menne and Sarah Chilton.