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Women's History Month: Meet the woman who put Salado on the map with couture

Grace Jones, once a pilot in World War II, brought haute couture to Salado, Texas in the 60's, making the small town a fashion destination.

SALADO, Texas — Decades ago, Central Texas was a hub for high fashion, and big names like Lady Bird Johnson flocked to one store in particular.

Grace Jones of Salado brought haute couture to the small town and put it on the map.

Grace Jones started it all after graduating from Baylor, becoming a pilot in WWII as a WASP, and then a fashion model in New York. She and her husband moved back to Texas after it all, and that's when Grace Jones' legacy would compete with Neiman Marcus for 40 years, began.

"I knew what she was doing was special," Bettye Wiedeman, Grace's best friend, said.

Wiedeman was in Dallas when her friends told her about a store that sold couture clothing in Salado. She couldn't believe it, so she ventured out to see the place with her own two eyes.

As soon as she arrived Wiedeman said she was in love with what Grace had to offer.

"We talked for hours and that's when it all started," she said.

Their conversations would carry on weekend after weekend, night after night, until Grace's passing in 2008.

All the while, Grace dressed Wiedeman in the finest clothes she had to offer.

To this day, Wiedeman has not let go of any of the clothes, along with all the stories Grace shared with her, like how Grace was a WASP, which stood for Women Airforce Service Pilots.

She flew planes in WWII and soon after she became a fashion model in New York.

Mary Margaret Quadlander, who designed clothes for Grace and wrote the book on her life, said Grace did things that were out of this world.

"Like so many women who joined the WASPS, they were doing that to help relieve pilots and fly overseas," Quadlander said.

Her biography, Grace Jones of Salado, details Grace's life in 240 pages, with pictures, letters and the many memories built in. Click here to find the book.

Wiedeman said Grace never backed down from a challenge and that's what made her so great.

She was revered as an icon and respected by everyone. For that reason, everyone respected her.

Wiedeman remembers the parties Grace would throw and how extravagant they were.

"She would get the most beautiful flowers from Norman," she added.

Norman Northern, who creates beautiful bouquets at Precious Memories Florist and Gift Shop in Temple, would create the finest pieces for Grace.

"She loved all white flowers," Northern said.

He added that she loved white daisy's because it reminded her of her southern roots.

Northern said when he would drop off flowers, he'd never walk too far into her house because of the respect he held for Grace.

"She was so revered and the height of grandeur," he said.

Even though Grace was a woman who was held to a high standard, she was human at the end of the day.

Northern said she loved southern comfort food. Wiedeman added that Grace could make herself feel comfortable wherever she went.

This was the appeal of Grace Jones.

A woman who thought a bracelet to be the main asset for how someone dressed, and loved the Stagecoach Inn, could command a room but show everyone one inside that she heard them.

She was the Grace Jones.

"No one ever told Grace no," Wiedeman said. "She wasn't afraid of anything, and people appreciated what she was able to do."

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