BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK

imageI loved this book…I must read something I don’t like so you don’t think every book I read I am crazy about!  I have, however, found that as I get older, and have read so much over the years, that if I am not engaged at the outset of the book I don’t finish it, bad Nena!

I had, of course, read advanced reviews of this novel and the subject matter appealed to me. Lillian Boxfish, a lady of an advanced age (in her 80’s), is reflecting on her life which consisted of living in New York where she was the highest paid advertising women in the country working at R. H. Macy’s in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  The protagonist is, as the author relates, inspired by a real-life ad woman who worked at R. H. Macy’s, also the highest paid advertising women in the country, as well as a renowned poet at the time, Margaret Fishback. Ms. Rooney lists Ms. Fishback’s collections of “light verse” in her author’s notes.  I now have to find them, perhaps a follow-up post on them.

I happen to love stories about New York during the ’30’s and 40’s (a bit before my time!) and I found Lillian’s story engaging, funny, charming and poignant from her hoarded orange lipstick (she bought it all in her early years and is still wearing it) to her mink coat to her walking trips that relax, engage and energize her.  The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Lillian’s beginnings at R. H. Macy’s (and her constant fight to make the same salary as men in the industry, some things never change!!!) into her 80’s.  What I really enjoyed is how she adapts to all the current trends, for an example, she likes rap and MTV!  While I don’t like either I agree one must adapt to current trends or get left in the dust.  In addition, I could easily relate to the world of advertising, my Father was considered one of the top (by many THE top) Art Director’s in Chicago (remember most of the nations ad agencies were formed and located in Chicago in the 40’s and 50’s) so I grew up around that creativity and pots of rubber cement!  When I started my career at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago we placed all the advertising in the local papers (we had four at the time!).  They were prepared Corporately but we managed our own budgets and could decide where we wanted our ads to run.  I worked with our local ad reps and actually had a layout board in our office and scrapbooks filled with all the ads and we ran a lot. I missed that when we stopped running ads on a regular basis and all were placed by Corporate.

Lillian’s character is one of a strong “liberated” smart young woman, this only intensifies as she ages. She changes with the times but she really remains the same.  Lovers come and go (this isn’t a romance novel, but she is human after all!) a husband, son and grandchildren are included but it is really the story of an independent woman who made it on her own and enjoyed the fruits of her clever advertising copy and charming poetry. The ending is sublime!!!  I love that the author, Kathleen Rooney is also a poet as well as an author of fiction and nonfiction, in addition to her writing is a senior lecturer in English and creative writing at DePaul University and resides in Chicago. I would highly recommend the book do tell me how you like it.

www.bookcellarinc.com   My Independent Bookseller of choice.

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PROFILE: CANDACE JORDAN

imagePhoto courtesy Amie Hana

We all know Candace Jordan as the woman about town and her highlights of Chicago’s amazing philanthropic endeavors (she sits on many of the Boards of the organizations she features and knows so well) through her Candid Candace weekly blog (which always keeps us up to date on ALL the noteworthy local events, large or small), her weekly column in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, Candid Candace TV and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog.

I, of course, follow her just like all of you, however, I may have known her a bit longer than some, in her fashion styling and writing efforts, before her blog and other current gigs as well as on the social scene, and I wanted you to get to know her in a more personal light.  I don’t think I had finished sending Candace my nenasnotes questionnaire before I had it back along with an abundance of fantastic photos. I’m thrilled to share them with you.  But first I wanted to let you know why I have held off on running this post until today…tomorrow is, as you know, Valentine’s Day and I wanted to feature Candace and Chuck’s love story, I, therefore, asked her to write a short piece on what makes their story so special….

Chuck and I will be celebrating 28 years of marriage on July 21. I’m not quite sure how I got so lucky to have him for a husband but I thank God every day. I was 35 when we married and Chuck was a confirmed bachelor when we met. A mutual friend introduced us during a lunch at the old Palm on East Lake Shore Drive. After our first date, I went into the bathroom and pinched myself. He was/is everything wonderful rolled into one handsome package. Just proves that when you’re not looking, love happens and I feel so very grateful.” 

imageThe wedding July 21, 1989.

imageThe Lovebirds at a Joffrey Ballet gala.

The Questionnaire:

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT:

Well, I don’t know if it was talent, but it developed out of a necessity. I wanted to make money and get out of my small town so I started modeling at age 13 in St. Louis. I was also the youngest fashion coordinator ever at the major department store, Famous-Barr. That’s when I began modeling and I guess realized I photographed pretty well…(Nena’s note, she is being very modest, one of my top model’s, who roomed with Candace in Europe, recalls that she was a superb photo model and was always in great demand!  She continues to photograph like a dream…what is her secret!!!!????) I was valedictorian of my class and received a scholarship to St. Louis U. I went for 6 months and had enough of school. That’s when the new St. Louis Playboy Club was looking for Bunnies, I applied and the rest is sort of history.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT”:

I felt like I’d made it when I walked up the steps to the Playboy Mansion and the butler said, “Welcome home Ms. Collins.”

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I’ve always been a geek about fashion. Not only did (and do) I enjoy the modeling side, but I love photography, fashion design, make-up–everything that surrounds the field so I think this passion for the industry as a whole has helped me to be in the place I am now.

imageNena’s note…..In a Service Club of Chicago GroFashion Show, still loving the modeling spotlight and why not when you enjoy something and are good at it…I say continue.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE:

I love animals and, at one point, considered a career as a vet. I think I would’ve been a great one and am very supportive of animal causes to this day. I’m on the development board of PAWS Chicago and one of our dogs is a rescue from there.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY), TYPE OF MUSIC, LOCAL RESTAURANT/AND-OR TYPE OF FOOD:

I love sushi;  Mediterranean cuisine;  traditional ballet; Cole Porter;  house music from La Caves du Roy;  La Scarola;  Gibson’s; Chicago Cut; Ping Pong (the restaurant not the sport);  La Piaggia in South Beach;  will miss Swifty’s (now closed) in NY; Gene & Georgetti’s; ALL the Harry Potter books; historical fiction; I just finished the Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, the first two books by Amor Towles–I never wanted them to end.  

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES:

Chuck and I collect rare books. A highlight is our Potter collection (British and U.S. ) first editions signed by Rowling including the first two movie scripts signed by the actors; I also collect antique Christmas items (19th century Santas, etc.).

imageCandace’s office/library.

HOW ABOUT YOUR HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC”

Very traditional and also eclectic. I deplore modern and am sad so many antique shops have disappeared with this new Ikea generation. If it’s not warm, cozy and inviting, it’s not for me. Everything in our home has a story and we love it that way. (Nena’s note, check back on Thursday for Candace and Chuck’s amazing home in my Collections posting! Candace, by the way, is a HUGE supporter of Randolph Street Market, www.randolphstreetmarket.com, not only as a passionate collector but also a huge advocate of the monthly event on her blog.)

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER  AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE?

I would have my mother, father, Mary and Jim Johnson (who helped raise me), Chuck’s Grandma Nora and his mom Jean….I miss them all every day. To add to this list, I would include my dear friend from high school who passed too soon, Susie Sager.

imageWith Susie Sager at a school reunion.

 And I love and was raised on, Southern cooking so I would bake a ham with collard greens, fried green tomatoes, corn bread and lots of wine. Oh, and peach pie!

LET’S TALK FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO VISIT:

My favorite vacation spot that we had the good fortune to visit yearly for 15 years or more was St. Tropez and the French Riviera. We would meet friends from all over the world there around July 4th and it was the most exciting time.

imageGroup of friends at annual St. Tropez gathering.

I had my 50th birthday party there and the guests still talk about it as the best party they’ve ever attended. Great memories! We also loved our visits to Morocco. We had friends who owned a villa in Marbella and we would take lots of trips to Marrakech, Casablanca, and Tangier–so exotic and so beautiful with the friendliest people.

imageRiding a camel in Doha, Qatar.

On my wish list are Hong Kong, Hanoi, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Greece, India, and Budapest.

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HOW DO YOU  WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:

As someone who made people smile, always kept her word and was loyal to her friends.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE  PUBLIC ART PIECE AND WHY:

By far, my favorite piece of art that moved me the most upon seeing it for the first time was the statue of David in Florence. We cried.

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Nena…I love the strength of David’s head, which we rarely see up close, it is magnificent!

 

From Candace’s recipe box:

Upside Down Apple Crisp Cake (from Cast Iron Casseroles cookbook)

Cake:

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided

1 cup plus 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

2 large tart crisp apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large egg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Crumble:

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

FIRST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the cake, in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt 1/3 cup butter over medium heat. Add 3/4 cut brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp, nutmeg, stirring to combine. Cook stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Place apple slices over caramel. Set aside.

NEXT: In a large bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter and remaining 1 cup brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed, until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl. Add egg, beating to combine.

NEXT: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in vanilla until combined

NEXT: Spoon batter over apples in skillet, smoothing top with an offset spatula.

NEXT: For the crumble: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, oats, butter, flour and salt until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over batter.

LAST: Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert onto a flat serving plate.

 

imageChicago Magazine’s Belle of the Blog feature.

Candid Candace Chicago Tribune column (http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/chi-candace-jordan-staff-staff.html); Candid Candace blog (http://www.candidcandace.typepad.com/); Candace’s award-winning internet show, Candid Candace TV– (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaWrZFA8UZegcNEP9rroqDQ and Candid Candace Chicago Now blog (http://www.chicagonow.com/candid-candace )

Social Media info: Candid Candace on Twitter and Facebook; Candid Candace on Instagram; Candace Jordan on Facebook; Candace Jordan on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/candidcandace/)

 

 

 

 

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: TERRA MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART OPENING

It was 1980 and Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago was invited by Daniel J. Terra to participate in the much anticipated opening of the Terra Museum of American Art in Evanston, Illinois.  I thought it would be an interesting event if we recreated the garments that were in some of the American Impressionist paintings.  After the paintings were hung on the brick walls (I love art on brick walls!) I went to the Museum to decide which paintings I would use.

imageDaniel J. Terra in his Museum in Evanston, Illinois circa 1980. Photo credit unknown.

We did 10 or 12 interpretations as well as planning the event which was a benefit for The Easter Seal Society Women’s Board at a black tie sit down dinner in the galleries. I chaired the event with my partner in crime on many events, Beverly Dowis Blettner and Ann Gillcrist (I don’t think I am spelling her name correctly, sorry!) was President of the group. Beverly and I were members of the Women’s Board and did several major events for them as well as working on their annual Telethon, Dan Terra was on the Main Board of the charity. The invitation featured the magnificent Lotus Lilies painting seen below.  I fell in love with this painting and wanted it for the cover of the invitation as well as using the lotus flowers for the centerpieces. Remember this was 1980, where my florist found lotus lilies I have no idea but the effect was superb.  They were floated in low bowls in the center of each table. We did green tablecloths and napkins and George Jewell Catering did an exquisite all American menu with American wines.

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Charles Courtney Curran, a detail from “Lotus Lilies,” 1888, from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection.

“After Charles Courtney Curran and Grace Wickham married in 1888, the young couple vacationed on Lake Erie’s southern shore. The artist, who grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, painted his bride and her cousin drifting in a rowboat through a cove filled with flowering water plants. He called the picture “Lotus Lilies.”

Grace Curran shared her husband’s love for the outdoors. She described that memorable summer day in the rowboat on Old Woman’s Creek in an 1897 St. Nicholas magazine article:

“The lotus spreads broad, velvety blue-green leaves in wide masses, and the huge, pale-yellow blossoms lift their queenly heads on high, and breathe forth on the air a delicate fragrance,” Mrs. Curran wrote”.  Quote from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 1, 2014.

imageLou May in a pink pleated gown with parasol and ballet flats posed in front of her painting, In the Garden (Good Morning) by Frederick Frieseke probably 1912-1913.  The models were stationary and did not interact with the guests who wandered throughout the galleries during cocktail hour.

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I was a bit nervous regarding Mr. Terra’s reaction (he had a reputation for not being easily pleased!) to my selection of paintings and the models in modern garments. He was thrilled, thank heaven, and asked me to be involved in the opening of the Museum when it moved to it’s Michigan Avenue location in 1987.  We did a totally different event for that opening. A selection of the Collection is now on long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Gail in a peplum white reembroidered lace two piece suit in front of The Seamstress by Joseph DeCamp 1916.

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Photographs of the models from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago www.colum.edu

 

 

COLLECTIONS: VICTORIAN PAPIER MACHE

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One of my small collections is Victorian Papier Mache which I have been collecting over the years and is definitely one of my favorite collections. The above photo is the top of a small tea tray with carved brass handle.  Here you can clearly see the mother of pearl inlays and gold embellishment mentioned in one of the quotes below.

imageSome of my papier mache pieces on top of my antique gaming table when opened becomes my dining table.

imageA close up of the ladies writing slope, one of the first pieces I acquired at an antique show many years ago.

“Papier Mache (French for “chewed paper”) is believed to have got its name from French workers in London papier mache shops who did just that! Whether this is actually true or not we shall probably never know. The manufacturers didn’t seem to mind this idea being put about – possibly because it gave them the chance to hide their true methods and recipes, some of which little is known about even today.” Quote from the www.papiermache.co.uk

imageA glove box, I use it for jewelry that I wear often and a couple of “love” notes!!!  All decoration is hand painted and this is the first of several pieces that I am featuring that show some of my lily of the valley collection.

Victorian Papier Mache: “The Victorians loved to experiment with new materials and one of their favorites was papier mache. By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, there were at least 25 companies producing papier mache items.”

imageThe mother of pearl embellished top of a small portfolio again embossed in gold and a hand painted lily of the valley bouquet.

“The most common pieces are trays, workboxes, inkstands, face screens, snuff boxes and letter holders. Eventually they moved on to larger items and furniture such as firescreens, chairs and tables, bookcases – even wardrobes and beds!”

imageNot in my collection, if only wishes came true!!!!  Isn’t is glorious.  Source unknown.

imageCan you even imagine these in person, again, not mine but wish they were…a special Valentine’s Day thought…anyone!!!!  I would most definitely find room for them!  Source unknown.

“Nearly always the characteristic black, but occasionally in red or green, the pieces were very ornately decorated with flowers, birds and patterns – frequently embellished in gold. Some of the finer pieces were inlaid with shimmering mother-of-pearl shell.” Quote from www.papiermache.co.uk

imageThe top of a tray, again not mine and again source unknown.  I think it gives you a perfect view of the amazing detail of the mother of pearl inlay and gold painting around the floral center and the detail on the edges of the tray.  Source unknown.

imageimageThe ends of my two book slides.  These have sliding bottoms to expand for additional books.  I got both from an antique dealer at a Hilton Chicago antique show at least 40 years ago.  The dealer specialized in UK treasures and I got many of my lily of the valley pieces from them.  They would source lily of the valley pieces for me…guess what, I never passed up anything they brought back!!!! (Sorry for the sad photos!!!!)

imageThis is facing me above my desk (the shadows are from the blue Opaline chandelier which hangs above my head while I do my blog postings and other computer necessities!), it is one of a pair, they are the tops of portfolios, are double matted in celadon green velvet and are in antiqued silver frames.  They were purchased by my Mother, Ruth, from the fantastic Fields Afar department at Marshall Field’s many, many years ago.  They give me joy each time I sit down at my desk.

imageA close up of the above photo. I particularly love the flowers in their mother of pearl vase, charming!  The other is totally different but framed in the same way.

https://i2.wp.com/images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51R1RB8nWsL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg?w=994&ssl=1A suggested book on English Papier Mache

Victoria and Albert Museum Collections  www.vam.ac.uk

Unless otherwise noted all photos were taken by Nena Ivon.

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: LA LA LAND

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I hadn’t planned on doing movie reviews but why not!!!!  I LOVED La La Land!  I’m a sucker for a good musical…I wish I could live in a Fred and Ginger movie!

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d6/6f/5b/d66f5b0dfe2c5cf5383b817b4ab6fe8b.jpg?w=994Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers…could watch their films every day!

The musicals of the 40’s and 50’s were pure magic…loved them all.  Is it all fantasy, absolutely, is there something wrong with that, I think not!  At this time in our world, we need a bit of escapism and something that takes us away…this movie does just that and more.  While I’m sure you have seen the film, let me give you my thoughts on it.

Doesn’t everyone love a romance, I certainly do.  The story is pretty routine, girl meets boy (actually quite often, in different places), they connect via a wonderful dance number and go from there.  Pretty much what you would expect, what I didn’t expect was how good these two are, especially Ryan Gosling (of course, Emma Stone is superb). I couldn’t believe that he hadn’t been playing jazz his entire life…that he learned piano and jazz, no less, for the film is extraordinary. He is a natural dancer and I love to watch a good dancer (would rather be dancing with them but that’s another story!). Breaking into any industry when it is your passion isn’t an easy time but show business is probably one of the most competitive and one that gets a grip on the individual like no other profession (except maybe sports) and this is the story of that passion and drive for both our leads and what they have to do to make it, together and alone. I did love that the story of the working girl is updated to the 21st Century with our wanna be star as a barista, how 2017! Where this takes them is their story and we definitely want them to succeed.  It is charming and, to me a poignant story, one full of hope, desire, and lots and lots of wonderful music!  Go see it you won’t be disappointed!

I have always loved jazz and spent many an evening at the London House listening to George Sherling, and others, and Mister Kelly’s with all the great name jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and, of course, later as mentioned in my profile of Shelley MacArthur, the Gold Sardine Bar. Why are these places gone and where is a good cabaret in Chicago…someone, anyone!!!!  In New York, I never missed (or miss) an opportunity to go to the Café Carlyle and listen to whatever act was playing there, especially Bobby Short (perhaps not jazz, but always loved to hear him play!)

It’s Wednesday so I must close with a recipe…in case you need reminding next week is Valentine’s Day!  Here is my very special, very decadent, chocolate dessert, I don’t share this with anyone but here you are…..you won’t be disappointed….MAKE IT!  Serve with another bottle of champagne, a good one, it is Valentine’s Day after all, splurge!

NENA’S FRENCH CHOCOLATE CUPS

l box semi-sweet chocolate

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup heavy cream (plus more for topping)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Eatable candied violets or candied rose petals

Stir chocolate over hot water until melted. Beat egg yolks with warm water, slowly blend into chocolate.  Remove from heat and chill for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and cinnamon (remember to always put bowl and beaters in the freezer before whipping cream).  Fold cream into chocolate mixture and spoon into 6 individual pot de creme cups or small ramekins.  Chill until ready to serve.  Garnish with a dollop of addition sweetened whipping cream and place candied violets or roses.  Makes 6 servings.  Keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.

imageHandpainted Limoges pot de creme cups…they have a matching tray, have had them for years and also have a set of Limoges with handpainted lily of the valley (a major collection/passion!)

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: BOOK BLOGS

I have been wanting to do a list of the book blogs I follow for awhile so thought I would do so today.  I do follow many blogs (not only on books but many other subjects…I’ll share as I continue blogging), some are by individuals and authors (I particularly like these) others from publishers and reviewers as well as independent booksellers …I find all helpful in finding to be published books as well as interesting series of books or classics that I might have missed.  Some blogs are daily, others weekly still others monthly some are themed, others are just what the blogger finds interesting at the time. I’m sure I have more but at least this is a start. I would love to hear from you with your lists, do share with me.

Here we go in no particular order of preference but at least alphabetical:

www.alifeinbooks.co.uk

www.bitterteaandmystery.com

www.booksonthetable.com

www.bookpage.com

www.bookriot.com

www.booksnob.wordpress.com

www.clothesinbooks.com

www.cozy-mystery.com

www.firstlookbookclub.com

www.firsttoread.com

www.goodreads.com

www.lonesomereader.com

www.newinbooks.com

www.offtheshelf.com

www.peguinrandomhouse.com   www.signature.com   www.readitforward.com                    (all Penguin sites)

www.readingmattersblog.com

www.savidgereads.wordpress.com

www.shelfawareness.com

www.thebigthrill.com

www.thewritesofwomen.wordrpress.com

www.viragopress.co.uk

INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS

www.boswellbooks.com

www.literatibookstore.com

www.newsletter@RainyDayBooks.com

www.shakespeareandcompany.com

www.thebookcellarinc.com

www.thebookstall.com

AUTHORS

www.adriajcimino.com

www.agathachristie.com

www.louisepenny.com

www.rhysbowen.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

PROFILE: SHELLEY MacARTHUR 

 

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Shelley today                                                                       Shelley in her modeling days

I am profiling another of my models who along with her sister, Shauna Montgomery (whose story you will see in a later post), were with my stable of models for many years…I call those the “glamor years”.  Retrospect is always best, isn’t it!!  Shelley was, along with many of my other “girls”, very active in the Mannequin Guild and their exquisite annual galas were among the several must go to events each year.  For many years she has been very active in Chicago’s social scene.

Here are Shelley’s thoughts on her modeling days….

“I was so fortunate in my modeling career to be surrounded by people who were passionate about and gifted in the industry. One of those people was Nena Ivon who I met when she was the fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue; a position she held for decades. Working for Nena was an experience that helped to shape the trajectory of my career. Thanks in part to my connecting with Nena, I had the opportunity to work for some of the greatest designers on the planet; people like Geoffrey Beene, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Galanos, Adolfo – and the list goes on. It was an exciting and exhilarating way to live and offered the kind of life style that little girls dream about.

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Nena knew that not only did I love the energy and panache of the modeling life, but that I was also a singer. When Saks Fifth Avenue had its opening night at Chicago Place on Michigan Avenue, there was entertainment on every floor. There was the Stanley Paul Orchestra, there was Michael Laird, there was the renowned jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan, and thanks to Nena hiring me, there was me! I did three different sets with the Ivy League Quartet and I feel it’s safe to say that thanks to the vibe of the beat and my dress slit up to there, I was hot! The audience went nuts and I was hooked on the adrenaline and applause, not to mention the music.

Shortly afterward, I made my debut appearance as a jazz singer at the illustrious Gold Star Sardine Bar in Chicago’s Gold Coast; a club created by Bill Allen and whose ownership included the one and only Bobby Short.

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To complete the picture, Nena had dressed me for the evening from head to toe in none other than Bob Mackie – which you know means feathers and beads and, well, everything. Neither Carol Burnett nor Cher had anything on me! I was surrounded by such luminaries as movie critic Roger Ebert and famed photographer Victor Skrebneski, who created a portrait of me that is a treasured timeless signature I still use today. (Nena’s note, I was in attendance, with Victor, at Shelley’s opening night, it was indeed magical!!). All these years later, it still captures the magic of the time. It was the late 1980’s…it was over the top, and it was fabulous.

imageTop photo:  Shelley today in performance backed by her orchestra.  Two lower photos: Shelley in Bob Mackie for her first performance at the Gold Sardine Bar (wish is was still around it was as enthralling as is Shelley singing jazz!!!)

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All l that I absorbed from those exciting, fun-packed, slightly neurotic and adrenaline-charged years is still with me today. These days I spend less time on the runway and more time on stages around the country, singing not only jazz but my soul’s passion, classical music. Though Puccini’s tragic heroine Tosca was probably not dressed at Saks, I enjoy portraying her as if she was. It seems to serve us both equally well”.

Shelley has been in all my “reunion” shows, which are some of my favorites and I think the models enjoy them as well.  I’ll do a future post just on those shows, they are always a huge hit with the audiences and the models look amazing, as always, I would expect nothing less.

In addition to her singing engagements she and Shauna host a podcast http://www.the-girlfriends.com/

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Great fun reminiscing with Shauna and Shelley on their very conversational podcast, loved being with them for girl talk!!!

FASHION FLASHBACK: HAUTE COUTURE

I was quite overwhelmed with the beauty of the just completed Spring Haute Couture Collections in Paris and wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.

https://i2.wp.com/assets.vogue.com/photos/588663c49be58e214498b818/master/pass/_VAL1656.jpg?resize=466%2C699Giambattista Valli Spring 2017 Haute Couture.  Photo courtesy Vogue.com. I worked with M. Valli with one of his prêt-à-porter collections in Chicago.  He is a charming creative genius, very quiet, very professional, a true joy to meet and work with.  www.giambattistavalli.com

https://i1.wp.com/assets.vogue.com/photos/5885d6b581c5da39102fac20/master/pass/_ARC0355.jpg?resize=466%2C699Schiaparelli the reinterpretation of the famous lobster dress.  Loved the collection, it looked modern yet classic. Photo Vogue.com www.schiaparelli.com

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Maria Grazia Chiuri interpretation of the 1947 Bar Suit for Dior her first Dior Couture collection. Photo Vogue.com. www.dior.com.

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Valentino, first solo collection by Pierpaolo Piccioli, love the sculptured column not an easy look to wear but smashing! Photo Vogue.com. www.valentino.com

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A new look for the classic Chanel suit, brilliant! Photo Vogue.com

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Karl never disappoints….can’t wait to see who will wear this at the Oscars!  A dream against the iconic Chanel mirrors. Photo Vogue.com.  www.chanel.com

https://i1.wp.com/assets.vogue.com/photos/5888b1510b54f5fa1bff28e0/master/pass/_ARC0794.jpg?resize=466%2C699Elie Saab magnificent!  Photo Vogue.com. www.eliesaab.com

The following quoted material is taken from the website www.dressful.com

“According to Wikipedia, the term haute couture is protected by law in France and is defined by the Paris Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris). To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, a fashion house must follow these rules:

  1. Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  2. Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  3. Each season (i.e. twice a year) present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.”

Just a bit of background on my Haute Couture experience, a once in a life time trip to be sure. I was celebrating my 50th anniversary at Saks Fifth Avenue in May 2006.  A store rally was being held for my special day.  The Vice President/General Manager of the Chicago store, my boss and dear friend, Michael Hawley, brought me to the front of the group and asked the following: “I have something special for you in honor of your anniversary, would you prefer a watch or would you like to go to Couture!!!”  I mean seriously, what would you have chosen…I have watches!  My dream was to see, once in my lifetime, the Christian Lacroix Haute Couture collection (I had the extreme pleasure of working with him when we presented his first prêt-à-porter collection in Chicago in 1989, I’ll do a post on that event later, I loved his creativity, and his exquisite garments), not only did I see that show, which always ended the week to a standing ovation and roses thrown onto the catwalk, but I saw it ALL.

https://i0.wp.com/68.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7mkyfOnCk1r1dvono1_1280.jpg?resize=464%2C699Lily Cole as the bride for the finale of the 2006 Christian Lacroix Haute Couture collection. www.christian-lacroix.com

I accompanied our Executive team to see the magnificent collections that, in my opinion, set the stage for all other fashion at all price levels.  It is the laboratory for fashion.

I will post about the entire Paris trip in a future post, I wanted to give you a short overview of my Haute Couture dream as well as the dreamy 2017 Spring Haute Couture collections..

You can view all the collections on YouTube and I would suggest you do so. In addition, the designer’s websites are amazing check them out you won’t be disappointed.

COLLECTIONS: CLOISONNE

I have always been fascinated with cloisonné. I don’t have a collection but several of my friends do…I wanted to share a sampling of one of those collections.

The definition of cloisonné is “a colored decoration made of enamels poured into the divided areas in a design outlined with wire or metal strips.” A very simplistic way of describing such beautiful objects.

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imageTwo of my small “boxes” to show the intricacy of the enamel flowing into the wire outlines.

I found the quote below from the site www.cloisonné.com to be very informative:

“Cloisonné, French for “cell”, where thin wires are applied to form raised barriers, which contain different areas of enamel applied above the original metal form. An ancient metalworking technique, it is a multi-step enamel process used to produce jewelry, vases, and other decorative items. Objects produced by this process are also called cloisonné.

Cloisonné first developed in the Near East. It spread to the Byzantine Empire and from there along the Silk Road to China. Chinese cloisonné is probably the most well known and ubiquitous. Russian cloisonné from the Tsarist era is highly prized by collectors. Chinese cloisonné is sometimes confused with Canton enamel, a similar type of enamel work that is painted on freehand and does not utilize partitions to hold the colors separate.”

imageFrom Mark and Linda Heister’s exquisite home, in their theater, a curated collection of cloisonné.  I was with them on an antiquing adventure when they found the fabulous lamp and am honored to say the egg and stand were in my humble collection and is now part of theirs!

imageAlso from the same home, this grouping is on a shelf in front of the TV screen and emphasizes their black ground collection punctuated with a lacquer red dish. All the above photos were taken by me with my iPhone.

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A close up of a piece from the Heister’s collection.  Photo by Linda Heister.

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A pair from the Heister’s growing collection.  Photo by Linda Heister.

imageI love the shape of this piece, you see it in the second grouping.  Photo by Linda Heister.

imageFrom Linda’s Mother’s collection.  Photo by Linda Heister.

imageMy favorite, one of a pair from Linda’s parents when they lived in Japan 68 years ago, pre war prior to 1941, elegance personified!  Photo by Linda Heister.

In addition, I would recommend searching museum sites such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York www.metmuseum.org and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London www.vam.ac.uk among others.

Suggested readings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website:

Brinker, Helmut, and Albert Lutz. Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection. New York: Asia Society Galleries, 1989.

Brown, Claudia. Chinese Cloisonné: The Clague Collection. Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 1980.

Garner, Harry. Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels. London: Faber & Faber, 1962.

Leidy, Denise, et al. Chinese Decorative Arts. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. See on MetPublications

Rawson, Jessica, et al. The British Museum Book of Chinese Art. London: British Museum Press, 1992.

Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Till, Barry, and Paula Swart. Antique Chinese Cloisonné. Victoria, B.C.: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1983.

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A cloisonné rooster to celebrate the year of the rooster!  Isn’t he extraordinary!

Photo credit unknown.