imageThis week we have concentrated on Queen Mary 1, Queen Mary 2 and current upcoming exhibitions in the States and in the UK.  Queen Mary 1 carried many War Brides from Europe to the States, today as my Fashion Flashback posting I wanted to talk about a very important exhibition that brought hope, excitement, and glamour, back to Paris at the end of WWII, the Théâtre de la Mode.  During the time that Paris was occupied by the Nazis the Haute Couture continued, most certainly in a modest way but none the less it did survive due to the courage and foresight of the French designers.  When France was liberated there was a need to give the people something to admire, be proud of…something that was uniquely French and what could be more French than, Haute Couture.  The exhibition was under the artistic direction of Christian Bèrard known for his sense of style and his charming illustrations.

imageChristian Bèrard

imageA Christian Bèrard illustration (if any of my readers finds one let me know I would love to add one of his illustrations to my collection!)

imageBèrard painting one of the sets.  It was reported that he was an unkempt mess with cigarette ashes, paint, etc. covering his beard and clothing…but the ladies loved him, his style and sought his advice for their clothing and home decoration!

In 1945-1946 all the Haute Couture designers were invited to created outfits to dress miniature figures in staged scenarios conceived by such artists as Jean Cocteau.  Each figure was made of a wire frame with the same head that did not have make-up or different hair styles so they were a blank canvas having the clothes be the most important element.  Everything was to 1/3 human scale and worked….buttons buttoned, snaps snapped, purses opened, hats were charming and wigs often appeared, gloves were hand stitched, shoes were fashioned for each outfit, it was indeed a theater of fashion!

imageThe couturier, Jacques Fath, with one of his garments.

imageI love this photograph, it shows you the scale of the charming mannequins.

imageA night at the Opera with all the gala attendees on stage and in the boxes.

imageA magnificent fur cape and ball gown.

imageThe final scene with the bride ascending into heaven from the devastation of the war with the ball-gowned attendants watching her go through the roof.  Truly magnificent in detail and concept with the stage designed by Jean Couteau (check out his 1946 Beauty and the Beast, it is a surreal masterpiece!).

After a very successful run in Paris, the exhibition traveled to London, New York City and other cities throughout the world and then became a distant memory and was “lost” to all of us…that is until a professor, Stanley Garfinkel, from Kent State University, was researching a documentary on Christian Dior and he found the little mannequins and garments in major disrepair in the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington, which the Museum  acquired in 1952.  The collection was carefully wrapped and send back to Paris for repair.  The wire mannequins were refurbished and the garments all brought back to their original glory.  The collection resides at Maryhill Museum of Art to this day.

There is a wonderful documentary Théâtre de la Mode which I would highly recommend you see.  There are portions of it on YouTube or perhaps you can find a DVD on line.


Haute Couture, fashion in general, is in the French DNA and to have this charming, uplifting exhibition must have been a huge morale booster after years of occupation.  There is a series of dolls by the Tonner Doll Company that have been made in conjunction with the Maryhill Museum of Art  Actually the idea of using “dolls” to show garments goes back many centuries and many designers, including Madelaine Vionnet, used a wooden mannequin, to scale, to fashion her garments, in fact, all her atelier workers used them.  When I took dress design in high school, you heard that correctly, (in the Art Department, the head of the department was a frustrated fashion designer and he was really quite good, not Home Economics), we had to do all our garments to scale before we could produce full-size clothes. and you thought Barbie was the original fashion doll…..not really my friends, not really!!!


By now I’m sure you are aware of my love for costume exhibitions and seek them out whenever and wherever I can find them, here and abroad.  For today’s Collections posting I wanted to mention, only briefly, three that are must sees this year…two in the States and one in the UK.


Let’s begin with the UK and one of my most favorite places on earth…Chatsworth House!  I had the amazing good fortune to spend an entire day going through the House and grounds many years ago when I was visiting friends in Derbyshire, it was an experience that has stayed with me to this day.  It is truly one of the most beautiful homes I have ever visited.  But again that can be another post.  In today’s essay, I wanted to concentrate on the just-opened exhibition sponsored by Gucci, House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion which has been curated by the incomparable, Hamish Bowles (no one has his taste level…it is extraordinary as is he!) The exhibition will run through October 22, book passage on the QE2 and spend at least a day in this one of a kind, once in a lifetime exhibition.


The garments are placed through the rooms and begin with pieces from Bess of Harwick in the 16th century to supermodel Stella Tennant, the granddaughter of the 11th duchess, Debo, the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and one of the Mitford sisters, who is credited, along with her husband, of bringing Chatsworth back to life and to the public eye. And, of course, Georgiana Cavendish, wife of the 5th duke, in the 18th century.



imageimageAbove photos from Pinterest, credits unknown.

The Metropolitan Museum of New York prides itself on blockbuster costume exhibitions and this years will not be an exception.  Opening with The Party of the Year on the first Monday in May (if you haven’t seen this documentary do yourself a favor and do so immediately, it is brilliant!!!


For only the second time, the Met is featuring a living designer (the first was Yves Saint Laurent when Diana Vreeland led the exhibition team) and that designer is Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons, the exhibition is entitled Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between, it opens on May 4th and runs through September 4th (want to bet it will be extended).  Perhaps you can see this exhibition the day before your sailing for the UKjust saying!!!

What a wonderful photo of Rei Kawakubo (photo credit unknown).

imageImage from the cover of the exhibition catalog to be pre-ordered through the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of course, I have to include our wonderful Chicago History Museum Costume Collection, which houses one of the largest collection in the world.  I have profiled the Mainbocher exhibition many times and wanted to mention it will be up until August.

imageFrom the Making Mainbocher exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, photo by Nena Ivon.





Yesterday’s post on A Bridge Across The Ocean, brought back memories of my amazing Transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2. It was her second crossing and began in New York on a chilly day in May.  Let’s go back a bit, the trip was through Academic Arrangements and the purpose was a garden expedition of England, beginning with a visit to Sissinghurst and ending in London with a special visit to the Chelsea Garden Show as well as hidden gardens and a perfect stay at the Capital Hotel (it happens to have Harrods on one end of the street and Harvey Nichols on the other, I mean really!!!!).  I decided to send my luggage ahead to be on board rather than lugging it on the plane.  We had a choice of hotels in New York for the night before we sailed and I chose The Waldorf Astoria  I had never stayed there in all the years I had spent in New York on business and for many vacations.  I had dined there and had drinks in Peacock Alley, but not a stay.  The room wasn’t the best I have ever stayed in but it was only one night and it was, after all, the Waldorf! The next day a bus picked us up and took us to the dock where the majestic ship was docked.  I had been on other cruises, most notably the Celebrity for a cruise of the Caribbean but never anything like the QE2!  When you board you really have no idea of the size…that comes much later.  When I arrived to my cabin my clothes were all hung and luggage stowed, how divine.


Pretty much the look of my cabin…not bad!

I don’t think I expected anything less.  We were, of course, summoned to a life boat/jacket drill prior to departure.  Our departure was delayed because there was some sort of movie being filmed around the bridge, which by the way is the only structure in New York Harbor before you hit the open sea.  This delay was causing a problem since the tide was rising and the Ship had only so much clearance of the bridge.  We were all either on deck to watch the skyline disappear and, of course, to salute the Statute of Liberty, or on on balconies…I was on mine with a couple of friends.  All of sudden a tugboat appeared on our side of the Ship (don’t ask me what side I was on, I’m not a sailor!!!), it looked like a small bath toy…it sailed along the side of the Ship to the front….obviously surveyed the situation and gave an all clear “toot, toot” and off we sailed. When I asked could the Ship sail with without this action, I was told it could not. It could not have been more charming!

imageOur tugboat, looks much bigger here then from my balcony.

I was a bit concerned about being on water for so long a time, I can only tell you, I could easily live on board and feel like I had died and gone to heaven (oh wait that is yesterday’s book!!!) I got my sea legs immediately.  While you are assigned dinner seating times, we didn’t have to sit with our group every evening and I made friends with different groups for each meal.  After dinner, perhaps a bit of dancing or casino action, we would all end up in the Veuve Clicquot Bar…seriously, I couldn’t believe it!  The waitstaff suggested if I was going to come often (were they kidding!!!) they would keep my bottle for me, the dears….. Everything, of course, is included except liquor, spa services and gratuities.

imageThe Veuve Clicquot Bar, there were lovely ivory leather banquettes opposite the actual bar, strangely enough not too many people gathered, I loved the privacy.

My other favorite place on board was the Library, shouldn’t be a surprise to my readers, it was stunning and I spent lots of time there and naturally bought books on the gardens we were to visit as well as other souvenirs.

imageA small portion of the Library which was surrounded by windows, I could easily live here!

I met one of the guest speakers, Richard Bisgrove and his wife for breakfast just before his lecture on Gertrude Jekyll, The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, I believe I mentioned the book in an earlier post that he kindly autographed for me.  Great presentation and superb book.


All the lectures were interesting and varied, some related to gardens many others had different topics, all very informative, they were presented in a huge auditorium which transformed itself at night into Broadway productions.  Believe me there wasn’t a moment that something wasn’t going on and you could enjoy whatever activity you wanted.  I spend many hours walking the decks and the corridors inside…it was not an easy crossing, the sea was rough so I wasn’t on deck or my balcony as often as I would have liked. Quite frankly the only thing missing for me was a shipboard romance (I have seen many too many movies!!!!)…oh well, next crossing!!!! The time flew by and when we landed in Southampton we were met by a bus to take us to Sissinghurst, I turned to say goodbye to the incredible QE2 and saw exactly how grand she really was, to say impressive would be a major understatement.  I will do future post on the Garden part of the trip as well as the time in London, one of my most favorite places on earth!

Since my voyage, Cunard has added another Queen to it’s fleet, The Queen Victoria….I hope I can live to tell that story!!!

On my crossing Todd English had a restaurant on board and I ate there twice, it was intimate, elegant and absolutely delicious.  There was a separate fee, but who cared…I am sharing the fig flatbread that was served with you for our Wednesday reciipe.  You can get many more of this superb chef’s recipes in his many books or his New York restaurants.




  • Two 12-ounce balls of pizza dough, at room temperature (can be refrigerated dough)
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fig jam (from a 6-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 3 ounces sliced prosciutto
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced
  1. Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°. Allow at least 45 minutes for the pizza stone to heat thoroughly.
  2. Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the pizza dough to a 13-inch round. Dust a pizza peel with flour and slide the dough onto it. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the garlic and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Dollop 1/4 cup of the fig jam all over the crust, being sure to leave a 1-inch border of dough all around. Scatter half of the cheese and prosciutto over the dough.
  3. Slide the flatbread onto the stone and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second flatbread. Garnish with the sliced scallion and serve.

    Serve with a full bodied red wine.  (Sissinghurst information)   (Chelsea Flower and Garden Show information)





Having read Susan Meissner’s Stars over Sunset Boulevard, I was eager for her next book, A Bridge Across the Ocean.  The pre-reviews gave a glimpse of the contents and I was hooked with a novel that would feature the original Queen Mary since I had sailed on the Queen Mary 2 for an absolutely fabulous transatlantic crossing several years ago (do you think there is an another post there, you bet your life there is!)  What I didn’t expect was a story with so many twists and turns, so many characters and so many levels of historical content let alone the various time frames and the paranormal aspect (should have expected that, the Ship is notorious for being haunted) of the story that ties it all together.   Would I call it a story about World War II, yes…would I call it a story about war brides coming to America (aboard the Queen Mary), yes….would I call it a mystery, yes…would I call it a story of how women survive during the most unthinkable of events, yes…would I call it a ghost story, absolutely yes (on so many levels and through the years)!

Susan Meissner’s intensive research on all her intertwined stories, yes, we do go back and forth in time, is quite intense and gives us details that we may not have know before, that is, after all, why we read isn’t it, to learn new or in-depth details about a place and places in time.  Usually, I don’t enjoy that form of narrative, going back in time to the present and back again, but it most certainly works here.  It is engaging, fascinating and leaving you wanting more.

It is a difficult book to review because of its many levels of the stories (it all becomes clear in the end!) but I will give you my opinion on this fascinating, really well-written, novel. I was totally taken by Susan’s writing, she held my interest in each chapter and it wasn’t a stretch to go from the war years to 1946 to the present day and back again.  I think using the Queen Mary as a focal character in both eras was genius and not at all contrived.  The war brides stories and how they got to the Queen Mary are all told in interesting detail, all having “secrets” that they don’t want revealed, but revealed they are! If you are looking for an uplifting story, perhaps this isn’t for you, but I think you would be missing an excellent narrative of a time we must not forget told in an imaginative well-written book which I feel it is really uplifting in that it deals with very strong women at a time when survival was everything.  Get it, read it, discuss it, you won’t be disappointed.

imageThe Queen Mary in her heyday.  The war brides traveled on the gray painted ship as it was when it was used as a troop ship.  She is now a hotel and the current discussion is should she be maintained…let’s hope so, too many special pieces from the past are destroyed to make way for the new…let’s stop that!

Have you read any of Susan Meissner books, if so which ones and what are your thoughts….do leave comments for me.




imagePetra Slinkard, Curator of Costume, Chicago History Museum.

I did a profile on Petra Slinkard last week, the interview was very long and fascinating so I wanted to explore it further I am continuing it today.  Petra is devoted to her family and friends as well as being totally committed to being the”keeper” of the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum (CHM).  It is my pleasure to continue to work with her in my position as the Historian of the Costume Council of CHM.  We both feel we make a great team. Here, in Petra’s words, is the continuation of her story I know you will enjoy her journey and be ecstatic at our luck in having her as our Curator!

imageAt sunset, Petra with her Mother, at her Mother’s wedding.

I won the Otto Thieme Memorial Internship Scholarship awarded by Costume Society of America my first year of graduate school.  Yet another example of how one moment can change the direction of your life. The award enabled me to choose a Museum to work with for the summer. Due to my geographic location, I chose the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). My summer was filled with conducting research on wedding dresses for an approaching exhibition, conducting an inventory and taking photos of the collection. It was heaven. I really enjoyed my time at the IMA and was lucky to work with Niloo Paydar (Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts) who offered a job the following summer. That summer was dedicated to preparing objects for deaccessioning. It was tedious, painstakingly precise work, but the experience paid off. I learned so much about the legal end of Museum administration than I could have ever learned in school. After that, I finished graduate school and taught as an Adjunct at IU in their Apparel Merchandising department (now SOAD – School of Art & Design). Again, another super valuable experience. I learned a lot from working with the students and honed my skills (I taught textile science).
But after seven years in Bloomington, I was ready to have another experience.  So I moved to NYC on a whim and $1000 and tried out a new life. This life didn’t include anything pertaining to the arts or museums, but it was a very treasured experience for me in regard to personal growth. But, after a while, I grew antsy and started to seriously look for employment in the Museum field. I applied at the Mint Museum, the Met – if there was a position open, I applied. As luck would have it, a teaching position called me back to the Midwest (it was an interview with the Cincinnati Art Institute) and while driving to Ohio my former boss, Ms. Paydar called to offer me a position. It was only a contract position to work with LACMA’s traveling exhibition, Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Couture from the Permanent collection, but those 8 months turned into 6 years.  While employed at the IMA I contributed to exhibitions on Halston, Dior, An American Legacy (posted photos previously), Body Unbound, and Gravity’s Loom, a contemporary exhibition. It was an excellent time to be at the Museum. I had a large group of supportive colleagues and the Museum was positioned to promote stimulating and engaging installations. Another aspect of my position for which I am very proud was my work as a liaison between the Museum and the fashion community. During my six years, I planned three major fashion shows featuring the work of national and international artists. It was a true labor of love and I met so many wonderfully talented people.  And, the show still goes on! I truly learned so much and greatly value that experience.
When I read that the position at CHM opened, I knew I needed to apply. It would be a dream come true, to work with this collection and have the opportunity to see my own visions come to light. I was a bit shocked and quite honored to be offered the job. When I began in September 2013, I hit the ground running. There was no collection manager (thankfully we hired an exceptional talent, Jessica Pushor to start about 4 months after me (she really is my right-hand woman), and I needed to get to know the collection, propose a show
Jessica Pushor in Making Mainbocher The First American Couturier exhibit. Photo by
Nena Ivon with iPhone.
and mount an exhibition to open the following November. Let me tell you, it was a whirlwind. I was getting to know my new city, adjusting to a new work environment, meeting new people left and right and trying to absorb as much information as I possibly could about this enormous collection. The challenge was to balance planning an exhibition that honored the legacy of the Museum’s Costume Council with a greater Chicago story. My solution was to tell the story of the development of Michigan Avenue through the lens of the clothing collected post 1974 (the year the Costume Council was founded) and represent as many leaders within the organization as I possibly could. The show was small in size, but I think the stories that emerge from the display of the garments appealed to a great number of people. There are not many fashion exhibitions told from the perspective of urban planning.
image Part of the Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mile exhibition, highlighting some of the pieces in the exhibition purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  Nena’s Bonnie Cashin’s aqua ensemble to the left. Photo taken by Nena Ivon with iPhone.
The next exhibition (which opened in October 2016) was proposed in early 2015. Due to gallery size and the Museum’s exhibition history, I thought we should showcase the work of Mainbocher. It was a challenge though. We were all concerned about centering an exhibition on an individual who one, very few people knew, and two, whose name was difficult to know how to pronounce right off the bat. However, once the show came together (which took a tremendous amount of work and the dedication of a very talented team of Museum staffers and volunteers) I am proud to say, it seemed like the right choice. I am so pleased by how many people comment that they knew nothing of Mainbocher before visiting the Museum and in addition, how fascinated they are by his story. Which we owe all to him! He did live a fascinating life. That, and the fact that this exceptionally talented, successful, and highly influential man was born and raised in Chicago and never actively sought to distance himself from the city. This aspect of his story made it all that much more special for the Chicago History Museum to be able to share his story.
imageBoth above photos from the Making Mainbocher  The First American Couturier exhibition taken by Nena Ivon with iPhone.
I love what I do and am proud to work with this phenomenal collection. Almost weekly we host a range of visitors to the Museum, either to tour exhibitions or costume storage.
In storage looking at a Charles Frederick Worth ensemble with the winners of the 2015  Driehaus Design Initiative.


Petra and Ishan Johnson, CHM Auxiliary Groups Coordinator, with Chicago rapper, Boy Illinois, one of the winners of the first Costume Council Best Dressed Men’s Fashion Award in 2016.

Design students and scholars from all over the world access the collection, which in turn further promotes Chicago’s rich history and fashion scholarship. Professionals also seek out the collection from time to time. We have hosted Hamish Bowles, Bob Mackie, Andrew Gn, Brandon Maxwell, Hal Rubenstein and Maria Guilia Maramotti, Director of US Retail and Global Brand Ambassador for MaxMara just to name a few. We also frequently lend our pieces to exhibitions across the globe, from the V&A to the de Young to St. Louis. This is another way in which we can share the collection. It is a tremendous amount of work, but that is just it, I never wake in the morning and truly feel like “I’m going to work”. Who could ask for more?
Petra’s Shared Links
School of Art and Design, IU
Costume Society of America
Textile and Fashion Arts collection at IMA
First IMA fashion show (this was a zero budget show which saw over 1000 people attend. We had to do an impromptu second performance to allow for all the guests to see.
Pattern (Indianapolis based fashion collective with whom I was, and am still active)
Chicago History Costume Collection
Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum
Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mile
Making Mainbocher | The First American Couturier
Vogue Article on MB
All photos courtesy of Petra Slinkard unless otherwise noted.
Petra’s Corn Fritters
3 ears fresh corn
150 grams all-purpose flour
1 half green pepper, thinly sliced
1 half red pepper, thinly sliced
2 stalks scallion, thinly sliced
3 eggs
10 shallots, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon of yellow curry sauce (Trader Joe’s has a good one)
A dash of hot sauce (chef’s choice)
300 ml water
enough oil for deep frying
Stand each ear of corn up in a bowl and use a knife to scrape off the kernels. Throw away the cobs.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil and mix well into a thick batter.
Heat oil to 170 Celcius (340 Fahrenheit) for deep frying.
Using a laddle, drop spoonful of batter into the hot oil and fry until batter turns golden brown, about 2-3 minutes each side. Drain and cool on a wiring rack. Repeat until all batter has been used up. Serve hot with a side of black beans and rice, or jasmine rice, a dollop of sour cream, dot of hot sauce and garnish with cilantro or chives.
These also keep very well and are good cold, as an on the go snack cold



imagePhoto courtesy of Bridget Halanski.

Four of the looks from the FLEUROTICA Fashion Show at the opening preview party of the 2017 Chicago Flower and Garden Show, which runs through Sunday, March 26th at Navy Pier. The garments were totally fashioned of flowers and were quite amazing. The Show benefited the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance  All models courtesy of Factor/Chosen Model Management cleverly booked by Bridget Halanski, Runway Director, follow on Instagram @factorchosen_chi @agentbridge

Yes, I am still in my floral frame of mind and the 2017 Chicago Flower and Garden Show got me to thinking about garments…and guess what the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Collections showed a floral print trend!  We are accustomed to seeing floral prints for Spring/Summer Collections but most people wear their clothes year round why not have florals year round as well.  It is quite refreshing to see them “off-season”!  Mind you not entire collections but enough to show a trend, which actually started a couple of years ago.  Here are some that caught my eye…what can you find to support this theory?

imageDolce & Gabbana always have some floral pieces in their collections…aren’t these knockouts!  Timeless as well as seasonless. Pinterest image source unknown.

imageMore florals from the Dolce & Gabbana Fall/Winter 2017 Collection. Image from Pinterest, credit unknown.


imageTwo looks from the Mary Katratzou Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Collection. Images from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

image From the Oscar de la Renta Collection by the new designers for the House, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim…they hit it out of the park and kept true to the de la Renta brand! In addition to seeing florals in the Fall Collections, from almost every designer, you will see a major black and white trend in pattern and combined in color blocking. Pinterest images photo credit unknown.

imageOne of my favorite pieces from any of the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 collections…again from Oscar de la Renta. Pinterest image, credit unknown.

We know Raf Simons is now the creative force at Calvin Klein, but let’s go back a few years, actually to his first Christian Dior Haute Couture collection in July 2012 (I’m sure you have all seen the documentary, Dior and I, if not get it immediately, it is brilliant!!!) The images below are two views of the all flower rooms Raf created for this Show, can you even imagine walking into these spaces, the fragrance must have been incredible! (Mike Hines, let’s discuss for our next gala!!)



Two years later, 2014, he did flowers hanging from the ceiling, wow…Tom Kehoe take notes (yes, I know you have done it as well and beautifully!!!)


One of my all time favorite dresses from the master himself, Christian Dior, circa 1954, of course, it is covered in his favorite flower, lily of the valley, you know it is mine too!!!  Isn’t it perfection!! Not from a Fall Collection, but I couldn’t resist…sorry….




My main collection, outside of books, is anything lily of the valley.  I don’t wear the fragrance, although I love it, nor do I adorn myself with jewelry embellished with the floral, I only collect pretty objects, paintings, etc….well that isn’t what I am posting today and it will have to be more than one post there are so many pieces!  No today, continuing our flower theme of this week, I wanted to share my rose paintings and a couple pieces of embroidery with you.

As I mentioned in a previous post my garden, thanks to my Mother, was filled with roses mostly old fashion heirloom or tea roses, my favorite, Tiffany it blooms all summer and is not only beautiful in bud but continues to open exquisitely and the fragrance, to die for!  We always had fresh flowers from the garden in our home and I often brought them to work for small luncheons or teas as well as for my desk.  Combined with the other flowers from Mom’s, English inspired, garden, the arrangements were quite lavish, I really miss having a garden to pick long stem flowers so I have to settle for a painting or two as well as some Victorian and Asian floral embroideries or indulge myself when I am invited to friends homes in the country that have lovely gardens and I can gather a few for myself.

imageThis lovely watercolor was one of the first paintings my dear friend, Ciel Grossman, (almost a second mother!) painted when she retired as Sophie Gimbel’s representative.  We became “family” almost immediately when we first met, at the beginning of my career, when she brought the Sophie Collections to Chicago three times a year, each time for a week.  I have several of her paintings and, of course, treasure each.  Most of my art is either by my Father, some of which I have shared with you…more to come, given to him by his co-workers when he retired from his ad agency, pieces Mom and I got together and now things that I have acquired through the years.  Each means something to me, I think that is what art should be, perhaps recalling a time when you purchased it or the conversation you had with the artist or antique vendor, where you were traveling at the time, etc.

imageI am crazy mad for this piece, it is a huge Victorian pillow…the centerpiece is a layered embroidery (not stumpwork) in velvet and silk threads on a field of very dark, almost black, green velvet hand stitched on an apricot gathered silk base. I would call it a “boudoir pillow” and as such, I have it on my French daybed which is covered in a collection of eclectic pillows and paisley throws!  I got it a million years ago at an antique show.

imageAnother watercolor, I purchased at an antique shop in Geneva, Illinois (no longer there!) it sits on top of a pile of books (of course, it does!!!) near my TV so I look at it all the time. Very old and framed in a narrow gold frame.

imageA close up of a small silk Spanish shawl with all over silk embroidery that resides on the back of one of my dining chairs.  It was a true find at the Randolph Street Market, which by the way, is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26 from 10 to 5.  The monthly Market is written on my calendar as soon as the year’s dates are posted and always has something you must add to your collections, I know I always find something!

imageAnother Randolph Street Market find.  I have left it unframed, I like the raw look of just having the canvas wrapping around the frame.  This one is oil on canvas.

I do have other flower pieces but thought I would concentrate on my roses today.  I hope you enjoyed them as much as I do!



imageA charming vignette at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  I want to have this in my backyard…oh wait, I don’t have a yard!!!

Not a lot of words today (aren’t you happy to hear that!) just some photos I took at the opening night party for this year’s Chicago Flower and Garden Show, Chicago’s Blooming,  presented by Mariano’s at Navy Pier which runs through Sunday, March 26.  Mark your calendar for next year’s Show, Flowertales, March 14 through 18 at Navy Pier it is always a bright spot after our winter while looking for those first blooms to appear in our gardens and in all our wonderful outdoor spaces in Chicago.







All the above images are in a massive display by Mariano’s, it truly takes your breath away and much of it you can purchase and make your own bit of floral heaven in your home.

imageMost of the gardens have experts to give you advice on how to plant and care for your plants as well as displaying many varities for the first time.

imageI love hydrangeas and am fortunate to have friends who give me bouquets that dry exquisitely for display in my home.

imageThis year’s Show had several waterfalls love this look and what a great idea for an outdoor space whether big or small!

imageHere are two examples both look quite large in these photos but are easily adaptable for a small space.

imageI’ll end today’s post with a watercolor painting done many years ago by a dear friend, Ciel Grossman, her ode to Raoul Dufy.  I adore it and it is a prelude to tomorrow’s post, yet more flowers, this time featuring some of my rose paintings and embroideries.  Until then enjoy this week’s recipe.

From Nena’s Recipe Box

Curried Fruit Bake

1/3 cup butter

1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

4 teaspoons curry powder (I usually add a bit more, do to your taste)

1 No. 1 tall can pear halves

1 No 1 tall can cling peaches

1 No 1 tall can apricot halves

1 No 2 can pineapple chunks

10 maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 325º.  Melt butter, add sugar and curry.  Drain (save juices for a smoothie or cocktail) and dry fruit, place in 1 1/2 quart casserole, add butter mixture. Bake for 1 hour.  I usually serve it with baked ham (great for Easter Sunday), could go well with leg of lamb, poultry…I wouldn’t mind it next to my meatloaf!.  Reheats well in a 350º oven.  Be sure to refrigerate leftovers, if there are any!!!  Can be made the day before serving, refrigerated and reheated.  The recipe says is will serve 12…good luck with that’ It is really yummy.



imageA very small sampling of my flower and garden book collection.

Since this is the first week of Spring the week’s theme is flowers and gardens….there are SO MANY great books on the subject I will cover just a small sampling.  You by now know how much I love historical fiction about “real” people so let’s start there.


These two books, by the prolific Philippa Gregory, tell the story of the influential English gardener, John Tradescant, which details his connections with royalty and the beginnings of magnificent gardens in seventeenth century England and continues with his son’s voyage to the New World.  Both stories are told as only Gregory can.  I was truly enchanted with both but preferred Earthly Joys.  Both are very long engaging stories and a time I will need to read more about.  The English have a love, like no one else, except perhaps, the French, for their gardens.  Here you can read about the beginning of the great estates and ALL that is involved in the construction and “architecture” of this art form along with the turbulent politics of the time…really good reads. I’m sure there are many other fictionalized books on gardening…please share your favorites.

I can’t think of any other author/arbiter of good taste to feature with some of the most magnificent books on flowers and gardens…Carolyne Roehm would be that person. I had the extreme pleasure of working with her when she presented her exquisite ready-to-wear collection for a fashion show benefit in Chicago many years ago.  A more charming, talented person one could not meet.  Years later, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, was asked to underwrite the opening keynote luncheon for the Chicago Botanic Garden Antique and Garden Show and Carolyne was the speaker.  I was invited to sit at her table and was totally taken by surprise that she remembered working with me on her fashion show!  She was gracious, an excellent speaker and also did a fascinating floral demonstration, as I recall using masses of red carnations for one of her sensational arrangements.  The luncheon was a wall to wall sell out and the audience adored her, why not, her talent is extraordinary.  All I can say is if you don’t have ALL of her books you must order them immediately, the photography is out of this world and the copy is enchanting.  Not all are on flowers and gardens but each does include them in some way.  Here are some of the ones I have chosen to share with you…enjoy!




There are four volumes in this series representing the four seasons, I am featuring the Spring Notebook.

I would also recommend any books you can find on Sissinghurst…I was fortunate to visit the Gardens there several years ago.  Of course, I had read reams about the Gardens, but words and pictures can not describe them as they really are, magnificent to say the very least!  Capability Brown must be added to your list of quintessential English gardeners, how could we leave him out…not possible! Is there a fictionalized version of his life, that would be fabulous, let me know if you know of one. And, of course, Gertrude Jekyll, the book you see in my stack at the top of this post was written by a Jekyll scholar who happened to be sailing on the Queen Mary 2 when I was (you can rest assured that there will be a future post on this once in a lifetime trip, loved everything about it!!!), I was seated with him and his wife and we were chatting (I had no idea who he was) when he informed me that he would be speaking on the crossing, actually the day that we were sharing a meal…he was a total joy to know and listen to…luckily for me the book was being sold on board (of course it was!) and he signed it for me.  An excellent book on this superbly talented gardener.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at some flower and garden books that have engaged me.  My Mother, Ruth, was the gardener in the family she had a green arm, everything she planted grew beautifully for her (we had over 200 rose bushes in our tiny garden along with other cottage garden flowers, many were old fashion English roses she got from sources before David Austin came to the States, she would have been in Rose Heaven, but, of course, she is!!!)…it was her hobby and her joy.  I chose to bask in the sun and read, now I wish I had a plot of land to dig in, oh well, I’ll have to content myself with visiting gardens and read about them instead!


imagePetra Slinkard, Curator of Costume, Chicago History Museum.

Today’s profile is all about Petra Slinkard, Curator of Costume, Chicago History Museum. It is always interesting, to me, how one makes friends.  Quite often, at least with me, you can know someone for years and not become good friends, while other people you meet once and know right away that you will become close friends…it is a mystery to me!  Well, this is exactly what happened when Petra came to the Chicago History Museum  We not only worked together, I was then the President of the Costume Council, but also became friends and have shared many a giggle, a glass or two of wine along with discussions on our mutual passion, fashion and, of course, the Costume Collection. In addition, Petra is on the Board of Directors of the Costume Society of America, an organization we both hold dear!  For more information

imageGetting the giggles while doing a photo shoot (one of many!) for the Chicago History Museum’s Costume Collection Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mile exhibition sponsored by the Costume Council, with my Bonnie Cashin aqua outfit and Abra Wilkin’s Adolfo red gown, both were included in the exhibition.

I greatly admire her knowledge of the history of costume along with her willingness to learn more and explore our vast world of costume and how it relates to each time period as well as how to present it in the here and now!  Her current exhibition The Making of Mainbocher, which I have reviewed in depth in previous posts, and it’s accompanying catalog (the first monograph on this fascinating designer) has been drawing rave reviews from the press and the public alike. Now let’s hear a portion of Petra’s taped interview, we will hear more in a future post.

imagePetra doing a television interview about the Making Mainbocher exhibition some of the mannequins as the backdrop during set-up of the exhibition.

We sat down for a chat and Petra kindly answered my questionnaire.

When did you know what you wanted to do?

I wanted to be a variety of things I wanted to be a lawyer in third grade I thought it was glamorous and saw lawyers on television and liked everything about it especially the power. In my teens when my fascination with clothing began and I started thinking about style and how I dressed and what I wore. My Mother, Grandmothers, and older sisters were very stylish and I would watch that whole “tribe” get ready and was fascinated by it.


Dressed in Dutch costume, with Mom (sitting on her lap) aunt, cousin and both grandmother’s in the Netherlands. Early 1980s

I wouldn’t qualify myself as very “girly” as a child but I grew to realize it was important in how you presented yourself in society. Then when I went to college I started thinking about my career choices, I wanted to be a detective or in law enforcement (Nena…did you think you were Nancy Drew?) I don’t know, maybe, I watched a lot of Murder She Wrote, the curiosity of it and the questions intrigued me. I feel that curiosity brought me to where I am.  I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but wanted to take the time to explore other areas of education.  I took a variety of classes from interior design to art history to the physics of sound to Roman and Classical Literature looking for a variety of ways to get involved.  Eventually, I realized that the theme was culture and arts driven.  I explored being a costume designer for the stage, I worked very hard at it in school and was involved with some student productions and worked my way up and became the head costumer for the  Student UnionLeague. It was a tremendous experience and I really enjoyed it.  It was a lot of work but looking back on it, it prepared me to work with a large group of eclectic people on a very small budget and making something happen.  And so, that making something happen in producing a “product of sorts” got me very excited.  My sophomore year I  realized that I could no longer ignore my affinity for fashion, and I began taking costume history classes.  I really wanted to try design but the program I was in was full and life has a way of making decisions for you so instead of going the independent study route which would have made me be a fashion design major I went into merchandising and again, in retrospect, I really enjoyed the business side not realizing how much I would use those experiences now.  Long story short…I ended up volunteering in the University’s costume collection (Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, see photo below

        Photo taken by Nena Ivon

And one of the first collections I worked on was the Bill Blass Retrospective that they mounted and it was a great experience.  I was moving boxes from one corner to another and combing sequins under the direction of Michael Vollbracht. (Nena’s note, this Exhibition was underway when Bill Blass passed away. The exhibition and book that accompanied the exhibition were organized by my mentor and former boss, Helen O’Hagan, one of Bill’s closest confidants, and the designer and artist, Michael Vollbracht, I will profile him in a later post.  It was a very emotional experience for me when I saw the superb exhibit, Bill had been one of my dear designer friends and was always there for me, yet another post!)) the Bill Blass Exhibition photo credit not available 

It was a fantastic experience in the Art Museum which was different from the other campus venues we had worked on before.  It was very valuable to see all the different parts of the puzzle.  So that is when I got hooked, I knew that working with old things, which I had been attracted to since I was a child, I was always collecting things from my relatives when then were tossing them out building my own collection and asking about their stories. From there I went to the Indianapolis Art Museum (more on this and her journey to CHM in a future post on exhibitions)



            Photos taken by Nena Ivon

From the Indianapolis Museum of Art 2013 Exhibition An American Legacy which featured Norman Norell, Bill Blass, Halston and Stephen Sprouse from Petra’s tenure at the Museum.

imageThe current Chicago History Museum Exhibition Making Mainbocher

What would your alternate career path have been:

Gardening in some form would like to own a greenhouse along with a bed and breakfast, create travel package experiences, teach or produce fashion shows.

imageIn storage showing a Christian LaCroix garment from the Costume Collection to a guest designer


Gardening, jogging, biking, cooking, being with family and friends

Home, what style:

Eclectic, random bits of very expensive along with crates covered in fabric, art from family and friends, lots and lots of plants

Favorite Book(s)

Greek Mythology actually took classes in summer school on the subject


The Good Earth, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Richard Bradigan books, Classics such as Great Expectations

Poetry especially British poetry

(Was reading The Paris Wife and Loving Frank in tandem when interview was conducted)

Favorite Movie(s)

Most of all, I love Independent Films, I watch movies like crazy!! Woody Allen films, also have watched Grease and The Breakfast Club over and over. Staying Alice,  I enjoy films that are challenging, make me think and give me a different perspective!

Favorite Music:

Jazz, Funk and Soul, Motown, Classic Rock, Chopin, and Beethoven, I collect vinyl!

Theater in order:

Musical Theater, Ballet, Legitimate Theater, Symphony, Opera

Favorite type of food:

In order…Tacos, Thai, Indonesian, Italian and Pizza

Favorite Chicago Restaurants:

Girl and the Goat, Siena

Guests at your Fantasy Dinner Party

Hedy Lamarr

Frank Sinatra

Franco Moschino

Sarah Vaughn

Benny Goodman

Barbra Streisand

Woody Allen

Henrik Ibsen

Milan Kundera

Michelle Obama

Gloria Steinem

Petra Slinkard

Menu: Indoisisan Corn Fritters, because they are a build it yourself meal (recipe to be in a future post!), side of mashed potatoes and either pecan or sugar cream pie.

Favorite vacation spot and where you would like to go:

Upstate Michigan Dunes more for the experience of who I was with as well as a mini-van trip with family in Europe.  To visit, Greece, Budapest, Laos, and Argentina.


With FashioNext students in the gallery of Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mile (2015). One of Petra’s favorite things is working with students and giving them information on the history of the designers and their creations.

Favorite Chicago Street Art:


The  ever-changing murals on the front of Mott Street Restaurant photo credit unknown

How do you want to be remembered:

Who loved the people that she loves. Worked hard and gave it everything she had!

imageGetting ready to attend one of the Chicago History Museum’s The Last Speakeasy events

Thank you, Petra, for sharing your story with us…with more to come in future posts.  You give 1000% to everything you do and obviously relish the experience. It is always a pleasure to spend time with you whether asking questions or sharing a meal, a film or just good conversation. You have found your perfect career, continue to enjoy the adventure!

All photos unless otherwise noted courtesy of Petra Slinkard