I am sure by now everyone is aware that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s next costume exhibition will feature Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons, only the second living designer to be so honored, the first was Yves Saint Laurent.  CDG is a most interesting choice not only because the creative genius behind the label is extremely reclusive but the designs have always been controversial, in many cases, very extreme sometimes unwearable (until you look at the individual pieces!) There has been and will be numerous articles written about the upcoming exhibition, which opens on May 4th and runs through September 4th, with the Party of the Year on Monday, May 1st. In the meantime, you can see some of Kawakubo’s genius displayed in the Merce Cunningham exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, but you must hurry it is closing on Sunday, April 30th.

imageA shot from the Merce Cunningham exhibition featuring some pieces from Comme des Garçons designs for one of the Cunningham magical dance pieces.

I am not going to attempt to analyze the designer, the Fall 2017 collection nor the exhibition obviously I haven’t seen it. What I wanted to talk about today are the Japanese designers I have worked with over the years.

First up, Hanae Mori.

imageRichard Avedon photograph

I worked with her in the 1970’s at a show to benefit the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, always the first social event of the fall season and always a black tie evening event.  We, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, had produced this event for many years (actually it was the first major show I worked on when I started in the fashion office and we showed the Sophie of Saks Collection for many years until she no longer designed). Mrs. Mori was the first designer after Sophie that we featured.  I remember she and her husband, Ken,  were staying with hosts in the Northern suburbs and I went to their home to meet the Moris.  They couldn’t have been more charming and gracious.  Mrs. Mori spoke very little English, her husband translated for her.  The collection we featured was bold in color and pattern, most certainly inspired by the Japanese culture, the kimono, and flowers, all done in silk.  All her fabrics were woven, printed and dyed especially for her and the Japanese symbols of feminity…butterflies and flowers…were used extensively in her prints which you can see in the two photos illustrated below.  It was truly magnificent and very well received by the audience.  She was the first Japanese woman to show on the runways in Paris and New York, in 1977 she took her couture collection to Paris and was the first Japanese woman to be elected to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

imageLooks that would have been in the Show.

imageBarbie in one our her especially made designer gowns, this evening costume from Hanae Mori.

imageKenzo in the 1970’s. Photo credit unknown.


imageYou can see the joyous color combinations and mix of print.  Very innovative for the times.  Look at today’s fashion and THE look is a mix of pattern and colors…everything old is back again!

Kenzo was a huge designer in the early 1970’s and we were very excited that he was coming to Chicago to present his collection.  At the time I helped style the interiors and windows as well as doing all the fashion shows and special events.  I loved dressing the mannequins and we had an amazing team headed by Joe and Alma Kreis.  Henry Callahan, the Saks Corporate head of Visual, was the BIG name in the world of display, (aka visual merchandising), he did the White House Christmas decorations for years and years and there was no one more admired (and feared) or talented in the industry.  Needless to say, when he came to Chicago we were all on our best behavior.  For some unknown reason, he had taken me under his wing when we opened the Saks Fifth Avenue store in the Old Orchard Shopping Mall and we would always go to lunch when I was in New York. To make this long story even longer, Mr. Callahan and some of his New York assistants came to Chicago to oversee the installation of the windows for the Kenzo visit.  We had many windows fronting Michigan Avenue (Saks was located at 669 North Michigan Avenue at that time) and we were featuring a very long (it went from one window to another) dragon to form the background for the extremely colorful prints that were a Kenzo trademark.  We must have worked on the windows for a week until everyone was satisfied that they would be showstoppers….which they were!  Again, Kenzo proved to be a gracious, fun-loving, hip designer of the swinging times.  The event was a huge success and garnered Saks a new contemporary client along with the established society women of the time.

imageThe playfulness of Kenzo at the beginning of his career.

imageA recent photo of the elegant Kenzo in front of his current love, painting, isn’t it glorious!

imageOne of my favorite books in my extensive fashion library.  How clever that you can choose one of the four prints.  Mine is the bold turquoise.

We were very fortunate, in Chicago, to have our own Japanese designers become superstars.  Noriko Nishi, was born in Japan and moved to Chicago when she married Dan Chuzo Nishi.  She had attended design school in Japan and continued her education at the Ray Vogue School of Design in Chicago (a story unto itself!!!) and made clothes for herself (a size 0) and her friends.  Unfortunately, her husband was killed in a car accident in 1970 leaving Noriko, alone with her son, Michael,  to start a career as a designer.  I first met her just before Saks started carrying her exclusively (in 1972).  She did her first shows in her apartment and did all her own floral arrangements which were pieces of art unto themselves and the invitations were all handmade origami, all of which were quite charming and extremely intricate. She was extremely talented and very shy.  I think the industry was overwhelming to her and she needed support and guidance to help her understand she was something special. As her career progressed and grew, I produced her shows at the store as well as various other Chicago locations and included her colorful designs with other designers in many other shows, I always loved to showcase our exclusive designer collections.  At the beginning, her garments were all silk matte jersey and her signature was trapunto detailing.  A bit later she added gauzy cotton, wool challis and silk crepe de chine.  All were very simple in look but very intricate in concept and the customers scooped them up. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of her or her garments, pity, they were amazing!!1


I worked with Hino and Malee when they were with Noriko and then when they went out on their own.  Their esthetic was very Asian with clean lines, beautiful natural fabrics, and natural colors.  Extremely wearable and, to a merchant, very salable.

imageHino and Malee in their heyday.  They were devoted to each other and their designs were extraordinary.  Not at all contrived just plain simple and elegant.


A dress from Hino and Malee photographed by the genius Victor Skrebneski!

What is this all about, it is about elegance, simplicity of line, joyful pattern, color and color combinations, (which the Asian eye sees differently that the Caucasian eye). It is about wearing clothes that are all about the person wearing the garment and becoming one with it, not the garment wearing the wearer…this has always been my personal code that I share with the Japanese designers, I have been fortunate to work with, a philosophy we all attest to.



One of my treasures given to me by Mark and Linda Heister a vintage gilded green opaline piece with lusters. I sometimes put a pillar candle inside. It is one of a pair and they flank the mantle of the “malachite” fireplace Mark created for me.

A disclaimer before I even begin….you by now know I like to take my own photos for my posts and I am usually pleased with them.  Today is an exception…no apologies just fact, they aren’t my best work.  You see, as I have told you many times, I live in a very small space and each and every surface is covered with collections, books, etc. therefore it is often difficult to stage and capture the exact image I want due to lighting or space limitations…please forgive me on this occasion and enjoy my collection of opaline. I appreciate your indulgence.

Actually, it was my Mother who started this collection.  Again, you know blue isn’t my favorite color, I am a green girl (and yes you will see green in this post!) but my Mother, Ruth, adored anything blue and I adored her so it became a part of our home for many years.  The breakfront I have featured in the past was filled (jammed) with her Bristol blue collection which she had acquired over many years.  One night I came home from work and found the cupboard with a totally different look…she had sold the entire (almost) collection!  Needless to say, I was totally startled and asked why…her answer, it was time for a change.  Understand Ruth would constantly rearrange our home on a regular basis, sometimes weekly, so this wasn’t an unusual occurrence. I, on the other hand, loathe change.  We did keep several pieces and I still have them and treasure them.

imageTwo opaline sconces on one of the walls, this wall is on the side of my French daybed.  You can see a little peek of one of my early needlepoint pieces, actually, Ruth drew the violets (her favorite flower) and I needlepointed it and framed in in an antique frame. Needlepoint with be a multi posting in the future.  These sconces can be put together and form a chandelier.  In my mind, I think we purchased these a zillion years ago at a Lake Forest Antique Show.  They are two of my favorite things.

imageA close up of one of the sconces.

imageA companion chandelier hangs over my desk, where I write nenasnotes.  The cord is covered in shirred apricot silk taffeta.  You can see an oil on wood painting in a distressed ornate gilt frame which I look at each time I sit at my desk, and, of course, books that are on a vintage bamboo shelf, one of many, on my window ledge.  The painting and shelf purchased at the Randolph Street Market. The April market is this Saturday and Sunday, April 29 and 30 from 10 to 5  Perhaps you will find similar treasures, do come and see!

imageThe remains of Mom’s blue collection, some opaline some milk glass most collected many, many years ago others I have recently added, these grouped together on top of one of my Chinoiserie file cabinets.

imageHere a great example of the multitude of shades of blue (not gray!!!) in opaline and milk glass. Both vases are handpainted and again from Randolph Street Market.  The box predates RSM.


A small lid that is handpainted with forget-me-knots another favorite of the Ivon girls.  The bottom long gone but I thought this was too interesting to trash.

imageAn apricot opaline base for a tiny lamp which sits on top of books, of course, it does! I imagine it was once a vase or candle holder, probably a pair.  It has always been a lamp to me.  The piece to the left is a beaded handpainted fabric and barely visable behind is a portion of a heavily appliqued lace curtain, both from RSM.  My home is mostly green but I have accented it with shades of apricot as well as picking up colors from my paisley shawl collection and the pastels in my vintage Chindia rugs.

imageA vignette of a portion of my green opaline collection. The tussie mussie holder encases an antique lace dollie and silk violets.  Behind it is a collection of candle holders and the water color is from my trip to Russia.  Under all a vintage handmade crazy quilt, another collection.  I have a couple of full quilts as well as many remnants.  All from the Randolph Street Market.  Perhaps this might inspire you to mix and match your collections…as you know Victoriana is a passion of mine and the Victorians always felt more is more!!!!  I most certainly agree. I think my opaline collection is what led me to start collecting Jadeite which I use as my everyday dishes and have posted an image of some of it on my kitchen shelves.  You can find reams and reams of information on Jadeite, (which was cheap as chips when it was first manufactured and now commands very high prices, but you can find all manner of Jadeite at all prices at RSM), but not much on opaline, I couldn’t find a single book on the subject!!!  Do let me know if you know of some.

imageVery unusual color for opaline, a putty, handpainted with my favorite flower, lily of the valley.  The small vase is a celadon green it also handpainted with lily of the valley.  Both are one of a pair.  The larger pair sits on either side on top of my breakfront and the small ones are placed in front of the lusters on top of my fireplace.

imageAnother pair, this time handpainted with beautiful English rose buds, forget me knot and lily of the valley…three of my favorite all on one vase, bonus!  You can barely see the gilt dots at the base and around the top.  They are on either side of the top of the drawer portion of the breakfront and hold dried tree hydrangea.

imageA close up of the painting…I love its three-dimensional effect.  All the above vases I have gotten at the Randolph Street Market and they have been collected over the years.

Please share your comments and what you like to collect, I am thinking of doing a “contest” with the prize being a season pass to the Randolph Street Market….your thoughts!!!???


Everything in Chicago is bursting out and I wanted to share some of these beauties with you today…again a post of pictures with few words, unusual for me!!!!  Enjoy.

imageOne of my most favorite trees, we had one in our backyard in Evanston, I loved it…the weeping willow, always one of the first trees to show life that isn’t a flowering tree.  It brings joy to my heart!

imageA grove of weeping willows near a pond, they do love water.  The only photo not taken in several friends yards and an estate.

imageA magnificent old magnolia tree, the blooms last such a short time, but they are glorious!

imageAnother old tree, some kind of fruit tree, sorry don’t know if it is an apple or pear, who cares it is lovely.

imageA dogwood tree, love the graceful shape of this against the sky and neighboring roof line.

imageA weeping redbud tree, gorgeous in all seasons, but I particularly love it now in full bloom and in the summer when you can enjoy the heart shaped leaves.  We had a standard redbud in our Evanston home’s front yard, it was always one of the first to bloom and reminded my Mother of her youth in Missouri, redbud country!

All photos were taken by me with my iPhone.

Three sources I use for plants and trees, not for me but for gifts, (although all have house plants and other gift items), two are local and one is mail order:



Another book that I have no idea how I heard about it.  As I have mentioned in previous book posts I read many book blogs, newsletters, newspaper reviews and on and on and I put upcoming releases on my to be read list.  Death On The Sapphire is one of those books and it has been sitting on my TBR list for awhile. It is R.J. Koreto first novel and the first in a series, the second has just been published, I’ll review that at a later date.

As you also know, I really hate pigeonholing books, especially when they are called “cozy mysteries”…I am sure some would put Agatha Christie in that category, pity that! This mystery is a lovely read with quite a few twists and turns…not a blood and thunder novel.  I don’t really enjoy those too much, I like a bit of suspense, a little romance, a well written story with an intelligent protagonist and one that keeps my interest to the end.  This one met all those requirements.

The heroine, if you will, is Lady Frances Ffolkes, who is very much an independent young lady living in the changing world of Edwardian England.  Raised to have a mind of her own, to a degree, and to that end she lives in a very upscale “boarding house” with her Lady’s Maid….things must be proper, we are talking about polite society, after all.  She is educated, at Vassar no less (also the University of the author, who, by the way is male, I don’t even know why I say that other than his handling of our young Lady and her Ladies Maid, June Mallow, is quite tender and wonderful) and due to her position in society has access to places that a lower class woman of the time wouldn’t have. It is the beginning of the the suffragist movement and the story tells that piece of history as well as the main story of a manuscript that has gone missing and is reported to contain details of a battle gone wrong costing many lives in the South Africa’s bloody Boer War. What the details are can be damaging  and embarrassing to the Establishment (my opinion, that this is being investigated by a young woman is salt in the wound!) and Scotland Yard (doesn’t it always) becomes involved along with the their Special Branch and the British Secret Service.  Love enters the picture with two gentlemen who may not be all they appear to be.  Lady Frances, Frannie, finds herself being followed, ends up in unusual neighborhoods…let’s just say where Ladies of her station should not be seen…following clues to the missing manuscript and to two murders.  I particularly loved the way her maid, Mallow, maintains the standards of how her Ladyship should behave and most of all how she should dress and coif her hair…it is delightful.  June is very much a part of the story and involves just as much as her mistress, I might say, even more.

I found that women being taken seriously has evolved, but has it really!!!!  Yes, we have the vote in the States, in the UK and many other nations but most certainly not all over the world…we basically can be whatever we want to be, in any profession we choose.  But what about equality..what about no more sexual harassment, equal pay…my the list does go on.  However, when we examine how things were a hundred years I believe we must say we have come a long way but have a long way to go.  I personally have never felt inferior to anyone nor have been put in a compromising situation but the headlines say I am in the minority and that makes me very sad.  We still have so much to accomplish and events like the Women’s March, I hope, will help change the status quo!  Enough of the soapbox…which is what the early suffragists actually stood upon to make their voices heard…let’s continue their journey until everything, in every way, is equal everywhere.

You do know I love a good historical mystery and this is one I highly recommend.  If you loved Downton Abbey, like Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries, Victoria Thompson’s and Carola Dunn’s books then you will be thoroughly engaged with this beginning of a new series.

imageThe next volume is out now, I would suggest you read Death on the Sapphire first. Koreto has also written a series of Alice Roosevelt mysteries…need to get those as well, I am!



imageCammy Kelly in her modeling days (she absolutely looks the same today!).

Today I am profiling yet another of my “superstar” models…as with all my models Cammy was always professional, delightful to be around, and, of course, gorgeous!  Cammy was a total chameleon…she became the “character” of the clothes, especially when in the Bob Mackie shows, which were always “Broadway”  productions.  As with most of my “girls”, she hung up her modeling pumps much too soon. Cammy has gone on to a hugely successful career as a hair and make-up artist for photography for commercial print as well as personal photographs.  She has always had a talent for theater, in fact, while she was pursuing an extremely successful modeling career she was also acting in local theatrical productions, most notably at the Red Orchid Theater.

image Nena’s note: A photo I had taken to be used for the front of an invitation for an evening gown collection show we did as a benefit for the Architecture Foundation of Chicago. Cammy is on the magnificent staircase in the lobby of the Railway Exchange Building (aka the Santa Fe Building!) where the Architecture Foundation of Chicago makes its home.  I always began these shows (we did several there…a post, of course, at a future time) and with the models coming down the staircase and would end with them placed on the stairs for a dramatic finale.  Photographer unknown.

Here in Cammy’s words are her reflections on her modeling career.

“I was a model for 16 years and I traveled and had a great career! Doing runway was an especially rewarding and exciting time in my life. It taught me a lot about grace, poise, being professional and working together with everyone to have the best show possible. Runway is in the moment so you have to be able to think quick and have confidence, anything can happen, from wardrobe malfunctions (hahaha) to slippery catwalks, to having the music go out! Sometimes you just have to ad lib and make the best of every situation, because you can’t have a do-over, and that has helped me tremendously in my life. We all became a family and helped each other out. There was never a dull moment, and boy did we have are laughs.

imageWith Jeanouche and Lauren.

imageBackstage with the modeling crew.


The Bob Mackie shows were so much fun, we became another character with each outfit, and he was a doll to work with! Loved the wig!! It was a very exciting time waiting for the lights to go up the music to start and the audience reaction!! It was all about giving 110% performance!!”

imageThe Cammy drama!

NI: Can you recall the first time you worked for Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago…

“Wow that’s a good question and I can’t remember the first show..but I do remember I did an audition for you and had to walk but I don’t remember what for. All I can recall is that all of the Saks shows were very well put together and organized to the tee! You always did an impeccable job with staging, music, lighting, and there was never any backstage chaos. I opened a lot of the shows and Bob Mackie and Oscar de la Renta were always the best. Also, Jacqueline DeRibes, Richard Tyler, Bill Blass, Adolfo, James Galanos (those were the tiniest clothes I’ve ever seen, and I was tiny back then), Carolina Herrara, Carolyn Roehm, Geoffrey Beene, Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez, and many more.

imageCammy in an embroidered lace gown.

imageAnother runway shot.

I decide to move my career in another direction and started doing makeup and hair for photo shoots and commercials in 1997. I love working with models and collaborating with photographers, art directors, stylists and everyone else on the shoots!”

The following are notes from Cammy’s profile:

“For two decades Cammy Kelly has been a successful make-up & hair stylist, a career built upon the foundation of her many years on the other side of the camera as a successful model. Cammy brings a wealth of experience in the fashion and commercial print industry to every assignment. Cammy is currently based in Chicago but travels all over the country for shoots.

From a very young age, Cammy’s artistic talents were encouraged and developed with help from her engineer/designer father. She continued to study the arts throughout high school and as her major in college. As a fledgling mode,l she parlayed her talents in portraiture and design into an ability to create her own unique styles for the camera, building her reputation for exceptional make-up and hair design.

Cammy has created styles for such celebrities as Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Nikki Hilton, Pearl Jam, David Schwimmer, Anna Nicole-Smith, Olympia Dukakis, Anna Gastyer, Beverly Johnson, Michelle Monaghan and others. Her work has appeared in many publications including Seventeen, Rolling Stone, W Magazine, Marie Claire, Lucky, Blender, Chicago Magazine, Tribune Magazine, and CS.

Her corporate clients include Lexus, Visa, Unilever, Bacardi, Wahl Group, Ulta, Sears and State Farm – as well as newscasters from ABC, NBC and CBS.

She has worked with her photographer husband, Terry David Drew, as well as Verser Englehardt, Jack Perno, David Anthony, Greg Lotus, Victor Skrebneski and Albert Watson among many others. Cammy’s career has involved extensive travel both home and abroad, in studio, and on location.”


Nena’s note: Cammy and Terry…they are the most adorable couple ever and their talents are unequaled.  Terry has done several wonderful photos for me, (of me, with Cammy making me look extremely glam, and group shots with my models, I treasure each shot he has done!)

“Having been on both sides of the camera, Cammy is able to understand everyone’s vision and how all elements are involved in the final product. “I’m part of the collaboration with the photographer, client, and talent.”’

imageMoose and Cammy…photo by Terry David Drew.

imageCammy today, what is with my models….they never age!!!!

Thank you so much, Cammy, for sharing a bit of your story with my readers.  You are a true professional in every sense of the word and were a joy to work with!

All photos, with the exception of Cammy on the staircase, courtesy of Cammy Kelly.




imageThe entrance to the Chicago History Museum Costume Council’s Inspiring Beauty: Fifty Years of Ebony Fashion Fair exhibition, 2013-2014. Photo credit courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

One could not help but be inspired by this amazing once in a lifetime exhibition featuring highlights from the extraordinary collection of garments amassed by Eunice Johnson. Mrs. Johnson’s taste level and vision for her fashion extravaganzas was without equal, and, in my opinion, won’t be duplicated.  A true fashionista in the most positive way.  Realizing that there weren’t elegant fashion shows for the African- American audience (she showed both women’s and men’s garments in the shows) prompted her to gather garments from all the important designers (and these included African-American designers) from all the major fashion markets.  Haute Couture was of prime interest to her and you saw many examples in the exhibition.  Imagine, if you will, an unknown person walking into the couture and ready-to-wear collections and purchasing, usually with cash!!!, an outfit from head to toe…hats, jewelry, shoes even tights, everything! I can tell you she didn’t remain unknown for long and many garments were created especially for the Shows.  Quite often one of a kind pieces and most certainly, more often than not, garments that would become iconic. The Shows were taken across the US and the Caribbean and were shown in huge auditoriums, such as the former Medinah Temple and the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place both in Chicago or in small venues such as school gymnasiums or church halls.  Millions of dollars were raised for African-American causes.  Do not presume that the audiences were entirely made up of African-American ladies, and the audiences were mostly ladies, there were all ethnicities in attendance, myself included, everyone chic beyond belief.  The audiences were a fashion show unto themselves! Who doesn’t love a fashion show…I say that but the Ebony Fashion Fair was so much more than a fashion show it was a triumph of music, dancing, beautiful models, commentary, they were like looking at a Broadway Show.  Each show was themed and each showed a huge number of runs, going from day pieces to the most outlandish evening pieces seen anywhere.  You were really in if you were invited to attend an afternoon get together at Ruth Edelman’s home and then transported to the Ebony Fashion Fair event. It was one of the highlights of the Chicago social season.  I wish I had kept my programs they were amazing and many were on display at the exhibition along with a mock set up of Mr. Johnson’s Ebony publishing office and testimonials from designers and models.  It was an in-depth investigation and presentation of a special time along with the beauty of the clothes.

Let me give you a Nena note here….usually when you present a fashion show, in my case, I often worked with merchandise from my store, Saks Fifth Avenue, and would do a “pull” from the entire store or we would feature a designer’s collection in its entirety, all of these garments went back to their source…the store or the vendor. In the Ebony Fashion Fair shows, ALL the garments were purchased and owned by Ebony, unheard of then and now (if you were getting clothes from a designer they were on loan)…and were either sold on site after the shows or kept in their archives.  These archives are what were available to Joy Bivins and Virginia Heaven when they made their final selections, not an easy task by any means, for the exhibition.

imageNot the world’s best photo but here we are….Virginia Heaven and Joy Bivins the creative minds behind the exhibition flanking me, I was serving as President of the Costume Council at this time. Photo credit unknown, but taken with Nena’s iPhone.

The exhibition was in the plans for several years before it came to fruition and as in any exhibition, it takes a “village” to get it set up…from concept, to staging, to mannequin selections and on and on.  Let’s first talk about the mannequins.  The usual form for an exhibition is to use abstract mannequins, generic in feeling so they don’t distract from the actual garments being shown.  Not so in this presentation, the mannequins became a huge part of the story.  All were modeled after African-American women (a couple of male mannequins were also featured) using different skin tones, hair styles, and make-up.  In Monday’s post on Gayle King, you might recall that she was in the Fashion Fair shows and her image was used for one of the mannequins and I included a photo of that mannequin, here it is again…..

imagePhoto courtesy of Gayle King.

All the mannequins were made especially for the exhibition and many have traveled with it to various cities. Remember this collection was on loan to the Chicago History Museum which was unique unto itself…only done once before with the first Charles James exhibition when we used many pieces, along with our own James pieces, from The Brooklyn Museum Collection (now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s costume collection).  In addition, it was realized, very early on, how special this would be and the need to expose it to other another first, one of our exhibitions that has had huge exposure across the country following in the footsteps of Mrs. Johnson creativity, perseverance and need to share beauty with everyone!  Bravo Eunice and bravo to Linda Johnson Rice for giving her blessing and allowing CHM the opportunity to make this happen!

imageNot all the models in the Ebony Fashion Fair shows were sample sizes…here a “real woman” in a made to order gown from Bill Blass (A designer close to my heart and one I often worked with…more on him in an upcoming nenasnotes post!) Photo courtesy Chicago History Museum.

I don’t think one should have favorites but I chose several from the exhibition from designers I worked with over the years to share with you.

imageFrom Emanuel Ungaro, the piece as shown in the exhibition… courtesy Chicago History Museum.

imageAnd on the stage, truly a work of art!. Photo credit unknown.

imageAn iconic piece from an iconic designer, Christian Lacroix.  Photo credit unknown.

imageCostume by Oscar de la Renta. Photo credit unknown.

imageA detail of the Oscar de la Renta costume.

imageA tongue in cheek garment by Patrick Kelly, always pushing the limits and creating imaginative garments.  The “face” is all hand sewn buttons, his signature. I still have one of the buttons he gave me when he was in Chicago many years ago.  He was a true talent and delightful to work with.

imageBack of the Patrick Kelly gown, more buttons,  made especially for the Fashion Scandal show.  Photo credit unknown.

imageWho else could it be….Bob Mackie, of course with all his drama perfect for the Ebony Fashion Fair shows and another favorite of Mrs. Johnson (this is the garment that I sponsored in the exhibition, I was thrilled!) Photo credit unknown.

A couple more Nena notes….I can personally attest to the graciousness of the Johnson ladies…I first worked with them when they were honored by The Fashion Group International of Chicago at a gala in the late 1980’s at a ball in the Guildhall of the Ambassador West Hotel (and again when we launched the Fashion Fair cosmetics collection at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago).  Walter Payton served as MC (and, by the way, was quite nervous, I asked him why, he, after all, played football every Sunday before thousands of people, his answer…”I couldn’t really see them nor were they this close, and I didn’t have to speak!” For some unknown reason, the two of us were sitting on a small box near the podium having a conversation when this statement was made! He, along with the Johnsons, was an idol of mine!) We showed garments from the shows on risers at one end of the ballroom, they were pin spotted as the year that each had appeared in the shows was announced, very dramatic and quite effective.

It was a glamourous evening as was the Costume Council gala for the Inspiring Beauty opening night event. Guests came from all over and included Pat Cleveland, one of the Ebony Fashion Fair models.  The decor by Tom Kehoe was extravagant, elegant and very unusual with orchids hanging upside down, different centerpieces, huge fringed chandeliers…it was breathtaking.

imageThe finished tented ballroom on the grounds of the Chicago History Museum.  Here you can see the king tables, each specially made for the event, as well as the smaller square tables. Small centerpieces down the center of the long tables and the upside down orchids encased in glass on the smaller tables.  You can also see the drama of the fringed chandeliers.

Below, the room being set up.


Above photos taken by Nena with her iPhone.

I had the privilege of choosing whatever garments I wanted from the archives to put on “live” models as the guests entered the museum and on the staircase leading to the cocktail reception.  I always feel it is best to show, whenever possible, on live models so you can see how the clothes work in “real” life, how they move, how the person wearing the garment reacts to it…etc.

imageDrama as you entered for the gala….the model is wearing one of my favorite pieces from the archives in front of the entrance to the museum which we had draped in a beaded fringe curtain.


imageTwo images of models on the staircase leading to the museum’s second floor.  Each model is holding a sign with the name of the designer and year of the show in which it appeared.  Above photos taken by Bob Carl.


I hope you will indulge me, I don’t usually do “selfies” but wanted to include this photo taken by Bob Carl at the gala. I’m wearing a perforated gilded leather jacket and gold lamé pants from Oscar de la Renta, another of Mrs. Johnson’s favorite designers as well as mine, with a vintage necklace from one of my treasured designers, Adolfo.

imageAn appropriate finale for this post!  Photo courtesy the Chicago History Museum.

The current Costume Collection exhibition is Making Mainbocher…if you haven’t seen it rush and do it…if you have visited the exhibit go back and see it again, you won’t be sorry! I have written several posts on the exhibit so you should be familiar with it.

While you are there be sure to check out the new Chicago History Museum exhibition (it has nothing to do with fashion, but is quite incredible!) Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America.  It just opened and had a fascinating review in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday, April 20.



imageFrom Sally Schwartz’s Collection, finds from the Randolph Street Market, her monthly treasure chest of goodies.

Wedgwood has been a collectible since it’s founding in 1759 by Josiah Wedgewood.  I don’t collect it but have a couple of friends who do.  An interesting factoid is a Chicago connection to this iconic brand.  Lady Wedgwood is the former Jean Quinn of Chicago who met Piers Wedgwood while she was head of Public Relations at Marshall Field’s.  A true love story that continued until Lord Wedgwood’s death in 2014.  A very gracious couple and not only devoted to each other but to the legacy of the brand.

You can find amazing examples of the Wedgwood pieces in all major museums but I wanted to concentrate on individuals collections and pieces you would be familiar with….let’s look at some…

 imagePrior to being put in place, wonderful green and white Jasperware pieces…this part of the collection is in the butler’s pantry…see next photo for actual placement done with style and panache through the collective eyes and styling of the Heisters!  Before and after photos provided by Linda Heister.

imageGorgeously placed in an antique secretary and on silver serving trays.  These pieces are not just for ornamentation but are used for every day.

image A plaque in the style of Wedgwood in a gilt surround on the front of a wooden chest at last month’s Randolph Street Market.  I found it charming.  Photo by Nena with iPhone.

imageMore collections, “every day” place settings.

imageMore for entertaining…white place settings go with everything like the little black dress, don’t you agree….both photos by Linda Heister.

“Jasperware can be made in different ways. Some pieces are made from a solid colored clay with applied raised designs of a contrasting colored clay. Other pieces are made entirely of one color clay with raised decorations that are glazed with a contrasting color. Jasperware is the most famous of the Wedgwood products. It is a nonporous pottery made in many colors. Additional pieces of Jasperware may also be listed in the Wedgwood category or under various art potteries.” (Taken from the internet, I’m not a Wedgwood expert by any means, but interesting to have a bit of knowledge in our pockets…don’t you agree!)  I am particularly fond of the green, lilac and black….there is also yellow.  By now you know, blue isn’t my color.  I can admire it but don’t do blue in my home.

imageMore green Jasperware in the study.  Several pieces are from the Randolph Street Market, that I gave the homeowners.  Remember to mark your calendar for the next market, Saturday and Sunday, April 29 and 30 from 10 to 5  Not only will you find an item or two to add to your Wedgwood collection but many other collectibles to add to your treasures and many other finds to start something new! Photo courtesy of Linda Heister and this along with the above photos are exclusive to nenasnotes.

imageBeautiful place settings from Margaret Buckman, who started collecting her china at age 12.  Margaret is a lover, like I am, of anything green.  You read the post I did on Margaret and her incredible story of how she has lived her life of art. She has graciously done a place setting for me of her Green and Gold Florentine pattern and then took this photograph exclusively for nenasnotes!  She tells me that there is a Pathé movie (see below), from the 1950’s, showing the making of Wedgwood at their factory and the artisans were hand painting her dishes in the film.

Let’s look at some pieces housed in Museums, images found on Pinterest, photo credits unknown.

imageFrom the Egyptian Collection.  Love the combination of color.

imageToo chic for words…I want this one!

imageThis might change my mind for blue and white!

imageA tie-in to yesterday’s daffodil posting….truly beautiful.

imageAgain, should I rethink my blue aversion, could be added to my Victorian jewelry collection!

imageMy most favorite piece of all, magnificent, I WANT it!

imageI leave you with a sampling of some of the many colors of Jasperware.

Check your favorite bookseller for books on Wedgwood/Jasperware to further explore this unique art form.


imageNo words today just pretty daffodils….a field full of them!!!  Enjoy……




imageAnd in a bouquet in my house.

All photos were taken by Nena with an iPhone.

And to continue to enjoy the first days of spring weather…a yummy dessert, I think with a lovely dessert wine, don’t you agree!



1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix and pat in bottom of 8″ square pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350º.

2 eggs beaten

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Mix and pour over slightly cooled baked crust.  Bake 25 minutes in 350º oven.

Cool and frost with fresh lemon juice, lemon rind, and powdered sugar icing…don’t be stingy with the icing and put enough rind in the mix! Cut into squares while still warm. Any left-over icing makes a lovely dip for fresh strawberries, just saying!!!!


imageThe cover of the Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair exhibition catalog.

It was so exciting that Gayle King talked about her experiences being in the Ebony Fashion Fair shows in yesterday’s profile posting.  Once again, this post has inspired me to (no pun intended!) feature the exhibition in today’s Books, Books, Books review and again in the Fashion Flashback post on Friday.  Unfortunately, we no longer have this awesome book in the Chicago History Museum Store, I did find some listed on Amazon and on eBay, if you don’t already have a copy in your fashion library (and why don’t you!!!!???) it is a must have.  What I find in any exhibition book is that if I have seen the actual costume exhibit I can review it and visualize it at any time, if I have been unfortunate and haven’t seen it in person then I can make-believe by reading the text and seeing all the glorious items featured in the many costume collections around the world.  The costume exhibition books just keep getting better and better…yay!

imageEunice Johnson at work.

Once again, Rosemary K. Adams, Director of Publishing, Chicago History Museum, has edited a truly special, unique, educational volume, along with Joy L. Bivins, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Chicago History Museum, who served as curator of the exhibition with Virginia Heaven, Professor in Fashion Studies, Columbia College Chicago.  Both Joy and Virginia have written superb pieces on Eunice Johnson, Ebony, Johnson Publishing and Fashion Fair and its importance to not only African American life, which is magnificently chronicled, in the book,  by Maxine Leeds Craig, but on the fashion world at large.

The blockbuster exhibition was an extraordinary ode to a one of a kind visionary, Eunice Johnson, whose fashion sense was and is unprecedented quite frankly in any industry and will not, in my opinion, be duplicated anytime soon, if ever!

imageJoy Bivins, in the exhibition.

There so many elements to the catalog and it, in turn, directs you to other publications for further study…I think you know by now, I adore doing research, I guess I always have and when I find any book that expands my knowledge, even when I think I know the subject well (which this one does, for sure!) I learn so much more than I thought I would upon turning to the first page.  Another element of the book and the exhibition, that was particularly intimate to me, was personally knowing and working with several of the designers featured, as well as Mrs. Johnson and her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, who graciously sanctioned the Show and guided it through its presentation.

imageKarl Lagerfeld for Chloé Fall/Winter Prêt à Porter 1983-1984. I worked with this exact iconic garment ” The Showerhead Gown” when Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago presented the Chloé trunk show that season.  We had the Chloé trunk shows, both Spring and Fall for several years, unfortunately not with M. Lagerfeld, always to rave reviews by clients and press.

imageMrs. Johnson with Karl Lagerfeld during his Chloé days.

imageAn extravagant ensemble from the creative genius, Bob Mackie, a designer I worked with on many formal extravaganzas.

imageMrs. Johnson working with the extraordinary Yves Saint Laurent at his desk.

In my opinion, an intriguing part of the book is how it is divided into sections and the photos are assembled in the order of the chapter headings “Innovative”, “Glamourous”, “Colorful”, “Revealing”, “Bold”, “Sassy”, “Dazzling” and “Powerful”…any of which could describe the entire collection. I don’t believe we will ever see so much diversity in designers, so much glamour, nor so much Haute Couture in one place all because of the vision of one woman and her determination to bring beauty to her readers and Fashion Fair show audiences.  Our gratitude must go to Eunice Johnson for allowing us a glimpse into this world and to The Chicago History Museum and it’s Costume Council for the foresight to bring it to us in this magnificent exhibition and it’s legacy, this catalog that can live with us forever!

I will detail the exhibition, the gala and other aspects of this special collection in Friday’s Fashion Flashback posting.

Photos are from the book, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair and courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.


imageGayle King’s composite.

Gayle King was one of my go-to models for many years…her professionalism, adaptability, Joie de vie, made her one of the best!  I am delighted to share her story with you, I know you will be enchanted with her journey and I thank her for letting me include her as one of my Monday Profiles. Here are her recollections….

“I started modeling at the age of 16.  I did a fashion shooting for the Gary Post-Tribune.  I remember it well because I wore a red wet-look coat, white pants and a navy and white top.  After this, I knew modeling was something I enjoyed and came naturally for me. When I was still in high school, my best friends mother introduced me to John Johnson, the publisher of Jet and Ebony Magazines.  He and Eunice Johnson met with me and told me I was too young to work for them but they kept my contact info.  I was asked to me a hostess for an Open House of their new building at 820 South Michigan Avenue.  Of course, I said “yes”.  All of the hostesses were told they could audition for the Ebony Fashion Fair.  I was the youngest member of the show that traveled in 1973.  I was 19 and newly divorced!  My ticket out of Gary, Indiana.  I traveled with EFF for 2 1/2 years.


The mannequin is from the Inspiriting Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit at the Chicago History Museum.  It was made with my features, with a change of the shade of skin and hair color.

After this, I went to school and graduated from Roosevelt University with a degree in Business Administration.  It was the fall of 1979 when I decided to get back in the modeling biz.  I interviewed with Susan Glick, upon the encouragement of Diane Hollowell, who also was an ex-Ebony Fashion Fair model.  After doing the market shows at the Apparel Center, I met Susanna Johnson who was just starting a modeling agency and was looking for models to represent.  I quickly started working in Chicago at several stores.  I was sent on a go-see to Saks Fifth Avenue to meet you!  The rest is history.

One of my favorite Saks Fifth Avenue fashion shows was Jacqueline de Ribes on August 4, 1985, for United Way/Crusade of Mercy.  She had a style like no other, her clothes were so detailed, they made you feel like royalty. There were so many great shows at Saks with two of my other favorites, Adolfo and Bill Blass, as well as Pauline Trigere, James Galanos and more.

imageGayle wearing a Jacqueline de Ribes evening piece in an in store Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago benefit fashion show.

My favorite designer was Adolfo.  He is the kindest, sweetest designer I ever met.  I met him at Saks doing a trunk show.  After doing several shows for Adolfo, he asked me to come to New York for the Spring Shows in 1988.  Nena and I were super excited about the opportunity….New York City!!!! Which leads me to my favorite “behind the scenes story”.

imageGayle wearing Adolfo.

I arrived in New York several days before the Adolfo shows.  The day of the show, I thought I had everything under control.  I stayed with my cousins in Brooklyn, the few days before the show, and my cousin drove me to NYC near the hotel where the show was held.  I had about 2 hours to kill, so I went to a cafe and had a cup of coffee and leisurely made my way to the show with intentions to apply my makeup and prepare for the show.  When I walked in, all of the models were in line and the show had begun!!

Somehow, I was an hour off on the ” be there” time.  I thought I would faint from total embarrassment.  Adolfo came up to me and said “don’t worry, you are fine”  But I don’t have on my makeup.  He said, “you look beautiful just the way you are”!  I could have kissed this man!  Needless to say in between each garment I was putting on makeup, lips, blush and eye shadow.  I was totally made up by the end of the show.


I’ve been a mortgage loan officer for about 24 years now.  While doing informal modeling at Saks, which I did a lot, I met Sharon Rizzo in the beauty salon.  Sharon reminds you of Wonder Woman.  She is about 5′ 10″ and gorgeous.  She too had been a model and asked me what I was going to do once I was finished with modeling.  I told her I had a degree in BSBA and would probably get back into the world of finance as I had interned at Northern Illinois Gas Company one summer in their accounting department.

She was a realtor and suggested I get my license to sell real estate and give her a call when I had done so.  I did exactly that and was hired at American Invsco ERA.  After selling real estate for a few years, I got married and had a daughter, Halle.  I no longer wanted to show property all day and night.  I was then encouraged to be a mortgage loan officer and started working for Koenig and Strey’s mortgage department known as Windsor Mortgage.  I currently work for Associated Bank.

imageGayle in a “glamour” shot last year…still has it wouldn’t you agree!!! Photo credit Ernest Collins

Modeling prepared me for the world.  Through modeling, I traveled to every major city in the United States and many small towns when I was with the Ebony Fashion Fair. We also went to several Islands.  After settling in Chicago and working as a model here, I was exposed to many different people from all over the world.  I did a lot of informal fashion modeling and that helped me develop my sales skills.


Karen Williams appeared on the cover of Essence Magazine many times during her modeling career.  And Madelyn Oparinde, used to be a full-sized model with Ebony Fashion Fair.  She has since lost over 100 pounds.  We all got together with photographer Ernest Collins.  He wanted to get all the girls from the 80’s together for a photo shoot.  The pictures were published in the Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine in the November 2016 edition

After all, I was selling fashion, hair care products, makeup, perfume and myself. That’s what you are doing when you go on countless auditions.  You also develop a thick skin because you learn to take the “no’s” without feeling rejected personally.  So I guess you can say modeling has taught me to be determined no matter what. I’m still selling…mortgages and my word that I will do everything possible to help my clients obtain ‘The American Dream’.” (Nena’s note, I think we can all agree, Gayle achieved hers!)

imageGayle today, still with that memorizing smile and the endearing personality.  Thank you, Gayle, for being you!

All photos courtesy of Gayle King.