53DC5A9B-F679-4569-80B0-322D15532D93THE book signing…..who knew the excitement this would bring to the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club guests, to me and most importantly to Victor!  This and the other book signing photos taken by Mark Olley, one of the monthly TFBC supporters and the Official Photographer for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club.

The book is hefty in actual weight and in weighty content, lots of photos, many not published before, mine included…let’s start there…

I try to plan my chosen fashion/lifestyle books as close to publication date as possible and have the author in conversation and, when I can, have them in person.  I knew the new Skrebneski book, SKREBNESKI DOCUMENTED, was making its debut in September 2019 and I wanted to be the first to present it.  I made a call to Dennis Minkel to see if this would be possible and if Victor would agree to be in conversation with me and discuss the book with his thoughts on photography, of course, and life in general.  He said he would ask him and would call me back.  Shortly after our conversation my phone rang with the familiar voice of my long time friend…who said, “Of course, when, where and, you are in the book”.  Huh, did I hear correctly, I was in the book…impossible..but no, it was possible.  What an honor, what a dream, what a thrill.  I didn’t know which picture, and thought it would be a small photo on a page with other shots, again, wrong…my own full page in one of the shots from The Fashion Group International Chicago gala in 1990. I received the books from my Independent Bookseller for my events The Book Stall and found my photo, stunned beyond all expectations.

The RSVPS were huge, I keep the monthly events small, it is a book club after all, but I couldn’t say no to anyone and wanted all of Victor’s friends and admirers to come to this intimate event.  We had almost four times our normal attendees.  We sold so many books that even the Rizzoli Publisher was impressed.  Victor was candid, when wasn’t he, and was almost giddy, he was so energized by the reception and seeing people he hadn’t seen for awhile. Of course, each book was personalized with his signature silver pen and several guests bought additional books as gifts.

It was the perfect event and who knew what was on the horizon for him.  In hindsight, it was not only the launching of a fabulous book, but for most of the audience the last time they would be with him.  And, perhaps, his last book….there were two more planned.

Mark, I can never thank you enough for capturing the evening perfectly.

Fast forward to December yet another book signing and conversation for a special breakfast honoring Susan Glick a major force in Fashion and her extraordinary devotion to The Fashion Group International of Chicago was beautifully acknowledged at the Ritz Carlton.  Again, friends and admirers of the iconic, bigger than life, Victor Skrebneski, gathered to hear his stories, of course, The Black Turtleneck celebrity series, working with celebrities, in particular, David Bowie and more…always more.  What a treat for me to chat with my chum again in a casual easy conversation.

1DB871C7-FE7D-49A0-9FFE-C4164BA10AA6Dennis Minkel, Victor Skrebneski and Nena Ivon holding their Skrebneski images in SKREBNESKI DOCUMENTED, at the Fashion Group International Chicago book signing.  Photo taken with my iPhone.

Actually up until March I was still selling books, in fact the last one I sold was to Victor himself when I visited him at his Studio to identify designers in some of his photographs before we went to dinner at La Scarola.  One of the things we discussed that evening prior to dinner, I asked the question what was he going to photograph next…his answer, and I haven’t talked about this until today, was “Photography doesn’t interest me anymore, I’ve done everything I want to do.  I want to concentrate on my books.”  Was I stunned, you bet I was.  He also shared that he wasn’t feeling well, but I had no idea how ill he was or that it would be our last time together. It was the last time I saw him in person.  We did speak on the phone almost until his death in April.

Self Portrait not dated.

His camera will never again capture the images that only his eye saw….we have lost a major artist and an era goes with him.  Rest In Peace dear friend, Rest In Peace.



90539F23-1A22-43CF-9BCB-F50F2D2BC919Continuing my reminiscences  of my friendship with Victor Skrebneski let’s jump to 1989-1990’s …the photo above is one of my treasured Skrebneski images that hang on my louvered kitchen doors.  There are six in those groupings each inscribed to me, (see below for truly bad photos, difficult to get distance in such a small space…sorry!). I only asked for a photo once, all others were gifts usually for no particular occasion, each treasured, the one I asked for is the cityscape in the center of the right door.  I was being bold and, guess what, he gave it to me.  Perhaps I should have asked for more!!!!  The nude studies look like sculptures and maybe the Vanessa Redgrave iconic photo or one of my favorites on the Givenchy staircase with the Givenchy gown…..

Let’s talk about this particular photo, a one of a kind and mine alone…here you see Victor’s hand holding my portrait (more on that later in this post) in front of the Eiffel Tower in his favorite City, Paris….Chicago an equally favorite City!  You can’t read the top part of the inscription which says…”Never Say Never!”  Whatever does that mean, you ask…for years I would exclaim, “I’ll never go to Paris!” This was his reaction to actually take me with him to Paris, only Victor would be so thoughtful!!!  By the way, I did finally go to Paris, my 50th Anniversary gift from Saks Fifth Avenue in July 2006, basically to see the Haute Couture Collection, that trip will be another nenasnotes post.  Silly me I should have taken that photo with me and replicated it there, major missed opportunity.
37ACEC3D-1CF0-4B83-A371-1D041F08C1B8The Givenchy photo in the Haute Couture book.  There is so much I love about this iconic photo by the iconic photographer

Speaking of Haute Couture, my favorite Skrebneski book, I have almost all of his books and many exhibition catalogs.


I’m missing a couple, my favorite is his The Art Of Haute Couture.  

3A2EDDAB-2696-4B5B-AC3D-780DB6F97FCDThis is a rather long account, but you know me, I do like to go into details… we go, during the early 1990’s several of the Saks stores were asked to participate in a special program designed as “gifts” to our tip top clients they were called Platinum Events and were to be unique one of a kind intimate experiences.  Chicago was one of the Stores chosen to participate.  I was given a very, very generous budget to produce these events. We did them for several years and, I must admit, they were some of the most exciting events I produced.  A “menu” was sent to the selected clients for them to choose which event they wanted to attend…each was limited to twenty guests, plus our VP/Store Manager and me.  Twice I “rented” The Art Institute of Chicago for a private tour of their “Blockbuster” exhibition, a cocktail reception and dinner in the Private Dining Room along with a major swag bag.  Imagine 20 people alone in the exhibition with the Curator!  Amazing….  Back to my VS story, I made arrangements with Victor to host our guests on the day of the launch of The Art Of Haute Couture, October 20, 1995.  It was a champagne/caviar reception in his Studio and each guest was presented with their personalized copy of the book. 34426ABA-CD49-469F-9631-3ECC6A2F7C6CMy book’s inscription reads “ For My Nena Love You Skrebneski”.  He almost always liked to use a silver pen to sign his books and always in the back of the book.  Up to this point in time, it was very unusual for Victor to host receptions in his Studio and our guests were delighted with the evening.  Victor was at his best hosting as he always loved telling stories about his work.

FE6E22C2-7921-4253-A219-043910132007His Studio….image found on Pinterest credit unknown.

Okay, let’s back track to 1990, a very big year for me and for Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago.  It was the year the store moved from 669 North Michigan Avenue (where NikeTown and Dylan’s Candy are today) to Chicago Place at 700 North Michigan Avenue.

289368DD-E39A-474D-A44F-A3CFE65CA6DATaken after a dinner in front of the “old building” and used in the film, I’ll talk about that shortly, I promise!

At dinner both my photos taken by VS.

We moved Labor Day weekend and I was to be honored by The Fashion Group International Chicago at their annual gala later in September at the Chicago Hilton.  Let’s back track even further.  The FGI Gala started several years earlier by honoring Victor at the Guildhall at the Ambassador West Hotel.  It was, of course, a black tie affair and all of the elite of the fashion and social world were in attendance including many of Victor’s models.  A wonderful sit down dinner was interrupted by the wait staff carrying silver trays with the brand new Polaroid cameras to be given to the guests….talk about a ice breaker…it was absolutely genius, but what else would you expect from VS!

Once again I got a call, no telegram this time, that Victor was shooting me for the Award Presentation and he was doing a “film” to be shown the evening of the party.  FYI the gift for the guests was a special Nena perfume made exclusively for the event and to be frank, it was quite a lovely fragrance.  I think my bottle is with my miniature and full product fragrance collection in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

Remember, I explained how Victor did a shot, all very planned and quick…I think this was the idea it wasn’t what happened.  Let me set this up for you…I had already decided on my outfit for the event an Adolfo Lasage pearl detailed black jacket, white chiffon cowl neck top and a black chiffon side draped long skirt with rhinestone buckle belt.


I was to bring that with me and Victor had made arrangements with Bob Mackie to send in sample evening gowns for me to wear in the shoot, I mean seriously…..  Again hair and make up artists on hand, I brought my accessories and arrangements were made for Marsha Brenner’s Just Jewelry pieces to be worn as well.  So much went into the day that I’ll try to simplify it….what was suppose to be quick turned into an all day session.  Understand that once Victor focused on the subject he looked at you over the camera…neither of us could keep a straight face and we became quite hysterical which, of course made the entire event even more memorable.  Photos were taken, garments were changed and the day ended with Dennis and an assistant up on ladders throwing long stemmed roses at me, thorns had not been removed!



After a lot of ducking on my part the “live shot” happened and we were a wrap!  It took all day.  Now it was time for my close up and we had to practice a “royal” wave over and over until I got it just right.


This is the photo that went to Paris….

By the way, the American Songbook, mostly Sinatra, played all day just adding to the atmosphere.  This photo was then superimposed on many different pictures to coincide with the lyrics to the song “I’m Still Here” from Follies, the concert version sung by Carol Burnett.  It was brilliant.



The film opens with me topless, don’t get excited, I was three in the photo. I had supplied him with photos of my life that he used before the “glamour” photos.

The front of the invitation for the event a close up of a Christian LaCroix Haute Couture gown.02EB09D6-4A66-4421-864F-4E7103D9AE8E

Some of my models who attended the gala…meant the world to me. From my Archives.

At the Gala, the film was shown, something went wrong with the projector but all ended up okay.  I was behind the screen and when the film ended the screen went up and there I was in same position as the last photo. I was then escorted by a bevy of male models to the dance floor where I was presented to the guests…magical, yes, it was and a night I’ll never forget.  Some day…I’ll post the film…it is quite wonderful. 


Why am I laughing so hard here…my direction from the Maestro was “Give me more bosom, Ivon”…more smile, more attitude, more???? But more bosom, the miracle worker, Dennis ran over with powder puffs and voila more bosom…..


And here my original Skrebneski sketch of this photo, another treasure.BE7C72AA-6C11-41DE-B99F-4B43ABD0FEBDThe next morning I received the film, the DVD, all the prints from the shoot, priceless and probably my greatest Skrebneski treasures.  They are framed and hang in my home…Dennis went with me to get the perfect black frames, they hung in my office until I retired.  Here is the negative, which I’m mad for and just found.


To be continued……
All photos are from my own Collection unless otherwise noted.



Victor’s Birthday Dinner Chez Ivon long ago.  One of my favorite photos of us. My photo, published for the first time

Sweetheart, Baby, Angel, Dearest, Darling…..(each comma represents a pause!) how I will miss these words on my phone early on so many mornings….followed by “Its Victor”…my answer, always, who else would it be!  And always notes for reasons or just a hello….he did those for many of his friends, I treasure mine.


This was our greeting for decades.  Was each and every decade stress free, of course not, no relationship no matter how close you are doesn’t have bumps and, yes, we had bumps, but the “bumpless” times were so very special.  I wanted to share all the good times…and there were many!

E6BACBBC-B29E-4606-98B8-CFB82D78FE2CAt a Fashion Group International Chicago gala honoring the Ferragamos  Photo credit: Robert Carl.

My dear, special friend of so many, many years and so many, many memories, left us this year on April 4th to join his dear family and friends such as Hubert de Givenchy, Estée Lauder, Joan Weinstein, Jovanna Papadakis to name just a few to make Heaven even more glamorous…….you know he is busy organizing the angels into perfect photo shoots…on that you can be sure.


Shown with Estée Lauder, photo credit unknown.

In retrospect, I can’t remember when we first became friends nor why we were comfortable sharing confidences and champagne, but we were and we did!!  Over many, many dinners at RL and La Scarola (the last time I saw him was at dinner there) or my home, we talked about anything and everything.
0CDCA09B-149B-4FC6-A4B6-085928EECECEAn afternoon benefit at the Chicago Hilton, photo credit unknown.

We often went to events together and he was sure to include me when he was receiving many of his  special honors.

Back in the discotheque days….the 1960’s/1970’s we would meet, along with everyone else, on the weekends at the Disc de Maxim’s, I supplied the dresses for the DJ…it was the place to see and be seen.  Or the evenings spent listening to Bobby Short or Shelley MacArthur at the Gold Sardine Bar.  Great fun times.

Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris at the Astor Towers.  Beyond gorgeous…here the staircase from the main floor into the restaurant and the dance floor.

Photos found on Pinterest credit unknown.

I had the honor of planning the special dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center after he received his Honorary Degree from Columbia College Chicago, one of the only times that a degree was  bestowed outside of Graduation ceremonies making it even more special.

1995 Columbia College Chicago Honorary Degree evening.  Photographer unknown. From my collection.

Lucky me that I became a friend of one of the major artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

When did this friendship begin…I can’t pin point the exact year, Victor was a well known photographer and Major Influencer when I started at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago.  I think the first time I was invited into his Circle of Friends was at the Chicago premier of the 1969 film The Damed.  I was invited to a private screening at the screening room at The Chicago Theater and to the reception after.  It was a small group at the screening…the movie was eagerly anticipated and I was beyond thrilled to be included.  Well, dear friends, I don’t shock easily but I must tell you, I was beyond shocked by the film, so much so I have never seen it again.  Since it was such a small group I couldn’t get up and leave.  I guess I should like it, I do admire Visconti’s work. Well there is more to this story…the reception was upstairs at Gene & Georgetti’s (I’m so pleased they are back with us after their fire and the “plague” closings).  As you got to the top of the stairs you were immersed in the decadent “Cabaret Scene” from the film, I was beside myself.  Perhaps if I hadn’t been so undone by the film I might have found it less distasteful and across the room was one of the stars, Helmut Berger who kept staring at me….gave me chills!  If you haven’t seen the film do so and you will get what I’m talking about.  I wonder if I’ll find it not as shocking now???!!!

Flash forward to 1984 when I received a telegraph (remember those) from Town and Country requesting that I report to the Skrebneski Studio on such and such a date at such and such a time to have my photo taken for an upcoming story in the magazine on The Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society (as the  Museum was called then) .  Victor did exquisite editorial spreads for T&C for years, some of my most favorite images are from those issues.  Well, of course, I thought this was some kind of a joke.  I immediately called Dennis Minkel, Victor’s Assistant and a long time dear friend of mine.  I had been working with him on many shoots when they needed clothing and/or accessories.  He assured me it wasn’t a joke and to wear a favorite dress, preferably a day garment since the other Executive Committee members would be in cocktail and evening gowns.  They would supply the hair and makeup artists and the jewelry.  I was stunned, excited, honored and perplexed being the only “non-socialite” in the group.  I was, at the time serving as Acquisitions Chair.  As I recall I was the last shoot of the day.  I arrived as scheduled in my “uniform” a mock turtleneck black chemise by Adolfo.  My hair was long at the time and it was fashioned into a classic French Twist.  I am photographed in front of period gowns from the Costume Collection in a double page spread.  Let’s talk a minute about how Victor worked, the set ups took time but he knew exactly what shot he wanted and where the fold of the magazine would happen, therefore the two pages always were seamless not so with other photographers nor magazine editors.  Just one example of his brilliance.  And it’s one shot and done.  The photo looks quite simple, it was anything but….to get the angle he wanted, and by the way he loved profiles….so that is how you see me, I don’t love my profile but who am I to say…he had positioned my legs in an awkward position, so much so that I pulled a muscle.  I don’t think I ever told him that!!!!  My hair looks dark due to the dramatic Skrebneski lighting.  Lighting was one of his signatures.  And here is the finished photo

1B7FCB0F-2C91-459A-B330-EE1E24B5AE5EThis framed copy was on my office wall from 1984 until I retired in 2009, it is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.  All of us were taken to Les Nomades for an elegant dinner with the T&C editors and a bottle of Kristal was sent to each of us with a lovely note.  What an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience…..I, of course, thought this was my one and only Skrebneski photo session…..wrong again…..


Stay tuned for Part 2 and probably Part 3 of this story.


Collectibles: Mud Men Ceramics



I have been planning this post for over a year when I first saw an amazing collection in a friend’s home. I was struck not only by the size of this extraordinary grouping of objects but also how they were displayed and the variety that is available. Just an aside…female figures are quite rare and, therefore, extremely collectible. His collection proves my point of when you see something you collect or want to add to your collection BUY IT then and there. This assemblage of all sizes of this craft was collected over many years and before they became rare and increased in value.

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Rare female figure image found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

At the time, I didn’t realize that I actually had a piece in my Asian Collections that my Mother bought a zillion years ago in a wonderful department at Marshall Field’s, Field’s Afar. The buyers for this unique collection of objects sought the unusual and the best to house in the Store’s always changing variety.

Here he is…he is housed in a black velvet lined shadow box with weathered wood frame, I think he would have been holding a spear or staff in his uplifted hand.

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

I am most certainly not an expert on this subject and while researching these fascinating works of art, I found a very detailed website that explores one collector’s passion for his collection.

The following information was taken, from an extensive piece from that renowned collector’s website, EVENSONG SHEKWAN MUDWARE. If the subject is of interest to you I highly recommend you read this collector’s entire story as well as more on the history of mud figures, and thoughts on collecting them. It is a wealth of research and intensive detail…brilliantly done!!

“The Shekwan ceramics are commonly known as mudware, mud figures or figurines, mud people, mud men, mudd men, or mudmen.

Over 1000 years ago, Chinese artisans during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), were creating landscape bonsai, miniature landscapes in a tray, a practice known as Pen’Jing. To capture the realism of a favorite countryside or mountain scenic view, the artists added rocks and planted small trees in a large ceramic tray to simulate the panorama on a smaller scale. These were intended to invoke a harmonious feeling to the viewers.

In an effort to capture the illusion, the Chinese artisans used figurines of people, animals, huts and temples, which gave an appearance of great age and size to the miniature forests. Figurines have had a place in bonsai as a visual contribution. Penjing, nearly a lost art form, is experiencing a revival in modern day China and is once again popular with Chinese bonsai enthusiasts.

The prosperous Manchurian Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912) began declining at the end of the 18th century. The successful export market for fine china was impaired by excessive competition for the wares. Pottery and figurines dominated the Chinese export trade well into the next century. Mud figures thrived, as they were different from ordinary figurines. They were made individually by hand and involved nearly all members of the village. Mudmen were brightly glazed figurines of men, women, wise men and old sages, seated or standing, holding flutes, scrolls, pots, fish and other objects of mystical importance or sometimes fishing. After completion of the rice harvest and the dry season set in, villagers turned to figurine production to stimulate the economy.

For smaller ones, the artist just picked a small piece of mud and in no time made a figurine out of it by using their two fingers. For the average-sized figure, the ‘mud’ or clay for the figures was pressed into a mold by hand. Each part was individually molded and assembled by various crafters at the appropriate time — thus, the varying degrees of quality in the pieces. Once the torso was removed from the mold, the extremities — head, hands and legs or feet — were added, along with the hair, hats, beards and other items. To add further detail, eyes, nose and ears would be pierced. Then the entire collection was fired in a kiln to cure the clay. Fingerprints can often still be seen, immortalized in the fired clay.

Each mudman was hand painted with a low temperature lead glass glaze in yellow, blue or green glaze with the occasional use of white or brown. The face, hands and feet were left unglazed to expose the natural color of the mud. The rocks, shoes or sandals were painted with a dark brown, almost black under-glaze, that was often used to paint hair and facial features as well. Occasionally the rocks were painted a red oxide or yellow ochre.

In the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, mud figures continued to be produced in South China, with the exception of the popular water carrier, which originated in Jiwah, near Hong Kong. The smallest figures were used as backdrops in fish tanks or bonsai, while the larger figures were used in planters. The exceptionally large muds were sometimes made into lamp bases.

The larger figures can be found at Stone Bay of Kwangtung. These figurines can cost thousands of dollars if they are made by the masters. Today, the antique mud man is a highly collectible item. Surviving examples were showcased in a large exhibition at the Hong Kong Fung Ping Shan Museum in 1979 and at the Chinese Culture Centre in San Francisco in 1994.”

Intrigued, good, let’s look at my friend, Earl’s, collection and how he has housed them in his home….first in a very large display case with multiple shelves…one could look at these for hours and not see everything, look at the depth of the figures… amazing…

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Another view, shelving to the floor

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Next on wall shelves…

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

And then on table tops…

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

A book…naturally…

Collectibles: Mudmen Ceramics

I hope this peaked your interest not only in Mud Men but in specializing when collecting anything. The most important thing to keep in mind…always collect what you like and remember after two items it becomes a collection! Enjoy the hunt!

My photos unless otherwise noted.



Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Trish McEvoy, Jo Malone, The Kardashians, Pat McGrath, Madame C.J. Walker….the list goes on…are all familiar, extremely successful, innovative women in the beauty business.  Make-up, skin care and well being have been with us through the centuries and are multi-billion dollar contributors to the International economy.  That being said if we look back to the early twentieth century we would find a mostly male dominated industry until two women changed all that….Elizabeth Arden and today’s subject, Helena Rubenstein.

Today’s review is HELENA RUBENSTEIN, THE ADVENTURE OF BEAUTY, published by Flammarion.  It is dividend into seven chapters, (each written by a different author, a brilliant concept), has a detailed biography, list of exhibition works and a bibliography along with a magnificent collection of photographs, many published for the first time.  Is it a scholarly book, yes, but it reads like the best of fiction…that being a real life and one that was well lived. I must admit I don’t do negative reviews primarily because I don’t finish a book if it isn’t interesting to me…this one fills all my requirements for a successful book.

It gives us an extraordinary in-depth look at a self made person who believed in the beauty, not only of her clients, but of art, fashion, jewels and most importantly the beauty of wellbeing.

Born in 1872 in Krakow, Poland the cosmetic titan, art patron, fashionista died in 1965 in New York City (she was buried in Yves Saint Laurent Couture).  She immigrated to Australia in 1896 and makes her own beauty cream copying one her mother gave her, she launches the cream in 1901 and it is an instant success.  She follows this success with opening the first of her beauty salons.

I really enjoyed the detailed timelines at the beginning of the book and since my space is limited for this review, my focus is on the chapter Helena Rubenstein and Fashion.

Barely five feet tall she wore Couture, first from Worth, Jacques Doucet and Paul Poiret to Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, of course, Chanel and Schiaparelli…all of whom she befriended. Her stature belied what we think of as the ideal fashion figure.  Her taste, style and self confidence made her thin and six feet tall. Her feeling for why she dressed to perfection “I have to look good for the business.”

No detail escaped her discerning eye and she collected Couture the same way she collected jewelry, usually large pieces, art and homes, only the best would do.

Included in this chapter is a piece entitled “Why I Love Jewels” a hand written document in her archives…in my opinion, a masterwork and I quote the last line, “Yes, jewels are indeed a girl’s best friend, not, necessarily because of their value — which helps — but because they lend the ‘just right’ note to a woman’s femininity and individuality.”

One has to admire Rubenstein’s joie de vivre and her entrepreneurial ambition.  I highly recommend the book, fascinating, engaging and insightful.

Nena Ivon, nenasnotes, original review, February 2020, exclusively for The Fashion Map  

Please support my Independent Bookseller of choice The Book Stall

My book reviews are funded.  Interested in sponsorship opportunities please contact me at  




This abundance of riches taken exclusively for this article by Melissa Parks. Her Megillicutti Booth at the Randolph Street Markets, is one of my most favorites. I know I shouldn’t have favorites (and yes, I do have many at RSM, it would be hard not to!!!!) but I find we have basically the same taste in collectibles and lifestyle. I asked Melissa to take some photos of her beaded flower collection. You will see them throughout this piece.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

A Melissa Parks photo…here an arrangement in a vintage cloisonné bowl.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Very Victorian, a ribbon tied nosegay or Tussie Mussie.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.

I discovered this charming handcrafted art, (which was extremely popular with the Victorians but then anything romantic was on their lists of crafting), on my first trip to New York, a lifetime ago, at the wonderful long gone specialty store, Bonwit Teller, in their exquisite gift collections. I brought this delightful forget-me-not arrangement home and have added a few other pieces throughout the years.


French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

This piece from Bergdorf Goodman on another of my zillion New York trips. Both miniatures in Limoges containers and both photos, not my best efforts, taken with my iPhone.

Fitting into my Lily of the Valley Collection, in its clay pot…from my collection…

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

“Though the main technique used to make beaded flowers is often referred to as French, examples of the art have been found from Italy (where the small glass beads were made), to as far north as England. Stories about the production and use of beaded flowers during this time are generally romantic – peasants gathered up misshaped beads that suited for noblewomen’s dresses, strung them on horsehair or copper wire, and sculpted them into flowers which they later sold to the upper classes.”

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market
“In 1865 Godey’s Ladies Book published beaded flower patterns, and directed women to use them as personal adornments for hair or clothing. Beaded flowers started gaining popularity in America in the early to mid-twentieth century with more patterns and even kits being produced.” Both quotes from

Fast forward to 1990 when beading flowers became very popular in the States using glass beads and lots of patience. There are many books available for creating beaded flowers for arrangements and bridal bouquets, an idea I really find charmingly romantic!!

This arrangement in its McCoy vase, also from my collection, (and a couple of close ups) is from the BesBen estate auction (the incredible Chicago Milliner), again many years ago.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

I found these glorious examples on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

An example of a hand bouquet.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

An unusual alternate to flowers that will become an heirloom.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Fabulous shading…

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Amazing chrysanthemums in vintage vase…

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Asian influence…

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Love this, can’t you just see this in an magnificent container, nothing prettier than a mass of the same flower.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Isn’t this spectacular…again the shading is perfection and would be a great centerpiece for a Spring party or on display year round.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Of course, I WANT this for my collection!


French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

And more from the extraordinary creative vision of Melissa Clark

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Arrangement from her miniature marble bird bath collection.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Melissa collects, among many other treasures, peacocks…here holding “blooms” to replicate its feathers.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Melissa, using one color for a dramatic contrast to a weathered pewter bucket on top of brass trays and glass top table…a creative styling genius at work.

Okay, what do you think, do you want to start a new craft and make your own, or are you like me and will continue the quest for authentic French beaded flowers to fill your vintage containers. In any case an art form that might work its way into your collecting thoughts.

French Beaded Flowers Randolph Street Market

Another stunner, talk about a statement piece…

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.


B61DAEE2-7FEE-446E-87AB-54029DFE4E2BLucky me I have Netflix, BritBox, Acorn Tv, Amazon Prime and many, many TV channels and I have been using everyone of them during my confinement.  I thought you might like to hear about some of the shows I have found.  While I do love the Food Network, HGTV, DIY (soon to become the Magnolia Network), Ovation, all PBS channels and old classic films on TCM, I have found the following worthwhile….and as usual, in my reviews, I won’t tell you what not to watch, just what has interested me.

I must admit I was very late to the game in watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, beyond loving it.  Holding off on Shitt’s Creek….that will be a marathon viewing.


Loved Belgravia, but I’ll watch anything from Julian Fellowes…although I wasn’t happy with the last episode, it left me hanging, does that mean another season…we live in hope.  I liked it better than the book, which I find unusual it is usually the opposite for me.  The story, of course, very British and is set prior to our beloved Downton Abbey.

2DF4025E-82C5-4AA9-B49C-BE8D57A2C34BI did also watch the Downton Abbey film, I hadn’t seen it when it was showing in theaters.  Oh by the way, I watch everything, other than “regular” TV channels, on my iPad!  It works just fine for me.

I do love period pieces…here are two I highly recommend one a series the other a full length film.  Great to see David Suchet in a roll other than his superb portrayal of Hercule Poirot…as usual he is excellent playing a totally different character in this Trollope story, a villain,  (I have always found Trollope a difficult read, but that is just me).  I would watch Alan Richman (gone much too soon) in anything and seeing that he was in the cast I had to watch the film…I really enjoyed it.

Hollywood started very slowing for me but is well worth watching to get to the last two episodes.  Jim Parsons, Patti LuPone and Dylan McDermott are all extraordinary, but the entire cast is excellent.  The sets and costumes superb.

Two really good British TV shows I would recommend are The Big Flower Fight, truly a hoot, and The Repair Shop one to watch if you love the U.K. Antique Roadshow, fascinating watching true craftsmen at work.

Canada brings us two of my favorite light mysteries…Murdock Mysteries, who doesn’t love this show..and Frankie Drake Mysteries, I watch both on Ovation.

And then for my nenasnotes The Fashion Film Club, rewatching The Women, To Catch A Thief and Last Year at Marienbad. Also the new Bill Cunningham film and the André Leon Talley documentary.



Next up, the Diane Kennedy documentary, streaming from one of my favorite movie theaters The Vickers Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan…looks as luscious as her incredible recipes.  Gene Siskel Film Center is also offering a streaming service.


Well, my lovelies….does that give you some food for thought or rather some treats for your eyes and new knowledge to give life to your confinement.  Do share some of your favorites….


ECE74E31-0155-48A2-BE81-DA7A7241EBB2As I sit having my Sunday morning coffee, at 4 AM (my “New Normal” morning!), before I tackle my virtual newspapers, I do a daily dose of The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal (I saved Saturday’s WSJ, my favorite of the week, for this morning), I realized I hadn’t communicated with all of you in months, sorry….and I thought it was time for some reflections and what I have been doing since March 11th when I began my confinement.  I’m not going to whine nor am I  going to go into great detail on my feelings about the hateful virus nor the current protests, both have changed all our lives forever…here, briefly are my thoughts on that, I totally believe in peaceful protests, they are our right and my dream is that they will FINALLY bring about the process of MAJOR changes in how we have open dialogues and positive actions between all Races. We can and must make that happen.


What appears to be a peaceful view of the Chicago River and a glorious view of our City is anything but…it shows all the bridges raised not to allow our boats to sail out to the Lake but to deter people from getting from one side to the other…I find it very poignant.  To me it says we will be okay, different, most certainly, but working together we will start a new chapter for our City and our beloved Country!

The photo at the top is one I took several years ago on an idyllic afternoon in Harbor Country…and a place I’d like to transport myself to right now…where are my Ruby Slippers when I need them??  I posted it on my Instagram and Facebook accounts because I thought we needed something to look forward to. My isolation has been quite an adventure and, at the moment, no end in sight.  My outing is a daily, masked of course, 12 steps to and from the garbage chute….such excitement!  Thank heaven for Instacart and Whole Foods via Amazon Prime they are keeping my shelves and tummy filled!


A view of one side of my reorganized pantry shelf.  I really need to do something with all the cans of tomatoes, don’t you to recipe suggestions!

And  several dear friends have been supplying me with food and my constant evaporating bottles of wine!  The Woman’s Athletic Club has been doing food selections for curbside pickup and another darling friend picks up my order, and “insists” on including a couple bottles of my favorite vintage!  I am definitely depending on “the kindness of others!!”  And my doormen have been amazing in getting all my supplies to my door…I couldn’t get through this without them, thank you a Charles and Dennis. While we are in the subject of food and supplies…I need someone to explain the hoarding of toilet paper (still hard to get) and the sudden urge to bake bread and banana bread, mostly by people who have never baked bread nor even thought about it!  Finally got some flour and baking powder, I don’t need yeast because I have no interest in baking bread.

Of course, my Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies turned into a virtual class, a major learning curve for the students and for me.  We got through it via my new best friend, Zoom!  And, my class did a decent job on their final project.  We shall see what the fall semester bring us.  Most certainly an opportunity for the students to reimagine how to present fashion shows as well as the entire fashion business which will be totally different from what we have known.

Speaking of virtual meetings and working at home…the second part I’m use to, I have worked at home since I retired, the virtual part I’m still learning how to make it work more efficiently not only for my teaching but also for my nenasnotes The Fashion Book and Film Clubs since we can’t, for the foreseeable future, meet in person.  March 10th was the first and last “in person” The Fashion Film Club, when we discussed Lagerfeld Confidential.  I skipped April and May we watched and discussed The Women, the classic film costumed by the uber talented and my favorite Hollywood designer, Adrian!  We had a great discussion.  I was amazed at how many in the group hadn’t seen the film.  Fascinating!


We ended our second year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club with a discussion with the author, Petra Slinkard and her new book The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, a must have in your fashion library.  Great conversation.  I love that I can mute all participants if I so desire but they were very good at not talking until I asked for questions.  The Book Stall has been my Independent Bookseller of choice for the past two years of The Fashion Book Club and they continue to be.  Please support them when purchasing, they are THE best.

14B3661A-0154-4F51-8D9C-AC9CAE3BA784Two years ago, we started with LouLou and Yves and will begin our third year with Chanel’s Riviera, again a book I recommend to you.  An interesting look at the time just before WWII and how everything changed not only in France and the Riviera but worldwide (reminding me of today with everything changing!)

The next two films will be about the Riviera with To Catch A Thief, who doesn’t want to watch Gary Grant and Grace Kelly romp through the Riviera with Grace exquisitely dressed by Edith Head, and Last Year At MarIenbad costumed by Mlle Chanel.

I first saw the latter film in 1961 with my dear friend, Victor Skrebneski and with him again years later, it was a strange film both times…I wonderful how I’ll feel viewing it the third time this time without Victor whose recent death is still too raw for me to write an ode to our friendship on this blog.  I will do so shortly, I promise.
5BB151CE-1FA1-48B6-9715-8ECBAF045B6DMy treasured Skrebneski sketch.

Victor and Dennis at the last book signing he would do, this for a Fashion Group International of Chicago sold out breakfast last December. We are holding open our pages in Victor’s book while Victor is displaying the cover….another must have for your library.

B0243D23-8981-4F7A-A817-F4FCE9733A18Just had to pause for a second cup of coffee which I rarely do and a brownie from the batch I made yesterday….I use the recipe from the original Betty Crocker cookbook…it is my go to cookbook for the classics.  I think I have shared it in a blogpost.  And the sun is now out….

So what else have I been doing…obviously not blogging and I’m having difficulty concentrating on reading, lots in my TBR pile and they just keep piling up and major trouble sleeping, but I’m reading that both those issues, concentrating and sleeping are the ailments of our current stay at home situation.  I forgot to tell you why I can’t leave my condo (and, by the way, my environment isn’t hateful!) is my lifelong asthma which has lately reared its ugly head and, I hate to admit, my age.  I have to keep reminding myself I’m not 20 any more!!!!!

In addition, I’m streaming interesting programs on YouTube, Netflix, BritBox and Acorn…I think I’ll do a separate blog post on that subject.  I’m doing monthly fashion book reviews for The Fashion Map  I’m still doing two monthly blog posts for Randolph Street Market, RSM is on hiatus at the moment but I can guarantee that Sally Schwartz, our fearless leader, will bounce back bigger and better than ever….stay tuned for her continuing story.  I’ve also been doing other freelance writing, cooking for one (me!), doing FaceTime and Zoom, both helping to keep my sanity by seeing other humans!!!

i think that is enough for today, have to get ready to watch CBS Sunday Morning, so I’ll close by offering you a virtual platter of asparagus, my many years ago effort at food styling before we knew what food styling was, until we can share a repast together.  Stay well and safe, see you soon.  As always I send you hugs….