I have been wanting to do a post on lady head vases since I started my articles for The Randolph Street Market Blog, I got a bit of a “let’s do it now” push when I saw the following photo posted by my friend Toni Canada, when I asked if I could use it she informed that her mother-in-law collected them and sent me an additional photo along with the note I’m sharing with you… is an absolutely fabulous collection!

“The collection of Marguriete Canada handed down to her son Rick Canada. Rick is now the “caretaker” of the collection.

My mother-in-law would put little notes inside each vase, where she aquired the vase; if she purchased it, how much she paid for it; if it was a gift, who she received it from….. very sweet 💗”. A Nena’s note…what an excellent idea let’s all start doing that with our collections, brilliant!

Thank you so much Toni for sharing these treasures, the photos and your beautiful note, with us.

I became enamoured with lady head vases as a little girl. Looking at me today you wouldn’t think I was very sick as a child, but I was (we won’t go into details here!). With each bout of something or another my wonderful Daddy would bring me a lady head vase filled with 13 sweetheart roses (I believe now referred to as growers roses). He got off the El at Howard Street, we lived in Rogers Park on the Northside of Chicago, there was a florist underneath the station. Actually the vases began by being commissioned by florists to sell with their bouquets. I probably believed they were made especially for me…I’ve always been a romantic. I amassed a huge collection and totally adored them. They, I am sure, helped develop my interest in the glamorous world, to my young eyes, of fashion!!

These charmers were always very proper in their attire, hats…of course…pearls…usually…gloves…sometimes and always, always beautifully made up with lush mascared lashes and ruby lips….I was in fashion heaven. Theses were two of my favorites….want to find them again. Both are signed pieces and from Betty Lou Nichols.

In doing a bit of research for this post I found out the origins of these nostalgic pieces that occupied a place in time in the mid-20th Century, they, (like so many other objects) fell out of favor, they are now highly collectible.

There were several manufactures who produced these lovelies in the 40s to 70s. Here are some company names that can help you identify your vase: US manufacturers – Betty Lou Nichols and Henry Holt and Japan manufacturers – Napco, Inarco, Lefton, Enesco, Relpo and Reubens. There was also a trend for celebrity vases such as Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, etc.

Lucille Ball

One of many Marilyn Monroe interpretations this one a rare example….

Grace Kelly

A beauty definitely a 50’s glamour girl….

I am concentrating on Betty Lou Nichols pieces in this post because I am familiar with them.

Betty Lou Nichols was a talented California artist that created some of the most sought after head vases in the collecting world. I found that most, if not all, of my collection were hers. Wish I had them now. When collecting anything always look for a hallmark, a maker’s mark anything that can identify it as the real deal. Always, always engage the vendors in conversation they are experts in their collections and want to share their knowledge with you. You will learn so much more about what you already have or when you want to add items to your treasurers or you are on the hunt for something new that you didn’t know you really wanted but definitely can’t live without!!

A book, as always….

Here are some ways to display or actually use your vases, with flowers and other suggestions.

Love this collection and its mirrors…I am obsessed with mirrors, are you?!

Obviously on shelves….or

For your make-up brushes et al…..or perhaps pens etc. on your at-home office workplace…

Flowers, of course…..beyond charming…

Love this collection….wouldn’t it be fun to do at a shower, luncheon or tea to put at each guests place as a remembrance…start collecting now for future events.

I have fallen in love with lady head vases all over again, have I tempted you…hope so!

Originally written for The Randolph Street Market Blog, reprinted with permission.

All above photos, unless otherwise noted, from Pinterest photo credits unknown.


I wanted to share a unique opportunity for you to learn all about the creative process behind this iconic fashionista, BARBIE.  Still time to get your Barbie Box and tune into the Zoom Conference on August 15th, presented by Barbie’s own costume designer, Carol Spencer.  You will be supporting a group dear to my heart, The Costume Council of the The Chicago History Museum



This is the first of several posts on fashion dolls through the years most recently the Fall 2020 Dior Haute Couture Collection, featuring scale size garments, and Theatre de la Mode, presented by the Haute Couture designers following the horrors of World War II as well as further back in the fascinating history of fashion.

Theatre de la Mode

Dior Haute Couture Fall 2020

I would have been in heaven if the iconic BARBIE had been born when I was a little girl.  I never really liked baby dolls but rather adult dolls who had clothes that matched mine created by my wonderful Mother, Ruthy.  I named my doll Ruth (how imaginative of me) and she went everywhere with me.  In addition, I had a huge collection of Storybook dolls.

I do however have a small collection of Fashion Designer Barbies.  The first I obtained at a Costume Society of America  Symposium several years ago.  They always have superb silent auctions and this particular year a Christian Dior Barbie, in the iconic Bar Suit was one of the auction items.  I placed my bid and found myself being bid against by another CSA member.  The bids were small amounts and I was determined to get this stunning piece.  We were both hovering over the bidding sheet.  I finally asked her what she planned on doing with this stunning piece and she said it would be for her granddaughter to play with!  I, of course, was horrified…in my opinion, this, and the other Fashion Designer Barbies were to be kept in their boxes or at least on display. She asked me why I wanted it and I explained that I taught a History of Fashion Designers class in the Fashion Studies department at Columbia College Chicago and would use it for show and tell.  Being an educator herself she stopped bidding and stood guard making sure no one else bid on it….well, my friends, I got it! Here she is….perfection!


My others are mostly designers I have worked with over the years, with a couple of exceptions, the two Christian Dior’s, the one pictured above and this one by Gianfranco Ferre for Dior and a Giorgio Armani, given to me by Armani Beauté during a promotion at Saks Fifth Avenue.



My Bob Mackie who has created an extensive wardrobe for our star and a designer I adored working with on his witty extraganzas. I’d love a couple more.

6FA4DD2D-8712-4C5B-B011-2C9A092D9FC8                                              Donna Karan

B540EFE8-7079-494C-B0E2-05D2AFC8B32AOscar de la Renta so elegant, a designer I worked with numerous times, elegance personified.


And the favorite of my collection (a tie with the Dior Bar Suit!) this exquisite Bill Blass, not only did I work with Mr, Blass on many occasions but actually had this gown in one of his extraordinary benefit fashion shows I produced at the Chicago Hilton.  It was given to me, at the retirement party my models gave for me, by my wonderful assistant of many, many years…a person I can never do a show without, Alberta Dean. Here we are at one of my nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club meetings, love this photo!


Photo taken by Mark Olley

I continue my search for Barbies wearing her special garments from designers I have worked with…..the search is always a fun part of collecting, don’t you agree!!!!

Some of Carol
Spencer’s designs from her collection.

Carol’s first design.

I was granted an interview with Barbie’s Fashion Designer and the author of  Dressing Barbie, Carol Spencer.  She graciously answered a couple of questions for me and I am sharing them here…

“RE: Christian Dior Bar Suit – In my speech at FIT I showed the following slide quoting from my book that;
“In 1947 & 48 as Christian Dior introduced ‘The New Look’; skirts were getting longer, I was growing taller.  I had to do something to be in style, yet we had little money to buy all new clothes.  So, I fell back on my childhood interests watching my grandmother sew, Knit, crochet and make or remake wonderful clothes. “