6C698FF1-A8C6-44DC-ADDC-E30AD447BB89A week after we learned of the death of the last of the great couturiers I feel everything has been written about this extraordinary creator by those who knew him, wrote about him and treasured his memory. His creativity was unparalleled not only in the world of fashion but also in his homes and his magnificent gardens.

I wanted to briefly talk about my memories of the few times I met him.  The first time was at the launch of his first cosmetic collection in 1966. It was always a ”contest” to see which of the major stores, usually the Speciality Stores….Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, I. Magnin (Neiman Marcus wasn’t in Chicago yet) and, of course, Marshall Field’s, would launch the newest, hottest fragrance.  I must say Saks saw it’s share of these prestigious events. Obviously a cosmetic collection by one of the worlds most illustrious designers was beyond exciting. We had a huge fashion press in Chicago at the time and they were all vying for exclusives. I didn’t then believe in exclusives if the story doesn’t run you are ”dead in the water”. Instead, we always had a press party for visiting designers in addition to a reception for clients usually to benefit a charity. All was set, caterers in place, champagne chilled and I had the tuxedoed wait staff with their champagne ladened silver trays lined up on either side of the cosmetic aisle ready for the guest of honor, M. Givenchy, his people, the President of Saks, Corporate Cosmetic VP’s and our guests. I ran up to my office to quickly change, I am in ”mid-change” when my walkie-talkie (this is before tech thingies!) is swawking….”M. Givenchy’s car has just pulled up”!  My office was on the fourth floor, I finished pulling on my clothes torn down the stairs and made it to the door to escort the entourage into the store and the reception. Whew!!  I have worked with many, many wonderful creators through the years and I can say he was one of the most gracious, charming of all.  He made you feel like you were the only person he wanted to talk to, if only for a brief moment in time. This cosmetic line was short lived and we had the privilege of a second launch several years later. AFD15AD3-A8F0-45DC-9E8C-A92419EFF774.jpegThis photo, now in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, hung on my office wall was from the first launch.  Unfortunately, like several other designer photos, the salutation has faded into oblivion over the years.

In M. Givenchy received the Designer of Excellence Award from the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum at a sold-out black-tie gala held in the Museum in 1995 sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. The front and inside cover of the evening’s invitation, the evening was planned with the direction of M. Givenchy’s dear friend, Victor Skrebneski (holding my hand) who took the photo on the invitation and is seen here with M. Givenchy and Bonnie Deutsch, the President of the Costume Council at that time.  The evening was a roaring success monetarily and prestigiously   It was the talk of the town. All the guests were given a small ivory silk pocket square with the Givenchy signature and rolled hem in grey. All three images courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.


A close up of another Skrebneski photo of one of my favorite Givenchy dresses….you by now know my love of lily of the valley…what could be more divine!!!!!  Photog found on Pinterest.

We all know of the deep friendship between Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn from the time she chose her garments for Sabrina through most of her many films, as well as her personal wardrobe.  One of my most favorite garments are in Charade, loved the film (what’s not to like) and the clothes are to die for…she seems to have a new outfit in every frame…each better than the last.


My favorite Skrebneski photograph of a Givenchy gown. Everything is perfection….the composition, the lighting the incredible staircase, the floor and of course the gown…oh my the gown!!!!  Found on Pinterest.

Of course, a few suggestions for your fashion book library….

I have very fortunate to have worked with the creme de la creme of the fashion world….lucky, lucky me!!




American Pottery… Always Classic, Always New



American pottery has been collectible since its inception in the mid-1800’s with its many manufactures, most of them based in the Mid-West, Ohio in particular. Let’s think Rookwood, Weller, Newcomb College, etc. In today’s post I’m concentrating, briefly, on Roseville Pottery, primarily it’s Magnolia and Thornapple patterns.

When I recently visited a friends home I found it jam packed with many, many collections one of which was Roseville. While I totally acknowledge that I have no previous knowledge of American pottery, I can appreciate it and want to learn more about its origins. There are many, many reproductions and fake pieces out there…as always educate yourself when collecting.

I particularly like these items being featured in Arts and Crafts homes, but find them charming in more modern settings. How fabulous in a solarium, or perhaps an enclosed porch.

Pottery Randolph Street Market

The Roseville Pottery began making decorative ceramics in 1892 in Roseville, Ohio. The company moved to Zanesville, Ohio in 1900. They became one of the largest pottery companies in the country before going bankrupt in 1954.

Roseville items come in many patterns, shapes and sizes. And, I’m sorry to say, there are too many “non-Roseville” pieces on the market. Research, research, research is the answer to authenticity!

Pottery Randolph Street Market

I took several photos of my friend’s treasures to share with you.

A wall pocket…popular with dealers and collectors.

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Pottery Randolph Street Market

A huge urn…

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Some of the vast variety of shapes are on display in a guest bedroom….lucky guest!!

Pottery Randolph Street Market

In a vignette…this and the three photos above it, taken by me with my iPhone.

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Interesting display of a vast collection. Here the collection doesn’t concentrate on one pattern but, in my opinion, it still works.

To continue your education…a couple of books.

Pottery Randolph Street Market

Pottery Randolph Street Market

As always when buying vintage items, do your homework, work with reputable dealers and most of all enjoy your collections.

Pottery Randolph Street Market

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

by Nena Ivon Ivon








“Copper has been an essential material to man since pre-historic times. In fact, one of the major “ages” or stages of human history is named for a copper alloy, bronze. Copper and its many alloys have played an important role in many civilizations, from the ancient Egyptians, Romans to modern day cultures around the world.” Copper Development Association Inc. (Do explore their website…fascinating stuff!)

Mankind’s First Metal

“Copper has been in use at least 10,000 years, but more than 95% of all copper ever mined and smelted has been extracted since 1900. As with many natural resources, the total amount of copper on Earth is vast (around 10 to the 14th tons just in the top kilometer of Earth’s crust, or about 5 million years worth at the current rate of extraction). However, only a tiny fraction of these reserves is economically viable, given present-day prices and technologies. Various estimates of existing copper reserves available for mining vary from 25 years to 60 years, depending on core assumptions such as the growth rate.

While copper in its purest form is a very soft metal, almost any element that can be added to copper will increase its hardness. The addition of tin not only imparts strength but also results in an alloy, known as bronze, that can be readily cast in molds. Early on, man discovered that bronze would flow evenly into molds and produce reliable castings with intricate shapes and patterns.” From Kobett Metals website

Vintage Copper Ware

A copper mine.

Vintage Copper Ware

A vein of copper…Mother Nature at her best…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Copper nuggets…

What do we think of when we think copper….the Statue of Liberty, of course, a penny, naturally, some decorative accessory pieces one is likely to see in Mid-Century Modern homes but that is not what I’m concentrating on for this post but rather the kitchenalia we cook with (conducts heat to profection and in a mixing bowl whips cream perfectly) most particularly, Copper Pudding Molds…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Isn’t she glorious… now, of course, with her patina coat…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Pennies used as decorative floor tile… fascinating use for the lowly coin.

Vintage Copper Ware

Found at Randolph Street Market for décor probably originally ashtrays, now for bonbons or whatever you choose, my photo.

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

A couple of stunning Arts and Crafts pieces for a Mid-Century Modern home.

Vintage Copper Ware

I love the luster of these pans and kettles against the brick wall…very English country home… don’t you agree!!!!!

Copper Pudding Molds are shiny and ornate, these fanciful casts originated in Europe in the 1700s and remained in fashion through World War I. In England, “pudding” is a general term for desserts of all kinds, hence the term “pudding mold.” A perfect item to collect and you can find vintage “replicas” as well as the originals at the monthly Randolph Street Market. As always I suggest you use each dealers expertise to guide you through collecting no matter what form (pun intentional!!) it takes and remember don’t think about it buy it when you see it or someone else will! My warning for collecting…

Vintage Copper Ware

While I wouldn’t suggest you bake in very old molds, they make fabulous decorative pieces while newer, think mid-twentieth century to today, are fine for making any sort of “pudding”, jello molds (they too are back in favor), aspics, all can enhance your cooking year round but particularly charming at a summer picnic or back yard entertaining…easy to do and smashing to look at and devour!



Perhaps you will find vintage drawings that could be framed and hung in your kitchen along with your copper molds. A couple of great examples.

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware


Didn’t we all have fish molds and/or pineapple molds. One from my collection….all my copper went to friends collections. For years I had copper bottom pans as my cookware, they are also gone to homes that can use them and keep them shining. Many pieces today are coated so polishing them isn’t necessary, call me old fashion but I like the luster of the untreated…using a bit of elbow grease never hurt anyone plus the patina in the aging, like we humans, is beautiful.

Let’s enjoy looking at a few wonderful vintage pieces and perhaps how to display them in your home…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Several books for reference…..again look at RSM for all manner of vintage books…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

Perhaps a copper brocade dress to wear when hosting your dinner party having used your copper collection to impress your guests…

Vintage Copper Ware

Vintage Copper Ware

A solid brass sculpture, fascinating.

Copper, one of earths beautiful materials, can be enjoyed in so many ways and we can enjoy them in our homes, see the many statues with their years of patina or hold it in our hands in the form of a penny… no end to its delights.

by Nena Ivon Ivon

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.


Originally published on        June 22, 2020 by the Chicago History Museum.  Reposted with permission.

Remembering Victor Skrebneski


Posted under by Guest author

Legendary photographer Victor Skrebneski passed away on April 4, 2020. For this blog post, Nena Ivon, past president of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, delved into her personal archive and reflects on her friend’s work with the Museum.

Victor Skrebneski had a varied and exciting association with the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museumthrough the years. During his half-century career, he was known for his striking images of models in advertisements and portraits of celebrities, but his work encompassed so much more than that. His extraordinary editorial photography graced the pages of Town & Country magazine, as well as numerous breathtaking books and catalogues. Victor’s eye for composition brought life to advertising campaigns for major retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin. His work was displayed in major exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Undated self-portrait of Skrebneski. © Victor Skrebneski

Victor and the Costume Council were a perfect pairing—an iconic creator documenting an iconic costume collection. His contributions to the Costume Council and the Museum were extraordinary and leave us with breathtakingly exquisite images. He helped develop the Costume Council’s annual fundraiser—the legendary Donors’ Ball—through his unique invitations, serving on occasion as decor chair, and helping bring illustrious designers to headline the galas, such as Hubert de Givenchy in 1995.

Victor (left) looks on as Nena Ivon (standing) speaks with Givenchy and Bonnie Deutsch, a past Costume Council president, at the 1995 Donors’ Ball.

Here are two of examples of Donors’ Ball invitations featuring Victor’s photography.

The 1986 Donors’ Ball was presented at the opening of Northwestern Atrium Center (now 500 West Madison), which is connected to the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

Donors’ Ball 1990, one of my favorite invitations!

(From left to right) Mr. Victor Skrebneski, Mrs. Owen H. Deutsch and Mrs. Donna L. (Sugar) Rautbord, Chicago Historical Society Donors' Ball Co-Chairs, flanking Mr. James Galanos, fashion designer who received the first Costume Committee Award for Design Excellence in a special ceremony at the Donors' Ball, Chicago, Illinois, November 20, 1992.
Victor, Bonnie Deutsch and Sugar Rautbord, Donors’ Ball Co-Chairs, flanking James Galanos, who received the first Designer of Excellence Award at the Donors’ Ball, Chicago, November 20, 1992. CHM, ICHi-069729

Geoffrey Beene (left) was honored in 1996 with the Costume Council’s Designer of Excellence Award. Pictured with him is past Costume Council president Lawrie Weed, Victor, and Ed Weed.

One of his extraordinary contributions to the Costume Council was a ten-page color photography spread in the October 1984 issue of Town & Country magazine, which featured seven Executive Board members in front of some of the Costume Collection’s spectacular pieces. Truly a memorable captured moment in time.

Beverly Blettner, past Costume Council president, with one of the crown jewels of the costume collection—Paul Poiret’s Sorbet! © Victor Skrebneski

In addition to his work with the Costume Council, Victor’s work can be seen when you visit the Museum. His portrait of Benjamin B. Green-Field is on display at the entrance of the gallery named after Green-Field. The milliner was a generous donor to the Museum, and the Costume Collection includes a huge assortment of his whimsical Bes-Ben hats.

ortrait of Benjamin Green-Field
Undated portrait of Benjamin Green-Field. CHM, ICHi-173662; Victor Skrebneski, photographer

My last photograph taken with Victor was at a Fashion Group International Chicago event late last year. Pictured with us is Dennis Minkel, Victor’s longtime assistant, studio manager, archivist, and keeper of the flame. All of us are indebted to Dennis for his support of the Costume Council. We are holding the photographs of us that appear in Victor’s latest book, Skrebneski Documented. At the time of his death, Victor was working on two more books.

Dennis (second from left), Victor (center), and Nena Ivon (right), December 3, 2019.

It was one of the highlights of my life to not only work with this genius but to call him a dear friend for more than fifty years. His legacy will live on in the history of Chicago, the city he loved and called home.




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.