Designers who always know how to produce the most extravagant fashion shows… Dolce & Gabbana, didn’t disappoint with their Fall 2018 Alta Moda (high fashion) presentation at Lake Como, Italy. Drama was in abbondanza!  Here are a few of the many looks, filled with the expected floral prints, exquisite accessories and diverse mix of models. Over the top creativity presented in lush surroundings with an operatic soundtrack to create an even more ”Alta Moda” atmosphere!  Designers who don’t shy away from drama in their creations nor controversy in their opinions, lived up to all expectations.




6982FCBA-BE77-49EF-96B4-C1074C5E1C8CA portion of the finale.

All photos found on Pinterest credits unknown.



Maison Margiela by John Galliano….no, not strange nor laughable…look closely at ALL the detail, the use of accessories, the color mixing, layering. Shoes with tech devices attached.  Are we painting our faces in bold foundation colors, no but to me the statement is color completing a look and we DO paint our faces! One can debate whether Galliano is either a genius or marching to his own inner voice…I am in the genius camp, well maybe both!!!!!




Perhaps one of the most covered collections, Valentino by Pierpaolo Piccioli, brought a tear to Valentino’s eye as he lead the standing ovation at the finale. Exquisitely crafted gowns in bold solid colors as well as brocades, lames, the perfect black gown, and the “fabric” of the collections, feathers. Head coverings of real flowers in the same bold palettes of the glorious fashions. I am in awe of the extreme bouffant hair, taking us back to Avedon’s “Swans”! A Valentino collection to remember without question.

A refined neutral palette formed the Dior collection as interpreted by Maria Grazia Chiuri.  Saying she wanted to celebrate the House’s heritage, she definitely defined the elegance that is Dior.  The day pieces reflected the essence of the House.  Loved the cape, so useful in Chicago, the sheer tulle in the perfectly constructed youthful  gowns and…feathers. Again may I call your attention to the accessories especially the charming side tilted “beanie”.




In my opinion, which, after all, is what nenasnotes is all about….my opinion, the resurrection of the House of Schiaparelli just gets better now under the direction of Bertrand Guyon.  The signature Shocking Pink, trompe l’oeil details, a fluff of the obligatory feathers…the excitement that is fashion. Fun, unexpectd twists = a la mode!


Giambattista Valli one of my favs doesn’t disappoint.  Great day pieces, but he excels with his dramatic gowns, although let’s start rethinking the “high-low” lengths…we’ve seen it, but still….gorgeous! Feathers, you bet, even for shoes.




What House and Artistic Director could be more in the news than Givenchy and Clare Waight Keller, no one I can think of. All it takes is a major star whether that is M. Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn or Claire Waight Keller and the new Duchess of Sussex. Again a current designer delving into the archives of a master creator….how wrong can you go… can’t.


Giorgio Armani Prive Couture Fall 2018
Giorgio Armani Prive Couture Fall 2018

Does Giorgio Armani ever go off brand….no, never. Armani Prive has it all.  I really need to find a new word for classic, translates to boring in my current modern minds eye, but until I can replace it let’s use it….perhaps modern classic = always a perfect wardrobe addition. The Fall 2018 Collection is a stunner.  Particularly like the  coat as jacket, I look I have long embraced.


Haute Couture must always push us, bring us new technologies, fabrications, techniques, the FUTURE, why not….who does it best, Iris van Herpen, her innovations stretch us to see clothing in new ways…that is what it is all about.



Of course, some of our most creative talents continue to make us think, give us fun, beautifully crafted garments with a bit of tongue in cheek, no one does that better than the dynamic duo Viktor & Rolf!

And there you have it….the glory, that is my edited edition, of Paris Haute Couture Fall 2018. Next up the marathon fashion weeks beginning in New York in September. A good time to read your nenasnotes The Fashion Book August 28th selection NORELL: Master of American Fashion so you will be prepared for our discussion….what you say, you haven’t signed up for the monthly meetings….contact me for all the details and join our fascinating group.

                          All photos from Pinterest photo credits not available. 


115327D8-F63D-4583-8891-C3AADFB0AA08By now you know I am obsessed with Haute Couture, especially the Fall collections which are shown the beginning of July.  I’m totally a Fall fashion season gal, always have been so that isn’t a surprise  I have told you I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend the Haute Couture collections in 2006. It was my 50th Anniversary present from Saks Fifth Avenue and an experience I shall always treasure.  At some point in time I will share that trip with you…have to gather all my photos, scan them, dig out the memorabilia, review the diary I kept (the one and only time I have kept a journal), etc.  I promise I will do it.

Now on to Haute Couture Fall 2018.  I usually do trends I see in each seasons collections whether Haute Couture or Ready-To-Wear….Haute Couture, in my opinion, is the Mothership from which all other fashion evolves. I’ll do my thoughts on the rest of the Collections in subsequent posts.  Today is all about Chanel.  Do we look to Chanel for inspiration, of course we do it is inevitable.  And no one stages a show like Karl Lagerfeld.  There are other unbelievable stagings, over the top creations….but we always want to see what Kaiser Karl has in store for us…he didn’t disappoint  What do you think?!  Here a sampling of some of the pieces that caught my eye

“For Fall 2018, Chanel’s production masterminds recreated the banks of the Seine — even though the real deal is fewer than 200m away from the Grand Palais — complete with newsstands and a replica of the Académie Française. One stand, staffed by two young boys wearing “Institut Chanel” sweatshirts, was packed with books, magazines, records and keepsake photographs all featuring Coco Chanel herself.” Quote and all photos from Fashionista.


Stunningly beautiful. Notice the shoes, hair, lots and lots of black and grey.  What am I seeing that I see in other collections….hot pink and brown…stay tuned….





Today’s Books Books Books post is generously sponsored by an anonymous donor who is also a voracious reader!

There is nothing I love more than reading, but you already know that…too many books to read and not enough time to do so. And you know what I love to read most of all…books about books and bookstores.  The one I am discussing with you today, is a charmer that I think you will enjoy and if you are involved in a Book Club one you might suggest to your group our author, Stephanie Butland, has a Book Club guide at the back of the book for you. (More about the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club at the end of this post!)

It has been a very long time since a book has brought me to tears, this one did just that….a good thing or not, perhaps the mood I’m in, perhaps some of the story is hitting too close to home for me (not in a literal sense, well just a bit, just parts of it such as special people leaving one’s life, but that is getting a bit too personal, so let’s get to the story), I’ll leave it up to you how it touches you in your reading of this story, it is a good one.

We meet our narrator, Loveday, in her natural habitat, her home, yes, she does have a flat, but the bookshop Lost For Words where she has worked since she was 18, she is now 22, is her true home.  We meet the owner, her kind, caring protector Archie, who is friends to everyone he meets and has been many things in his day, who allows her to set up the shelves in her very controlled way while sheltering her.  We meet the varied customers, men and women who enter her extremely closed off existence. It isn’t easy for her to interact with others particularly outside her”space”. She meets a poet (who is also a magician!) who talks her into attending a poetry slam, which she finds, much to her surprise, interests her, as does he!

The story switches from Loveday’s present back to her wonderful childhood, her closeness to both her Mum and Dad, until it isn’t idyllic any longer. It is a very touching story and focuses on how a young child can perceive reality and how wrong they can be. She has major problems with letting anyone get close to her, with the exception of Archie with whom she feels secure.

I felt the beginning took awhile to get going, or perhaps I fell into the trap that she thought everyone did, I didn’t like her very much. As I continued reading I found myself wanting to know more about our heroine, (who by the way, has the first sentences of favorite books tattooed all over her body, a nose ring and ombré hair, for someone who wants to live in the shadows???!!!), what made her such a reclusive and see if love, romantic, or just friendship, can win her over….again, I’ll leave that to you dear reader, no spoliers here….oh, and did I mention a bit of poetry thrown into the mix, that is where the tears came to my eyes.  A Nena’s Note to self, when did I stop enjoying poetry, need to rethink!!??

Would I suggest you read it, yes, of course, you know I don’t review anything I don’t think you would enjoy and this one was a bit off my norm, but still set in the U.K., that seems to be a pattern with me.  An intellengently written novel, it’s protganist is most definitely a feminist, another theme in my recent reads or am I more aware because of the “Me Too” Movement, maybe.

The Book Stall  is supplying the books for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club, please support Independant Booksellers. If you want more information on my monthly The Fashion Book please let me know in the comment section, I’d love to have you join us. Next up, in August, NORELL by Jeffrey Banks, lively conversation, goodie bags, bubbles to drink and goodies to nibble and perhaps, just perhaps some surprises!


NG Apple_NetGalley Health Rev 3


I can’t remember a period of time when so many documentaries on fashion icons have happened at the same time…WOW, how very exciting. In Chicago, all the above are showing this month at the Gene Siskel Film Center,  also this month at AMC, the much anticipated, McQueen….and at The Music Box,the punk goddess herself Vivenne Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist. For my non-Chicago area readers, please check your local theaters to see when these films are showing in your area.

Let’s take a look at what to expect, so you can plan your schedule, and then I will do my review when I have seen each of them….beyond exciting….I’m going to need lots of wine with my popcorn!!!!!

0D3FC20B-94EA-48A2-9070-E480D49DE362You will have to move quickly, Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story, is playing through July 5.  THE genius creator of make-up is brought back to life in this documentary. He was the first “celebrity” make-up artist to earn a CFDA award and deservingly so.  He died much too young (1962-2002) but fortunately left a legacy through his work, his books, YouTube pieces, a documentary “Kevyn Aucoin Beauty and the Beast, shown on Logo cable September 2017, and now this new documentary. Aucoin is the only personality I worked with, in this super star group, when he launched two of his books, Art of Makeup in 1996 and Making Faces in 1999.  While we had done many, many mega beauty stars throughout my tenure at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, we didn’t have any idea what to expect with his book signings….all I can say is BLOCKBUSTER is an understatement!  Lines literally around the block, several people wide, very orderly and all wanting his books, of course, his autograph and just to be able to say hello. Pity it was long before selfies!  I can’t even imagine what it would be like today with all our Social Media technology.  He was very humble, (I can say that about many of the talented fashion personalities I had the pleasure of working with through the years), beyond talented…a true one of a kind artist who adored enhancing his clients and to help them become the best they could be. I’m hurrying in before July 5th, hope you will as well.

2DB30844-D661-43F1-836B-A7554C2DDFDDI can say, without hesitation, there is no one I am more obsessed with than Cecil Beaton (1904-1980)!  Could there be anyone who had a fuller life in the 20th Century, iconic photographer, (of his decades), of people, the Royals, the stars of the time, fashion, war, gardens, interiors and on and on and on…diarist, author, scrapbook keeper, brilliant raconteur, chronicler of everything and anything that caught his mind’s eye and always with uniqueness and panache!  In a word, unsurpassed!  I have taken it upon myself to collect as many (read…all!) of his books as possible, both written and edited by him as well as the huge amount written about him, don’t forget Greta and Cecil, about his relationship with Greta Garbo. I reviewed a glorious book on nenasnotes on November 1, 2016 Cecil Beaton At Home: An Intimate Life by Andrew Ginger, a truly extraordinary look at Beaton.  Of course, we all think of his glorious costumes and design for the movies (and stage productions) for My Fair Lady and Gigi….,in my opinion, two of the best!  A quote from Beaton “The truly fashionable are unfashionable”!  Gene Siskel Film Center, July 6 through July 12.

047D40F2-A692-4E13-A663-7EF10A971D19The Queen of Punk. I was totally overwhelmed by the fashion exhibition, Punk,  New Romantic & Beyond mounted by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2014.   Showcased exquisitely in many rooms, some only holding one gown, due to size.  Every plaque I read, at least it seemed that way, read from “the Vivienne Westwood Archives”. Amazing. The first room one entered was wall to wall, floor to ceiling museum archival glass cases filled with her beginning successes, VERY suggestive t-shirts. I had never seen one in person, up close and personal only in books or video. Another woman, about my age, British, was standing next to me in the gallery, we were the only two studying the items. I turned to her and said “In their day they (the t-shirts) were quite shocking!”  Her reply, “My dear, they still are”!  I have read that Dame Vivianne does not approve of the Documentary, let’s see for ourselves…opens at The Music Box on July 13th for a limited run.


This film has been playing in Chicagoland for awhile will be opening at the Gene Siskel Film Center on July 20 through 26.  Talley began his rise to fame working with Diana Vreeland at the world renowned Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, became a contributing editor at Vogue and the rest, as they say, is fashion history.  He has curated many exhibitions including the recent Oscar de la Renta retrospectives. His outspoken views have delighted audiences worldwide.  His autobiographies,  A.L.T and A.L.T. 365+  are must reads. If you have seen the film here is your opportunity to see it again or you can enjoy it for the first. Promises to be superb.

64F27656-4392-4A81-AA1B-2661A1F9CE6CLast and most certanly not least…I can hardly wait to see McQueen, the Lee Alexander McQueen documentary. Long awaited, long overdue. All the books about McQueen as well as the, never to be matched, Metropolitan Museum exhibition Savage Beauty and its companion book give a brief glimpse into the mind of a creative genius no matter how fragile that genius was. A once in a generation talent. I must add Sarah Burton has carried the House on to new heights and we also must think of the extraordinary brilliance of John Galliano along with his fall from grace and resurrection, as a totally unique talent. There are many more, of course, but those two contemporaries definitely stand out from the crowd!  Talk about a once in a lifetime exhibit, but then every collection McQueen produced was an exhibition to be worn and the garments were  provocative, stunning, groundbreaking, totally unlike anything else.  His suiside in 2010 (1969-2010) was as stunning as his life and creativity. How fortunate we are that this once in a lifetime genius shared his brilliant talent with the world and now we can see his story unfold even more on film. AMC Theaters beginning July 20th.

Be sure to check the theaters to confirm dates and showctimes as well as the AMC for locations.



Courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, all my inscribed designer photos hung on my office wall and are now house in a the Archives

Cher, Carol Burnett, Barbie all have one thing in common….BOB MACKIE!!!! The king of making every woman glamorous whether they are on stage or wearing something unique for a special night….what a gift he has.  His love for show business, and more importantly, the joy of making all his ladies look beyond amazing is, without a doubt, magnificently on display in the brand new Pre-Broadway production The Cher Show at Chicago’s Oriental Theater through July 15th. A must see!  Saw it loved it, the three Chers are spot on as is Sonny, Greg, et al, and the subject of this post, Bob Mackie, has not only outdone himself with the costumes but, in my opinion, his stage double steals the first act…..just saying… The show brings us back to the beginnings and we realized the talent and the relationship and collaboration between the star performer and the star designer…  bravo.


A sketch for proposed costumes in The Cher Show.

Bob’s career began in his native California as a sketch artist for Edith Head at
Paramount Studios. His talent for costuming, which began there, is unparalleled
Just think of the excitement, glamour and wit he brought to the weekly live Carol Burnett show. Week after week we would experience his extraordinary costumes
that not only set the tone for the skits but helped create the characters as well.
Can we ever forget the classic “Scarlett O’Hara” skit with the “curtain” gown,
pure Mackie!!! The Carol Burnett Show introduced him to Cher who was appearing as a guest on the show….need I say the rest of that story is show biz and fashion history.


Bob’s sketch for the classic Miss Scarlett “curtain” dress, it now lives in the Smithsonian collections, where it should be as a part of American history

The first time I saw Sonny and Cher, at the very beginning of their career, they
were totally dressed in hippie garb and looked like “mountain people”, whatever  that means…when they started their variety TV show Cher became a fashion icon, and remains one to this day, again, totally a Mackie collaboration.  The occasion of my seeing these performers was at a Chicago Tribune College Council event held annually at either the Sherman House Hotel or the Morrison Hotel (both demolished long ago).  The Tribune hosted all the Chicago retailers College Boards which were a group of college women that worked in the “college departments” at their stores. Each store “marched” into the ballroom in their specially selected outfits some stores had huge groups (think Marshall Fields and Carson Pirie Scott) and Saks Fifth Avenue usually had 8, in my humble opinion, we were a small group but our ladies looked amazing in their gear!  When this duo went to the stage the audience was stunned, I don’t think many knew who they were….the minute they began I’ve Got You Babe, everyone not only witnessed stars in action but left the room knowing they wanted to hear more and more we have heard through the years.

I had the great pleasure of working with this designing genius on many formal
fashion productions, most of which were presented in the International Ballroom
at the Hilton Hotel. They were always major choreographed shows that were
themed and featured more beading than any Ziegfeld Show. They were beyond
glamorous and the audience not only loved the shows but adored Bob. Saks Fifth
Avenue always had a huge sales result and many of the pieces we sold are now
housed in the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum and the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago. Before Saks Fifth Avenue did these shows the trunk shows were presented at Kane’s and the Collection was also carried at Stanley Korshak, both stores long gone from the Chicago retail scene while Saks Fifth Avenue remains strong, since 1929, on Michigan Avenue.



The above photos are Bob doing his finale walk at one of our formal shows, the second, with me, in the Lobby of the Hilton Chicago Ballroom, prior to another show.






My piece, yes, there are Mackie day pieces….it now lives in the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago as are the above photos (alas, not from my wardrobe) all were taken by Tanner Branson at my request.

Bob, being the gracious gentleman he is, agreed to be my date when I co-chaired my second DIFFA gala in 1991, also at the Hilton Chicago, it was a Venice masquerade event, my co-chair, Michael Hasten, brought a Fortuny mask from a visit to Venice for me and Bob sent me a major ball gown to wear….below you see us at the party (I think we look like we are at our prom…a very glamorous one to be sure!)


The DIFFA ball in 1990 and the Costume Council event, 2015, same faces a few years later…Dennis Minkel, another dear friend, brought the original photo so we could reinterpret it…fun, yes, indeed!





The second book we read for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. (Let me know if you are interested in attending and I’ll send you all the details.) We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month (I’m skipping July, next up Jeffrey Bank’s brilliant monograph NORELL in August). I thought an appropriate selection with all the Mackie excitement in Chicago this month.  We had a lively discussed at our June gathering while sipping Haute Couture Bubbles, delish and mini bites.  The attendees had great questions, obviously a book club is all about discussing the book!

The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum honored Bob with their Designer of Execellence Award at a conversation with Hal Rubenstein and sit-down dinner in April 2015.  Bob, like all our designer guests, viewed some of the treasures in the Costume Collection, and was beyond impressed with the selections he was shown.

I’m with my dear friend, Abra Wilkin, at the Costume Council Award Dinner…both wearing pieces from Abra’s Mackie Collection.  Bob was thrilled to reminisce with Abra about his Chicago visits and the CHM Costume.



Saks launched the Mackie fragrance and he created a special edition relaunch for gifts for the dinner guests….each signed by Bob…special indeed.  One of the attendees of The Fashion Book Club, Tanner Branson, found this jacket on Etsy it was done as a promotion piece for the fragrance.  I seem rather animated while leading the discussion and showing my DIFFA gown festured in the book.  Photo courtesy of another standee, David Sanchez.


Two Mackie pieces that were in the CHM Exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.  The gorgeous hot pink feather costume, was in one of  the Mackie formal runway shows I worked on….it was the piece in the exhibition I sponsored.  The other more pure Mackie glam!

It has been my extreme pleasure to have worked with this design genius who really knows how to put the “show” in show business and share his wisdom, talent and joie de vie with his stars and his clients….glamour is most certainly Bob Mackie’s forte.869D7C6B-530D-4270-A573-71F3426E28B4Another iconic genius…Victor Skrebneski, photographer extraordinaire, and my friend of more years than we care to admit, did a brilliant video program for my Fashion Group International Chicago Award in 1990, also at the Hilton Chicago. He asked Bob to send gowns for me to wear for the photo session….a story unto itself…here is one in ink green sequins, an example of Bob Mackie creating a body even if you don’t have one……

Bob, thank you for making my professional life the joy it was and for filling everyone’s lives with glitter, glam and drop dead gorgeous creations all Unmistakably Mackie!

When previewing this post…the photos seem to be off center, can’t seem to be able to correct this problem… sorry, I hope you enjoy the copy along with the photos and sketches, any illustrations or photos, not credited, were found on Pinterest and I don’t have photo credits. The two sketches are by Bob Mackie also found on Pinterest



6EC57E71-393B-4ED8-8EE5-D19609A201AFHeavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at the Met through October 8, 2018  John Galliano for The House of Dior 2005  Photo courtesy of Michael Anderson.

I have always loved angels and cherubs, in fact I collect Christmas angels, I did a post on them, as well as cherubs.  I have a stunning hand-colored photograph of a cemetery angel, one of my favorite fashion show make-up artists gave me when she moved from Chicago (unfortunately too high on my wall to get a good photo to share). Somehow I don’t think of them as religious symbols but rather beautiful uplifting forms.

i was visiting my friend, Barbara Varro, for Memorial Day weekend. She wanted to place flowers on the resting places of her family and I, of course, went with her. Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City dates from the late 1890’s and has many amazing monuments.  I have wanted to do a post on Angel Monuments for a long time actually since my trips to Russia and Paris, where I stupidly didn’t take any photos in their renowned cemeteries.  We went to the oldest section of Holy Cross and I found several that caught my interest. Here are a few of them all, as usual, taken with my iPhone.

D463102D-E88E-44C9-B714-F86CAF02B9293793439E-F4F5-41F7-A923-6F519DD5BD723FFFF886-48C0-465C-9F33-F223DF274148In addition, I found many images in my Pinterest search that I wanted to include. Photo credits unknown.

DE6A3CAD-4267-4D4A-BEA0-A0765719C996C695A1D5-E24F-4EA6-953A-DD32593CA8C052C1F52D-BFB7-4988-A2C8-02C96172202DDD687C13-13A9-4BBB-A552-FC5FD1B896AEAC8D512B-A16E-444B-9408-FAE34E755281E0A24807-05CC-4118-8975-E6EA1809EBD358F7D370-C0B9-401B-AB51-B09D5F0A1999The carving is exquisite on each. I could fill pages with these beauties, but let’s explore more.


You knew I’d find a book on the subject here you go, this looks interesting.

31555D42-C136-44D7-8244-E88466880392An Art Deco figure on the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.


4EEA09B2-08CA-4C1E-A1F2-659615441E7BAn Art Deco Cadillac hood ornament…why don’t the cars of today have style!!!!!an E3410E7C-2549-4161-AE41-4B88156DCC39An Erte piece an Art Deco angel

63158610-7867-4A1F-AAE1-38773C9F18C7529B7438-D0DD-4892-AC63-F97AF42865C2Even angel wings on buildings which are showing up on a zillion Instagram selfies. Charming!!!!

ED959416-8509-4E95-8D7E-E7353712C74AI just found this artist on Pinterest and I am obsessed with her work, the detail, the color, the technique….love it all. The artist is Olga Suvorova.

More pieces in the Met exhibition taken by Michael Anderson. The exhibit is in the Met proper, in many galleries, it is the largest Fashion exhibition they have mounted, and at The Clositers.  I hate to say brilliant marketing but I must do so.  To drive the visitor through parts of the Museum they might otherwise neglect is an act of genius and the Met has been doing this with the annual Costume Collection exhibition in various galleries for years.  This is the first time it has taken pieces to The Cloisters…if you haven’t  been there it is a must see with or without fashion….the views are extraordinary and, of course, the perfect setting for the exhibition’s theme.

0491410A-0C93-48DC-8E0F-D3D1D0C1735BThierry Mugler 1984.

Tom + Lorenzo

532A024F-E558-4FDA-B72B-74027250FF82A digitized scan of the Galliano for Dior gown, the cover of the slip case for the exhibition catalog set.

Katy Perry in Versace at the Met Gala 2018.


Angel fragrance by Thierry Mugler launched in 1992.

One of my all time favorite films the 1996 Michael  with John Travolta, charming and a tear jerker.

Of course, I have to mention Angels in America, the powerful Tony Kushner landmark play first performed in 1991, became a HBO event in 2003 and just won several Tony awards this year for the revival.  Always relevant and particularly so  during Pride Month.  It is an extremely important part of our theater history and when presented during two totally different eras, I think even more thought provoking  I saw the original, devastating, the HBO film, well done but, in my opinion, you need to see the play live, and now the revival with its stellar cast, it has to be amazing.  Times have changed, AIDS no longer the stigma it was….I, like everyone, long for the day when it will be eradicated!

65A358CE-8C21-4F21-B542-564FB2932E00I leave you with The Winged Victory at the Louvre.  Breathtakingly beautiful…..


18A73FF8-4061-4705-8C45-1CA1180C42CFOne of my go to authors, Laurie King, never disappoints and she hasn’t with her new book Island of the Mad the lastest in her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes adventures. This is the fourteenth in the series beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I was given the opportunity, by NetGallery, to preview the book, thanks to them I throughly enjoyed this story which primarily takes place in Venice. I have read most of the series, and as usual, if you are new to Russell and Holmes, I would suggest you begin at the beginning, after that you don’t need to read them in order, but not a bad idea…I do love a good series, don’t you!!!

Mary Russell takes center stage in this story, of course Sherlock is very much in the picture but it is pretty much Russell’s tale to tell and she does it really, really well. The story involves a friend of Mary’s missing aunt who has spent most of her adult life in asylums.  She seems to be improving but has disappeared from an outing with her nurse.  Russell and, the reluctant, Holmes trace them to Venice and so the real intrigue begins.

It is a tightly woven mystery, involving family fortunes (not new in English mysteries, but handled interestingly here), escaping family secrets in dramatic fashion (asylums to be exact!). A mystery, absolutely, but also a look at Venice after WWI (almost a sightseeing guide, loved that!), the beginning of the rise of fascism, the fascination of the followers of Benito Mussolini, International celebrities such as Cole Porter and his socialite wife, Linda, Elsa Maxwell, entertaining everyone around the Lido cabarets (I must read her biography by Sam Staggs Inventing Elsa Maxwell: How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood, the Press, and the World as well as the many Maxwell wrote herself!). I found that LGBTQ was openingly discussed at that time period a not expected story line that King, in my opinion, handled perfectly. An appropriate tone for Pride Month.  Of course, I loved the in-depth descriptions of all the interiors and clothing of the period, as well as the romantic pull of Venice, it’s citizens and the celebrities who intensified the glamour of this mysterious city.

Definitely a good read, as is the series….hope you enjoy it, do let me know your thoughts

You know I always recommend using your Independent Bookseller, FYI I am partnering with The Book Stallfor nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club.


33A06E6A-8F85-42A9-9052-591FB077485AMichael Vollbracht at the beginning of his career when we first met, late 1970’s. Inscribed photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

When the news reached me last week that Michael Vollbracht had died, after total disbelief, I immediately wanted to do a post on my wonderful times with him. I didn’t want to do an obit, His dear friend, Jeffrey Banks, did one so eloquently for the CFDA and it was followed by an brilliant piece in the New York Times and Woman’s Wear Daily. All detailed the life of a unique, brilliant talent. But rather, I wanted to honor him with personal reflections.

I first encountered Michael’s talent when Saks Fifth Avenue bought his collection and I featured his extraordinary garments, all of which were amazingly beautiful prints that he had created, in many of the charity fashion shows we did at the time.


They were great hits so much so that SFA Chicago invited him to bring his collection to the store and do a formal fashion at The Hilton Chicago, the first of several formal shows with him, (home to many, many of our shows!) In those days, I met all the designers (and often their representatives if the designers weren’t making a personal appearance) at the airport, actually at their gate, we could do that until 9/11, and escorted them to their hotel. This allowed us to get to know each other and, in my opinion, set the stage for a comfortable, successful event. In addition, I was on the selling floor throughout their visit and usually was included in the dinners we hosted for the designers.




We got to The Hilton on the day of the show, it was a luncheon in the Grand Ballroom, a magnificent room to this day, I can’t remember a time when I checked the room before I would arrive at any venue. Of course, I would do a walk through of the space prior to any event.  The charity usually did the decor, centerpieces, etc. We opened the doors to the room and were met with at least 20 American flags on flag poles placed on the balcony hanging over the stage (they had been there for some political event and left!)  I love my flag but it was a bit much, to say the least, for a fashion show.  There was nothing to be done but work with them. Michael’s reaction, “How charming, a salute to a born and bred American designer….love it!”  This gives you an idea of his sense of humor, his ability to adjust to the situation and deal with it.


The twinkle in his eyes…..

Michael had a special relationship with Bill Blass (Michael later designed the Blass collection, I thought the perfect fit!) who asked him to design his retrospective exhibition at Indiana University the fall of 2002.  The opening night was attended by many of Bill’s New York designer pals such as Adolfo and Carolyne Roehm as well as the ladies Blass dressed all of whom, after viewing the exhibition, sat down to Bill’s famous meatloaf.  The only thing missing was Bill who had died shortly before the opening.


Talking about Bill Blass

Michael asked to describe the exhibition said it would “be a mixture of museum and theatrics.”  The exhibit had dramatic lighting, the walls were what Michael called “cafe latte”, music of another Indiana native, Blass was from Indiana, Cole Porter, was piped throughout the space.  I was devasted not to be able to attend this once in a lifetime event, work prevented it  I did however go to see it at the invitation of Kate Rowland, curator of the University’s Sage Historical Costume Collection.  I was able to see it several times the day I was there…fortunately the first visit was early in the morning when I walked through it by myself…fortunately I say because I burst into tears at the first thing I encountered, Bill’s office, totally reassembled, again the only thing missing was Bill!  Bravo Michael…you totally did it and Bill would have totally approved.  I adore fashion exhibitions and this was done to perfection in a very small space, luckily we have a book co-authored by Michael, Kate, and my first SFA boss/mentor/supporter, the incredible, Helen O’Hagan.


I wanted to share some of the portraits Michael did of his designer friends, they are fabulous and capture the personalities perfectly.

9C4D8C18-42A4-4BE5-8C3F-8A8B30CED252                                                                      Bill Blass


Love this of Pauline Trigere, it captures her perfectly


James Galanos, exquisite



Donald Brooks (sorry for the poor quality, the only copy I could find)


Diane Von Furstenberg, gorgeous


Norman Norell, another designer who passed away prior to the opening of their exhibition from the Nena Ivon Archives of Columbia College Chicago.


Two illustrations from the divine monograph NORELL by the brilliant Jeffrey Banks….if you don’t already have it purchased it immediately, it is glorious and a MUST have for your library along with the Blass book


Lucky me, I worked with all the designers, above, who were captured by the insightful eye of Michael Vollbracht.


The famous Bloomingdale’s shopping bag, Michael’s Book, and…….no words needed!

My last in person encounter with Michael was at a Costume Society of America Symposium in Kansas City, (Michael was a hometown guy!) in 2010 when he was the Keynote Speaker.  A bit of background, at the 2009 CSA Symposium I was seated with the cochairs of the Kansas City event and they were discussing how excited and a bit intimated that Michael Vollbracht was coming for their event, I spoke up and said, “what a coup, he is the Renaissance Man and you will love him.”  Their response, and I think in unison, “do you know him!”  “Yes, yes, I do” I said….well needless to say I became golden and was asked to be his host…yes, please.


I set up the room before his presentation with pieces he had sent and put them on dress forms.  I introduced him and he began by talking about me much to my embarrassment, but I was nonetheless thrilled.  He got a standing ovation, not easy from the group…he was perfect, of course he was!  There is always a Patron Dinner for the keynote and those who wanted to be up close and personal with the guest…again he charmed the group with his “unfiltered” stories.  He and I went to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see the Edward Steichen photography exhibition, who better to go with and spent another evening with Dennis Brozynski, my Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies colleague and long term CSA supporter (the other member of our group, my dear friend and CSA roomie, Dianne Erpenbach, also a CCC Fashion Studies colleague, was tied up with CSA meetings and couldn’t join us) getting Kansas City barbecue….Michael knew all THE joints to go too.  We roamed around, stuffed full of some of the best barbecue ever.  Ah memories…all good ones


My little black dress sketch, hangs on one of the shelves of my fashion library.  It is visible from the foot of my bed, so we can say I wake up with Michael every day! Photo taken by me

So much has been said of his talent, his art, his fashion, his newly found voice on Facebook with wonderful in-depth stories of his career, his relationship with mega stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor, his frustration with the fashion industry, to say his death is a huge loss is a major understatement.  Rest In Peace Michael Vollbracht, your art lives on.

7CBE6DFC-024A-486C-9B24-EDE5A8B7016AAll photos and illustrations unless otherwise noted are from Pinterest credits unknown.