FRIDAY MUSINGS: IT’S A VINTAGE GARDEN PARTY

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By now you know I look forward to the end of each month when the Randolph Street Market appears on my calendar and I must admit the May Market, (which begins the outdoor season, though September), is my favorite month of all (please don’t tell the other months they will be jealous!).  It not only gives us the feeling that Summer is almost with us but also dramatically enlarges RSM, of course, the chock a block three floors of Plumbers Hall are with us year round.   Celebrating its Sweet Sixteen year the outdoor season kicks off with a vintage garden party, not only will you find the most amazing vintage one of a kind treasures, but you can eat and drink to your hearts content while listening to music all day (the Market is open from 9 to 5 each day), great people watching and you can shop, shop, shop…that is the point my dears!  This May you can also get gardening tips, plants and supplies whether you are a seasoned gardener or a novice.  As with all the dealers, be sure to engage them in conversation to learn more about collecting, styling yourself and your home and now your garden.  Looking to expand your collections from books to mirrors to paintings, to furniture, to refurbished bikes to artisan crafts to jewelry and clothing for women and men (there is Father’s Day to think about!!) and items you didn’t even know you needed or wanted….look no further it is all at RSM. By the way, do you know I do two monthly posts, totally different from this blog, on the RSM’s blog…one on collectibles and one on fashion…be sure to check them out, this month I featured Lady Head Vases and Trench Coats.  If we are all into sustainability and recycling, and we should be, we need to think VINTAGE!!!  

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Now I wanted to share the dynamic RSM newsletter with you…it will give you many more details and was impossible to replicate so I am giving you the link.  By the way this is not a paid endorsement just information I want to share with you dear readers so you can enjoy the Market as much as I do.  It is there rain or shine and you will enjoy a day out in our wonderful Chicago!  Happy hunting!

Randolph Street Market May Event

BB73D3B5-218F-44A8-9AAA-15DB0B229886Our inspiration, Sally Schwartz, Founder of Randolph Street Market.

 

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WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: WATER STREET STUDIOS

F1F5255C-3973-4867-B59D-F6AD84E41B21Nena with Danielle Hollis, Executive Director, Water Street Studios, Andrea Reynders, Designer and Exhibition Curator pictured in exhibition space. Here you can see the natural stone of the building….I am obsessed with art against natural material such as brick, wood and stone in my opinion, it becomes an artwork itself.

I recently had the great pleasure of being invited by my dear friend, Andrea Reynders  who curated the exhibition, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER…Artists Explore The Theme of “Transparency”, to speak at a gathering at WATER STREET STUDIOS in Batavia, Illinois.  My talk was to be in conjunction with their exhibition of mixed media art including extraordinary wearable art.  Keeping with the theme of “transparency”, I did a Power Point presentation featuring some of the designers I have worked with through out my career, beginning with Bonnie Cashin and ending with Christian Siriano, just a small sampling of the over 200 designers and fashion influencers I did shows and events with from the mid-1950’s to today.  Of course, I did a running commentary with some enlightening tidbits.  The guests had great questions and I throughly enjoyed the evening most especially the incredible creativity of the artists work.

Let’s look at some of the work and read Andrea’s statement about the exhibition.

The Baptism…..DAWN ZALKUS
“I am a river, soft, inviting, nourishing, transparent. I cleanse away your demons and invite you to my shores. Drink from my waters. I can grant safe passage, or rise up in rage. I am powerful. Mountains move beneath my current. Whole ships are devoured by my abyss. As I invite you to swim in my pools know you may drown in their depths. Gaze into my pellucid surface. Let me enchant you with the rhythm of my tide. Bathe in my waters, refreshing, renewing, shimmering, mesmerizing. I am a river. Materials: Wax paper, quartz, tulle, canvas.”

Crystal by SUE & KATIE HOLZKOPF
“The experience of being under water physically surrounded by an intimidating clear expanse while simultaneously adopting a calmness and peace of the mind is what inspired our design.”
Materials: Paper quills, paint tarp, iridescent cellophane, plastic baggies, zip ties.    Sue is photograped with the garment that she and her daughter, Katie created.

Curator’s Statement….

“Eye of the Beholder is an exhibition dedicated to the art of clothing as a second skin. With this year’s theme of Transparency we expanded the opportunity for artists working in various media and across scales and dimensions.

Transparency: n., transmission or admission of light –a clarity–crystal clear—sheerness, gauziness. V. to show through. Adv. see-through, revealing, lucid–clear, thin, gossamer, filmy.

Artists were challenged to clarify and translate what Transparency meant to them and to create a work that is either worn or observed. From garments that capture emotions we cannot readily share, moments that capture chrysalis transformation, to paintings that capture light in transparent layers of color, the work included here bridges the divide between poetic reflection and political comment and from dynamic movement to quietude.
The results are both serious and whimsical—an amazing cross section of personal interpretation. From sophisticated couture and hand crafted assemblages to paintings –all as a response to the idea of Transparency.
Come and be transformed.”  Andrea Reynders

Fish Need Clean Water, Citizens Need Transparency by KATHERINE KRATZER
“This rallying cry, after a chemical dumping in the seawaters off the coast of Vietnam, should be a rallying cry for all citizens of the world. Corporate polluters, government ineptitude, business greed, poisoned humans and an unforgivable disregard for aquatic life and environments is threatening us all.”
Materials: Tyvek, assorted papers, watercolor.                                                        Katherine photographed with her imaginative piece.

The Unveiling by CLAUDIA CANON
“In a marriage, both parts need the ability and the willingness to see the true inner self and the responsibility to be transparent before committing to each other. The goal with my wedding dress is to enable the viewer to see the beauty of the exterior and also view the interior where the “truth” often exists.”
Materials: Japanese rice paper, tissue paper, tyvek

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Translucent by MORGAN DONOHUE
“This dress captures the fragile balance between wanting to be understood, while also having a constant fear of failure in the back of your mind. Once we become see-through, we become vulnerable and sometimes invisible. The feathers emphasize how delicate the whole process can be, but also remind us that we have the potential to soar.”
Materials: Fabric, seeds, feathers

Childhood Transparency by PRESTON WILLIAMS.                                                       ”This piece to me is about growing up and defining who I am.  Using my boldness as a strength then growing into a person who can be open and transparent.”                     Materials: Rice, bike tires & tapioca pearls

I asked Danielle Hollis, Water Street Studios Executive Director, to give me detailed information on the Studio and Gallery so I could share it with my readers.  I know you will be as impressed with the concept and the space as I am.

The WATER STREET STUDIOS story…..

“In 2007, a group of interested community members, artists, a property owner and the City of Batavia started developing a plan for artist studio spaces. In the spring of 2008, a group formed Batavia Artists Association (BAA), what we now know as Water Street Studios (WSS)

The Batavia Artists Association at Water Street Studios incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit arts organization in the state of Illinois in 2009. Our mission is to help make the arts accessible to the Fox Valley area and beyond. Our vision is to be a cultural hub in the Midwest. Water Street Studios is committed to maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, or disability.

Our Art Education program provides high-quality art classes for all ages in a variety of mediums including drawing, printmaking, painting, ceramics, metal-working, jewelry-making, and more. We serve hundreds of students from 35 surrounding towns through our paid programming including Aurora, DeKalb, Naperville, Joliet, Rockford, and more.

Our Art Outreach program provides free art instruction for under-resourced families and schools in the area to help make the arts more accessible to those in need. Last year we provided over 2,000 free art sessions by partnering with key stakeholders in our community such as public schools, libraries, senior centers, and more.

We are in our third year of providing our Ripple Effect program to the Fox Valley area. Ripple Effect is a free, weekly STEAM class that focuses on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math with art. During this 3-week course, students between the ages of 8-12 learn about dendrites and fractals in nature and in math. This program is generously funded by the Dunham Fund.

We have 26 artist studios for emerging and professional artists to work in a highly creative and collaborative environment. The Artist Studios at Water Street Studios come with a wide variety of benefits to support artists including: subsidized rent, opportunities to exhibit and sell artwork, exposure to thousands of visitors every year, opportunities to be employed as an instructor, connection to a vibrant arts community, and more.

Our Gallery and Events program draws many new visitors to our facility to experience the arts. We provide 24 exhibitions and exhibit over 100 artists annually in our two premiere galleries, The Dempsey Family Gallery located on the first floor and the newly named Chicago Capital Gallery located on the second floor. Every month we host a Gallery Opening Receptions, Live Art Series events, Waterline Writers events, and other community events as scheduled.

Water Street Studios is the only nonprofit community arts center in the area that provides all of these services to the Fox Valley area and beyond through high-quality arts programming. We are able to make the arts accessible to our community through high-quality programming because of the dedicated efforts of our staff, board members, donors, and volunteers.”

For more information about Water Street Studios please visit their  website at www.waterstreetstudios.org

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Mammie’s Window by LISA YOUNGDAHL
“Mammie’s Window” is a colored pencil painting of my great-mother’s house in Kentucky. No one has lived in the house since 1963, and the owner has kept the house just as it was when my great-grandmother lived there. There’s even a filled cookie jar still on the counter. To the viewer, the windows are the eyes of a home. Through those eyes we see inside the tattered remains of a house abandoned over 50 years ago. We can only guess why it has been abandoned, but we see a bit of its history.”                                                                                                                                           A Nena’s note….love this painting….but then I was gobsmacked by the talent, creativity, diversity and materials used by all the uber talented artisans.

I was beyond impressed with WATER STREET STUDIOS…two full floors of exhibition space filled with impressive works of art, artists studios, communal spaces, teaching areas….extraordinary and well worth a day in the country, a quick trip from Chicago and any suburb, make a day of it in Batavia and visit the other charming “sister” cities Geneva and St. Charles, where you will find antiques✔️interesting shops for clothing, home, one of a kind finds✔️restaurants✔️charming places to stay for a weekend or longer✔️seasonal activities✔️and more✔️.

I was lucky to have my BFF, Tom Mantel, with me.  We had been at Lyric Opera for the outstanding production of West Side Story….amazing in all aspects.  My host, the always generous and gracious, Tom Hawley, who kindly includes me in the Lyric’s Musicals as well as the Goodman season…always great to be with Christine, Elenor, Earl and Ralph.  Fortunately the highways weren’t too hectic and we arrived at WSS in time to do a tech check.  I had made reservations at Atwater’s the restaurant at The Harrington Inn in Geneva to have a late supper after my presentation.  I have stayed there on several occasions, love it, need to go back soon…..  We arrived around 9 and found ourselves to be the only guests in the dining room, strange for a Saturday night!  Neither the food nor the service suffered, in fact both exceeded my expectations and were perfection.  Do try both Atwater’s and The Harrington, you are in for a treat.

The Harrington, Atwater’s and our insanely delicious chocolate “yum-yum”!!!!  Photos from Pinterest credit unknown.

All other photos taken by me with my iPhone.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: A WELL BEHAVED WOMAN

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By now you know I am obsessed with historical fiction especially when the book concerns “real” people.  When this exceptionally written book came into my consciousness I knew it would be one I would not only enjoy but would devour and, of course, would want to share with you. I was correct in that assumption.  (As usual, I recommend The Book Stall my Independent Bookseller, as your source when purchasing your books.)

The protagonist is none other than Alva Vanderbilt who married into one of the wealthiest, if not THE wealthiest at the time, American dynasties.  Wealth was new to Alva and the story tells us of a world known to very few.  The Astor’s ruled New York Society, especially their Matriarch, Caroline.  Snubbed by Mrs. Astor, Alva was determined to make her place, along with her husband, William, and the rest of the Vanderbilt family to reach the top of the Gilded Age social scene.  And not only did she do exactly that but did it with grace and class  Fowler takes us into this rarified world via, their exquisite homes, think Marble House (The Biltmore is briefly mentioned), the many homes in New York City.  I particularly enjoyed Alva’s forays into every detail of her many homes and her participation with the noted architect, Richard Hunt, in planning the architecture and each and every phase of the construction of the mansions and the interiors from paint colors, fabrics, to furniture….everything!  Having literally millions to spend she thought out every possible item in her homes and became the personification of elegance of her era.

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Alva Vanderbilt

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William Vanderbilt

Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island

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A couple of the interiors …

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Living in a strained marriage, (I’m not doing spoilers here, if you know the background of the era you know of the scandals) Alva made herself a pilar of New York, Newport, Paris and London society in lifestyle including her Charles Frederick Worth wardrobe (you know I enjoyed those descriptions!), the exquisite entertaining….balls, formal dinners…highlighting the developing of the Arts in New York City, making sure her children were exposed to the best of educations, associating with the “right” people (including Oliver Belmont) while respecting everyone no matter their social status…which I greatly admired.  She was always a philanthropist and became very involved in women’s suffrage.  In many ways she reminds me of our own Bertha Palmer as well as others of her time. It gives us details of the women (or The woman, Alva) behind the wealth which was always in the hands of their husbands, fathers, guardians. Fowler’s eye for detail parallels that of Alva’s…her research is impeccable.  Read it you will be transfixed!

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A couple of books to give you thoughts on the food of the time…

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I’m including a recipe for Beef Wellington, which happens to a favorite of mine to serve at special dinner parties.  This recipe is from Epicurious.com

 

BEEF WELLINGTON

FROM EPICURIOUS.COM

INGREDIENTS

    • a 3 1/2-pound fillet of beef tied with thin sheets of larding fat at room temperature
    • 3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 pound pâté de foie gras (available at specialty foods shops) at room temperature
    • 1 pound puff paste or thawed frozen puff pastry plus additional for garnish if desired
    • N/A frozen puff pastry
    • 1 large egg white beaten
    • an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water
    • 1/2 cup Sercial Madeira
    • 2 teaspoons arrowroot dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • 1/2 cup beef broth
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles (available at specialty food shops) if desired
    • watercress for garnish if desired

PREPARATION

    1. In a roasting pan roast the beef in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the thermometer registers 120°F. Let the fillet cool completely and discard the larding fat and the strings. Skim the fat from the pan juices and reserve the pan juices.
    2. In a heavy skillet cook the mushrooms in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until all the liquid they give off is evaporated and the mixture is dry, season them with salt and pepper, and let them cool completely. Spread the fillet evenly with the pâté de foie gras, covering the top and sides, and spread the mushrooms evenly over the pâté de foie gras. On a floured surface roll 1 pound of the puff paste into a rectangle about 20- by 12- inches, or large enough to enclose the fillet completely, invert the coated fillet carefully under the middle of the dough, and fold up the long sides of the dough to enclose the fillet brushing the edges of the dough with some of the egg white to seal them. Fold ends of the dough over the fillet and seal them with the remaining egg white. Transfer the fillet, seam side down to a jelly-roll pan or shallow roasting pan and brush the dough with some of the egg wash. Roll out the additional dough and cut the shapes with decorative cutters. Arrange the cutouts on the dough decoratively, brush them with the remaining egg wash, and chill the fillet for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Bake the fillet in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°, and bake the fillet for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare meat and the pastry is cooked through. Let the fillet stand for 15 minutes.
    3. In a saucepan boil the reserved pan juices and the Madeira until the mixture is reduced by one fourth. Add the arrowroot mixture, the broth, the truffles, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring, being careful not to let it boil, for 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Loosen the fillet from the jelly-roll pan, transfer it with two spatulas to a heated platter, and garnish it with watercress. Serve the fillet, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, with the sauce.

Serves 8.

THE nenasnotes BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS POSTS ARE MADE POSSIBLE BY AN ANONYMOUS SPONSOR.  PLEASE CONTACT ME AT nenasnotes1@gmail.com FOR SPONSORSHIP INFORMATION 

Photos are from Pinterest credits unknown. 

FASHION FOREVER: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF PEARLS

 

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I have always been enamored with pearls and their association with fashion but there is so much more to them…the history is fascinating…from natural pearls to cultured, from Haute Couture, to Opera, to Royalty, to Art, to Romance, and on and on….whether a single strand or a extravagant bib the pearl has so many interpretations….let’s look at some.

The natural pearl is harvested by mostly female ame pearl divers in Japan

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Natural pearls…

”Cultured pearls are real, genuine pearls that are formed inside a living oyster with human intervention. When a nucleus is surgically implanted in the oyster’s flesh, the oyster recognises it as an irritant and begins to coat it with smooth layers of nacre. Over time, the growing pearl gets completely covered with the beautiful iridescent substance we call nacre, or mother-of-pearl. All pearls sold today are cultured pearls, with the exception of vintage estate jewellery and heirloom pieces that are more than 80 years old.“

“Natural pearls, on the other hand, are formed naturally by free-range “wild” oysters living at sea without any encouragement from humans. When a natural irritant such as a fragment of shell, a scale or a parasite becomes lodged inside an oyster or mollusk, it gets coated with layer upon layer of nacre. Contrary to popular belief, grains of sand do not form pearls. If sand were enough of an irritant, our ocean floors would be littered with millions of natural pearls! Natural pearls are actually very rare, mostly because pearl-producing species of mollusks were nearly hunted to extinction with most natural beds of pearl-bearing oysters depleted by over-harvesting in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, natural pearls are extremely rare. Only 1 in about 10,000 wild oysters will yield a pearl and of those, only a small percentage achieve the size, shape and colour desirable to the jewellery industry.” Source: Raw Pearls

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Kokichi Mikimoto

“Mikimoto learned that Akoya oysters produced the best pearls. He explored methods of introducing a particle into the flesh of the oyster to stimulate secretions of “nacre” that build up in hundreds of thousands of layers, creating a lustrous pearl. He overcame many failed experiments and challenges of nature, from oyster-eating octopi to a disastrous “red tide” of bacteria that threatened the survival of his oyster beds.” Be sure to go the Mikimoto website, linked here, for the extraordinary story of the originator of the cultured pearl. Source: Mikimoto Pearls

Pearls in history….

A mosaic….

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Queen Elizabeth I

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Whoopi Goldberg hosting the Oscars several years ago…gowned as Queen Elizabeth I

Vermeer’s The Girl With The Pearl Earring

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A bejeweled  Maharajah

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Georges Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles, The Pearl Fishers….one of my favorite opera’s, of course the highlight, the duet, it is definitely my favorite operatic piece!! https://operaq.com.au/news/the-pearlfishers-duet/

Queen Victoria…

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Mata Hari probably wearing Paul Poiret….

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A couple of showgirls in costume…..

Of course, Gabrielle Chanel…..always mixing real and faux

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Lagerfeld for Chanel….love these!!!

 

I’m obsessed with this look from the 1930’s

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As well as this one…

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The iconic Audrey Hepburn in the iconic black dress and pearls in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

First Ladies and their “pearls”….cultured and faux….

Diana….

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Liz with Queen Mary’s beyond exquisite La Peregrina pearl sold at auction for $11.8 million

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Liz with more pearls…..

Marie Antoinette’s pear and diamond pendant sold at auction for $32 million

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Something in a tiara perhaps from the English Crown Jewels….0371ED77-015F-4DBF-A285-08AA77FBA8DB

Gloria Vanderbilt at home…

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The modernity of this classic on Rihanna…

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Masses of pearls

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The elegant embroidery of Lasage for a Haute Couture piece…

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Nena in a treasured Adolfo jacket with wide pearl beading around neck, down the front of the jacket and on the cuffs…the beading,  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago

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A few more books, one non-fiction the others fiction.

 

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

PROFILE: SWAN LAKE JOFFREY BALLET STYLE

 

68FAED15-9001-4ACF-883F-EA75CFAAC1D5       Swans in a peaceful country setting on an exquisite fall day.  Photo credit, Nena’s iPhone.

i have always been enamored with the beauty of swans as well as adoring ballet since I was held on my Father’s lap to see the majesty of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, created in 1875-76, the first of his classic trio of ballets that include Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.  Swan Lake, an initial failure, has become one of the most popular of all ballets.  I have seen dozens of performances of this well known piece and until now my all time favorite interpretation was with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev….now tied for first place is the current production of Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagining of the story of a swan brought to life and love by her prince.

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There are so many elements that I adore about this version, I must say Wheeldon’s imagination, in all he creates, is at the top of my list.  From the Joffrey’s reimagined Nutcracker, to the critically acclaimed  musical An American In Paris, his vision takes us to places not seen in dance productions before and quite frankly isn’t that what a choreographer should do…in my opinion, yes, they should. Wheeldon along with Joffrey’s dynamic The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater and forward thinking, President and CEO, Greg Cameron have succeeded in making my favorite ballet company world class. The Company can, most certainly, make us proud on the world stage.  When Robert Joffrey and Robert Arpino brought the Joffrey to Chicago, as a visiting company, I fell under their spell….fortunately that spell has not dissipated over the years it has just gotten stronger and as a native Chicagoan and lover of ballet I am so proud they are ours!!!

Using the background of the Paris Opera Ballet and Impressionists Edgar Degas and Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec to set the scene, we are transported into a beautiful world of sets and costumes (watch for an upcoming posts on the costuming for the Joffrey’s Spring World Premiere of Anna Karinina).  The principles, and there are several couples in the two week run which ends on Sunday, October 28th, are breathtakingly brilliant, the dual role of Odette and Odile, one of the most intricate in any ballet, is matched to perfection by the Corps de Ballet….gorgeous!  Let’s not forget the male dancers…beyond perfection. The following photos were taken at our unparalleled, The Art Institute of Chicago, in front of some the iconic Impressionists paintings.

Ballerinas Dara Holmes, Yumi Kanazawa and Brooke Linford photograph by Cheryl Mann.

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The painting in the background of the photos that hangs, along with other superb Degas works at The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Another of our Degas paintings that inspired the production. Both above images found on Pinterest no photo credit available

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Jeraldine Mendoza and Grieg Matthews photograph by Cheryl Mann.

My thanks to The Art Institute of Chicago’s Gloria Groom and Nora Gainer and Joffrey’s Vicki Crain for giving me permission to share these images with you, I am forever grateful!

I have to admit I had tears of pure joy at the end of the opening night performance and to read the glowing reviews, by all media, was gratifying to say the least….I would have lost all respect from the critics if they been anything less. The long standing ovation and shouts of bravo were beyond perfection.  Run don’t walk to get your tickets for a not to be missed cultural experience, it ends Sunday, October 28th.

 I had to share the following photos with you of the daughter, of my dear friends Stephanie and Cory Lake, Odette (you read that correctly and yes, she is named for our heroine).  I did a week of posts on Stephanie in 2016, check the nenasnotes archives they are fascinating insights into a creative mind. That mind has translated to the Lake’s precious, about to be 5 year old, child. Don’t tell her but I am doing a special Birthday post for her.  Here a taste of our budding ballerina, prepare yourself Joffrey Ballet!!!!!

Looks more Odile than a Odette….versatile our little Diva at ballet class and in her swan print skirt at Pre-School….the theme continues….photos courtesy of Stephanie Lake.

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Could there be a book any more perfect, I think not!!!!!

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Both swan photos found on Pinterest photo credits unknown. 

 

BOOKNOTES: THE MASTERPIECE

THIS REVIEW IS POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 11th A DAY WE MUST NEVER FORGET. I DEDICATE IT TO THOSE WHO PERISHED, THE FIRST RESPONDERS AND THOSE OF US WHO REMAIN TO HONOR THEIR MEMORY.  WE ARE A VERY STRONG COUNTRY AND WE KNOW WE ARE SURVIVORS, NEW YORK CITY IS OUR BEACON OF LIGHT AND THIS STORY TELLS THE REBIRTH, OF TIME LONG GONE, OF AN EXQUISITE STRUCTURE THAT HAS SURVIVED DESPITE ALL ODDS, JUST LIKE ALL OF US!

563325A4-17ED-4593-B696-30915C471F00CB4C5E58-A3BF-4823-BD84-BA887661BA67                               Fiona Davis photograph by Kristen Jensen.

Having read The Dollhouse and The Address, both of which I absolutely loved, I didn’t want them to end, I waited with baited breath for Fiona Davis’ next book, The Masterpiece, to arrive.  I most certainly wasn’t disappointed  This time, like both of her other books, the story takes place in a landmark building in New York, the Grand Central Terminal.

It is the story, told in two time periods (seems to a trend in many of the novels I have been reading, wasn’t a fan, but am adjusting to them…this one definitely works!), of the art school housed in the Grand Central Terminal in New York, one of my favorite NYC structures.  You know how much I love historical fiction…this is a fascinating little known story.

Our two protagonists, Clara Darden, a noted illustrator, artist and teacher of the period, whose history has been lost to time, and Virginia Clay, recently divorced who has taken a job in the Information Booth at the dilapidated Terminal, tell stories of their different eras, one the late 1920’s and the other the 1970’s. While the stories are years apart, the way women were (are still?) treated in the workplace and in life in general isn’t much different.  Their stories intertwine with the downturn of their work place, the once glamorous GCT, and to my mind’s eye it is a tale of the arts during the Depression, how they survived, their decline in the ‘70’s and the promise of a light at “the end of the tunnel”, telling us that things can, indeed, get better, that beauty and confidence can be restored whether it is a building or a person and how our two women survive.  We follow them through love affairs, betrayed trust, found and lost friendships, power struggles (no matter your social class!), in other words, the real world.  We find the determination of one to find more about the other…the story we want to continue.  Ms. Davis is a master of mixing periods, giving us a story of architecture, New York City’s history and making the past come alive through the structures we come to admire and love

Relationships come and go, grow or die, new jobs, new directions, the promise of talent in many guises, so many life lessons in one work of fiction…I really enjoyed the book…I can’t wait to see what’s next in Ms. Davis’ oeuvre!!!

42nd Street entrance

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A cross section rendering of the building….love this and it relates perfectly to our story

The Great Hall and it’s restored constellations painted vaulted ceiling, it has always been one of my favorite places in NYC.

I try to go to the legendary Oyster Bar as often as I can, love the ambiance, the decor, the delicious good food…..oysters, of course!!!!

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Many a time I walked down this passageway to my train, The Twentieth Century…legendary, what train travel should be!! Oh my, another post…..why not!!!!

Commuting Ramp
Grand Central Station, Manhattan, New York

The catalogue for the Grand Central School of Art, one of the art instructors in the studio.  Opened in 1922 and closed in 1944 reported to have enrolled up to 900 students the year before it closed according to the author’s notes

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The restoration and rededication in 1998 was led by architecture firm Breyer Blinder Platt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and brought the derelict building back to its glory, preserving it for the ages. This looks like yet another book I need to add to my collection.  I am mad for nostalgia, but you know that!!!

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And then there is this….Sir Paul McCarthy impromptu performance at Grand Central Terminal last week!!!!

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

THIS POST GENEROUSLY UNDERWRITTEN BY AN ANONYMOUS DONOR. CONTACT ME FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES. 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: DOOR KNOBS

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As you well know, I am a HUGE fan of vintage items, the patina, the color, the wear of love in use….what could be more fun than collecting vintage doors knobs!  A good start, as always, a trip to the monthly (Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30 from 10 to 5) Randolph Street Market

My photos on site at Randolph Street Market.  These I found at the RSM in the Olde Good Things booth they were salvaged from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, which is in the midst of being renovated.  I am  particularly fond of the crystal ones but also like the white porcelain ones as well  I bought some several years ago, white porcelain, for my all white bathroom door and in my naïveté thought one size fits all….silly Nena….hardly!  I suggest you do your homework, if adding vintage doorknobs to your home whether it is a fixer upper or modern…measure, measure, measure and then measure again.  Take a photo of your existing door knob, or the actual piece, with you along with your standard antiquing kit of magnifying glass, tape measure, etc. when on your quest for anything that is sized.

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An ordinary builders grade set….shall we see if we can improve on this seen everywhere piece and…Lets look at some that I found on Pinterest….there are, of course, zillions to attract your eye and imagination….here just a few images. CCD0E0A8-1A74-435B-A2E6-CA469C7B61CC

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A fun “bouquet”.

E9C746A1-D98D-4AB2-961A-12BD58E88D86These could be mounted on your wall for decor or to hang bags, jewelry, belts, whatever’s….I think they would make an interesting art instillation.

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4BA8FF6C-06CA-4A96-B1D4-D2622A9917AAOr you could top a cork and use as a bottle stopper like I have done….here one in my kitchen, photo by me.

3EBFCFF1-D6D3-4253-AF43-6C771199DAC3A very close up photo (!!!!!!) of one of the knobs I got years ago at Anthropologie , love that store….they are on my closet doors.  You are getting a look at the green of all my walls (and ceiling) of my teeny home, every wall except the bathroom which is all shades of white.

 

Or how about tiny vases or from rustique art’s Pinterest site…a photo, postcard, note holder….love the whimsy of these.  What can you think of, in your creative minds, to use these tiny works of art in your decor.

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I’m beyond obsessed with this glorious piece, spectacular, who does craftsmanship like this today…..extraordinary….did you notice, with few exceptions…all my photos are “ green”.

You have seen some keys in the locks….check out how the ubertalented Margaret Buckman uses them in jewelry.  I did Margaret’s wonderful story on November 14, 2016….do check it out in the nenasnotes Archives, you will be enthralled!

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Books on the subject, of course….here are a couple that got my interest…and I’ll do a post on unique doors and another on door knockers in the future.

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468BC240-417E-43FF-BED2-5FCD4A0F079DAll photos unless otherwise noted found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.

MONDAY MUSINGS: GOLF

CE8E69BB-B599-4E4D-8019-F51A5EEBF7361938 caddying for all the top players in the PGA, my Father, Ivon (that was his signature on his artwork and what everyone called him) in his glory. Next to Ruthy and Nena, his wife and daughter….it was his life and he excelled at it, but then he was a natural born athlete. Being the daughter, and only child of a major jock, I learned at a very early age if I wanted to spend special time with my Daddy, I needed to love sports as well. I can assure you I have no athletic prowess what so ever but do love to attend or watch sporting events, especially football (my favorite) and golf….I spent many hours walking golf courses as well as going to see the Bears and Cubs, with him, we were “North Siders” after all!!!!. As much as he loved playing he never wasn’t there for his family. He would play early matches and be home early….he even played with colored balls in the winter.  We would stop at the golf range to hit a few buckets of balls on weekends, it was across the street from Indian Boundery Park, we were there all the time.  In addition, I went with him to play the Evanston Community Course, now Canal Shores Golf Course on Central Street, a course, I thought was fairyland with its water features and charming set up. Still there after a century and being rehabilitated,

He was working on plans and a patent for a new driver that he felt would revolutionize the sport when he died suddenly in 1957.

 

607B8638-C160-4CAE-8A99-DEBE552E5D79A mocked up photo (I can’t imagine what he would have done with today’s technology)….fooling around while taking the sport very seriously, same year 1938.

He won so many trophies year after year the organizations retired them.  For years he had been asked to go Pro.  He finally decided he would and we would relocate to Texas, having spent many summers, when I was a child, in Midland with relatives for my health, it seemed the logical location.  Having said good bye to our friends we left for West Texas and Daddy would go back to Evanston and sell the house, etc.  All I can say is when we stepped off the train we realized we were making a very big mistake, stayed for 2 weeks and came back home!!!!!  The golfing didn’t stop, but the thought of going pro did!  He didn’t regret his decision at all.

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FC9FCF46-B3FE-4AD7-ADC6-E6F5936656EBA couple of trophies I found at The Green Doorat Randolph Street Market My photos.

And one very similar to those Daddy won…photo found on Pinterest.  2A4EBC78-F49F-4553-9A2C-78DB003B9852

One year he had a custom hand-tooled leather golf bag made at a Midland saddle shop, known for their fabulous boots (yes, I had them in white!!!!)  I gave the bag and all his wooden shaft clubs to a dear friend who adored my father and golf….wonder if he still uses them!!!!! Below a similar bag I found on Pinterest

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A few more photos of him in action…these from 1929, he was so young…center photo from 1938…love that he is perfectly dressed, I can’t recall many golfers in blazers, shirt, tie and pocket square….oh, did I mention he was a fabulous dresser….I loved going shopping with him to help add to his wardrobe (did that with Mom as well….)

A68D98C6-AD40-44C0-BC55-378F2AFB3FCAAnd here with some of his chums, circa mid-1940’s….love the cap (not really) and not my favorite photo of him….but here you see one of his trophies. They were stunners. Many sterling, some silver plate, all engraved. One of our housekeepers decided she liked them so much she decided to take them!  Sad but true….at least I can picture them in my mind. A9E5CCF7-2F0C-492C-A544-8D7D0FFB9867A bit of golf history…it seems it’s origin is China, not Scotland, although it is most certainly the Scots who can lay claim to it’s popularity.

Part of a Ming dynasty scroll "The Autumn Banquet" showing participants play golf like game
Part of a Ming dynasty scroll “The Autumn Banquet”, being exhibited at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum March 21, 2006, shows participants of an imperial court spend their pastime on ‘chuiwan’ similar to the modern day golf, in which the players hits a ball and drive it into a hole. The scroll, which is exhibited for the first time outside mainland China, has sparked a controversy of which country invented golf. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A few golf paintings of Scottish and English scenes and golfers.

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From the oldest golf club in England, Royal Blackheath Golf Club, Henry Callender,23AE4132-6D67-4D5F-A99E-231BC6CDD278D3F9C6FF-3119-4C17-8D70-AC0927F311F7Love this by Norman Rockwell. 

What you say, where are the ladies…..here you go, can you imagine playing any sport in these garments….seriously!!!!!

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FBFA9173-B1C3-4BE6-9F53-EEC129BA0BAEAll the photos of Ivon from my scrapbooks all others unless, otherwise noted, found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

                                              FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

DADDY’S SATURDAY NIGHT CREPES

1/2 cup flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

4 eggs

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup water

4 shakes Angostura bitters (Daddy always included bitters in his recipes, it’s what makes all the difference!!)

Usually does 6 crepes in an 8-10 inch pan…move in a small pan  best to serve immediately.

Either mix until fluffy or put into a blender. He always used a cast iron skillet generously buttered. Pour thin layer into hot pan…let get golden then quickly flip.  All goes quickly…first crepe is usually a throw away.

I always liked mine with butter and sugar then rolled, Mom and Dad often did jam.  We also did a creamed chicken or shrimp (or lobster) filling for savory crepes.  I like to do a cream filling with salmon caviar for a starter at a formal dinner party….my wine of choice, champagne or my new favorite Haute Couture Bubbles (served at the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club).  Enjoy!

 

FRIDAY MUSINGS: TINY HOUSES

 

78A3DA77-25DD-4D42-A9E0-35F0ABFA4DD9No this post isn’t about tiny Coalport, Meissen or other small collectibles (I can do that later) but rather actual tiny houses!!!! Yes, ones you live in. Full disclosure, I already live in a tiny house…what you say, “I thought you live in a high rise condo”, true but it is 700 square feet…so I am qualified to discuss the subject…just saying!  As a child I adored my doll house and, of course, spent many hours making many log cabins with my Lincoln Logs with Daddy.

At this point in time in my life should I be rethinking my living arrangements and perhaps see if any of my land owning friends will let me “park” myself on their property…I don’t drive so it would either be a permanent structure or mobile, with a hired driver when needed

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I am obsessed with watching ALL the programming on tiny homes on HGTV and DIY, but then I’m obsessed with most of their programming.  It seems many of them are either metal frames or wood cabin looking…neither would be what I would want, so mine would have to be designed to my specs, of course it would, and here are some looks that appeal to me.  Most with either a Victorian shabby chic or bohemian feeling, definitely my style, or a bit of modern….maybe!

Too cookie cutter for me…

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More my taste…

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A more mid-century look perhaps……

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Even George Bernard Shaw enjoy a tiny house, it rotated with the sun, for his studio.F3FF65EA-F576-4F3C-9678-0BBCCDAA2808But I envision something more Pygmalion or actually Beaton’s My Fair Lady decor…  CE5BDD98-7536-4041-9B8F-8724E1A424E4If truth were told I would love to retrofit a Vintage Airstream….some thoughts…FC2D018A-809D-4BEE-9214-C4F510AA78382B7BDC28-5CE0-4F31-B977-A762E7CEFD007D5E98B0-F319-4202-932D-597E512FC552C3A6A03B-46A8-424A-87DD-ED687AA3C2AB055E7C4C-6324-43C8-8A48-8E0F19A0C8B7

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Okay full confession, how I really want to live is in a English gypsy caravan.  Ruthy, my Mother, loved to tell of the gypsies and their caravans that would camp on her Father’s land outside Joplin, Missouri.  Each year they would come and my Grandfather gave them permission to use the land. As children, Mom and her siblings would visit the camp to hear wonderful stories and play with the children. Mom didn’t look like her brothers and sisters and I teased her that she must have been left as a baby by the gypsies to be taken care of by my grandparents…she rather liked the idea of a Bohemian lifestyle and found it a romantic notion (she was, of course, a legitimate child of my grandparents, birth certificates and Bible entry as proof!!!!!) In any instance, fairy tales aside, I find gypsy caravans right up my alley…in fact my current dwelling resembles one.

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How I want my home to look….walls and pillows are pretty similar now, would love to do either wallpaper or dark lacquer green, very glossy, paint.

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AEC579F9-E28A-414B-8E8B-C210111808C63CDF6C7B-76C5-445A-A8D0-2B57245751070F4DEADB-4CB6-43AC-AE7B-FA81F8E4DAE50EA93ACD-07BC-4BEE-B35A-AB30D82B6D20F7AD5A2F-5C1E-4D12-984D-0F1843AAC67E4A1107C7-AE6C-443C-9484-F72C281AE312118D0E6D-D08D-4B8D-8A91-795885A661037A04DA17-7DF1-4141-B772-3BB847C9FED1Too much…in my mind never….and I would have to consider where to house ALL my books.

BC59AEA5-267B-4C40-ABCA-93043A8FF33BHow I see my caravan in its pastoral setting….I can dream can’t I…..

All images found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

FASHION FLASHBACK: MICHAEL VOLLBRACHT A TRIBUTE

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Love this of Pauline Trigere, it captures her perfectly

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James Galanos, exquisite

 

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

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Diane Von Furstenberg, gorgeous

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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

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

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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.

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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

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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.