FASHION BOOKS: NORELL

F72053F5-72FE-494B-AE15-26973AB537D9

I have been waiting forever for someone to write a monograph on Norman Norell, well it is finally here and the book is beyond brilliant!!!!  Jeffrey Banks, who obviously, is not only in awe of this extraordinary designer and individual, but also recognizes the important contributions Norell made to the world of fashion, has written the perfect salute to one of the best fashion designers ever!

4233B022-FE3A-48A9-AE24-51CC989B481D.jpeg

Jeffrey Banks at the opening of the Norell retrospective exhibition at FIT which he guest curated

The cover, pretty much says it all (not quite you need to read every word and look at each photo and drawing….many by the extraordinarily talented Michael Vollbracht, (lucky me, I worked with Michael on several occasions as well as having had the privilege of doing many shows with Mr. Norell, huge regret that I did not have the experience of working with Jeffrey Banks but we have become friends on Facebook and I have many of his other books in my fashion library.) Putting red on a redhead, the incomparable Suzy Parker in a 1952 photograph by Milton Greene, was very forward for the time, and here she is in one of Norell signature all over sequin gowns and enveloped in a cage of red tulle….glorious glamour.

AE63173B-B854-4342-965E-4BAA791E65F4

One of Vollbracht’s immaculate drawings of an iconic mermaid gown

NORELL Master of American Fashion opens with an outstanding forward by Ralph Rucci and then broken down into brilliant chapters such as The Clothes, The History, The Leading Ladies and The Legacy, etc. The Afterword, Collecting Norell is by Kenneth Pool the renowned collector of Norell.  The end papers are closeups of the handsewn sequins. So many incredible photos, one of my favorites is on page 26 which is described as “Norell’s smart theater suit” (don’t we wish everyone dressed up when going to dinner, the theater or at all!!!) it is a camel hair jacket lined in gold pailettes over a gold pailetted dress….stunningly beautiful. You have to hold your breath as you turn each page when you discover yet another miracle of design.

IMG_1365

The sailor dress a look you saw in some form or another in most of Norell’s collections.

IMG_1364

The iconic Life Magazine photo of Mr. Norell with his four models in mermaid gowns

Pass go and go directly to your nearest independent bookseller and get this book it is one of THE best ever…I’m afraid mine will become tattered from all the use it will get, we won’t even discuss the drolling over the images and tears of remembrance of days gone by but that can be relived in Jeffrey’s perfect book and also know that if we have a Norell in our wardrobe (I still live in hope all these years later…..) that it will never go out of style  NORMAN NORELL lives on!

May I direct you to my blog post on Norman Norell from November 11, 2016 Norman Norell

Advertisements

COLLECTIONS: AMBER

image_538528506180605Raw amber

I have always been a huge fan of Amber jewelry I guess it is in my DNA…unfortunatly I only have one piece from my Father’s mother, the only thing I have of her and I never met any of my grandparents, so naturally, I treasure it.  I’ll show it to you in the post.

image_538528495398966

These three photos show you some versions of raw amber some polished a bit some just the raw stones.  Amber is fossilized tree resin and has been prized through the ages.  It is found primarily in the Baltic countries but is seen elsewhere in the world. You can find many sites on Google.  Today’s post is primarily on jewelry and one spectacular room and, of course, a couple of books for good measure!

image_538528781187146All three photos from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

My friend, Barbara Varro, collected her pieces in Poland and was kind enough to bring me several pieces throughout the years.  Here is her collection, I took the photos when I was visiting last summer in anticipation of this post.

image_538528734270966image_53852869420752image_538528705838352The necklaces in different pairings, I would wear them all together.

image_538528721822936Her amber ring collection on my finger……

image_538528468394693Some of my pieces almost always worn together, some from Barbara and others collected, over the 15 years of its existence, at Randolph Street Market

image_538528903415661

Some of the pieces I collected (wish I had gotten more for myself, I did get more pieces as gifts) on my fantastic trip to Russia in 2002.  I promise I will do a post on the trip when I can find my photos.  The top piece is lightly polished raw amber, love it, the center piece is white amber and the bottom piece is polished and probably Victorian…got that one at an antique fair in Moscow (which, by the way, was amazing!) I usually wear these as a grouping.  A Nena’s Note…each morning in Moscow we would go to a different specialty shop, one of which was all amber….extraordinary.  Each day and this was early morning for shopping, say 8ish, we were greeted by trays of small shot glasses of ice-cold vodka…8 AM…I don’t drink vodka, I know, you are saying isn’t she of Russian heritage, and yes she is!  But I don’t drink vodka, certainly not neat and at 8 AM!  Well, guess what I had to shoot the offered nectar or I would be offending our hosts, I most certainly didn’t want to cause an International incident!  Still, don’t like vodka!

image_538528976697779My faceted collection, the top piece is my Grandmother’s piece, the middle is multi-colored from St. Petersburg and the bottom piece one of my Randolph Street Market finds. I usually wear them together.

I have had a difficult time trying to find earrings that don’t have silver mountings…I do have one pair again from RSM that is multicolor dropped stones and a pair of hoops that go with my amber but are faux! Here are a couple of earrings that I would love to have.

image_538528565606838image_53852854141751

 

Aren’t they stunning!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a necklace I would love as well, wouldn’t you…..image_538528577106783The three photos are from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

image_538528633270362A necklace from the talented hands of Margaret Buckman

Information from Margaret (who was one of my first profiles, go to my archives to learn all about this talented lady!) “This piece is natural shaped beads of Tibetan amber, inset with turquoise mosaics and coral pieces.  Each side of the bead has a Chinese coin silver zodiac character, the entire bead is inlaid with silver and inset with biwa pearls.”

image_538528485931445Made especially for me by Margaret Buckman several years ago, it includes many of my broken necklaces pieces along with some from the designer.  It is a huge statement piece and I wear it often usually with my embroidered jacket from my Moscow trip.  It is one of my most favorite necklaces.

image_538533395520488

Now on to an amazing treasure, The Amber Room in Catherine’s Palace outside of St. Petersburg.  It was just being reconstructed when I was there.  The Room had been “lost” during World War II and there are many stories of what happened to it.  Most of the stories said the keepers of the Palace removed the pieces and hid them from capture from the invading Nazi’s.

image_538528762711932image_538528585061127image_538528594167856Isn’t it glorious….when I find my Russian trip photos I’ll show you it being restored. Photos from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

I have suggested two books for you, one non-fiction and one fiction, both exciting tales.  This is the book that got me into reading Steve Berry, one of my favorite authors.image_538528515077854image_538528524145195

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE PARIS SPY

imageI have been a fan of Susan Elia MacNeal since her first novel featuring our heroine, Maggie Hope, Mr. Churchill’s SecretaryThe Paris Spy was a bit heavier than her previous books and perhaps this wasn’t the time for me to read it.  It has been very gloomy in Chicago the past couple of weeks and this did not lift my mood.  That being said, it is well written, the research extensive and I greatly appreciated the addition of the books MacNeal consulted and has listed for us, for my TBR list.

We find Maggie in Paris waiting to start her assignment, as an undercover agent, from the British.  We are in the midst of the Nazi occupation of France.  Maggie has gone to France to find an operative, who hasn’t been heard from, and her half-sister, having bought her way out of a concentration camp, has gone missing.  She, of course, is on assignment to gather as much intelligence as possible and report back to London.  Her cover is that of an Irish socialite (Ireland was neutral during WWII) in Paris for her trousseau for her upcoming wedding and when “her” Louis Vuitton trunk arrives, at her safe house, she changes into her Chanel Couture (of course she does!) and goes to the Ritz, which, as we all know, is a Nazi stronghold. As she is registering at the Hotel she encounters none other than Gabrielle, Coco, Chanel who takes her under her wing.  (It seems that the last few books I have read and reviewed have referenced either Christian Dior or Chanel.)  Chanel takes Maggie, aka Paige Kelly, under her wing and actually to the ballet that evening where two of Maggie’s friends, Hugh, a former lover and his new amour, Sabine, are performing.  After the performance, they go to Maxim’s and the plot thickens. During the evening Chanel discusses her feeling for the Nazis among other things, quite shocking (read Sleeping with The Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent by Hal Vaughan and come to your own conclusions!)  I am making it sound very glamorous, it is anything but.  The story is brutal not only in the devastating occupation of France and the humiliation of the Parisians but in the actual brutality of the captors with their “guests” thankfully we are spared the worst of it, but still hard to read.

Will Maggie/Paige find who she is looking for, will we learn who the double agent is (he sides with the Germans because he “prefers Fascism to Communism” what a choice, who would want either!!!!)  The heroes of the story are the women who see things are not what they seem in transcriptions and report them only to be ignored…seriously…and they are very strong women to be sure, some things don’t change do they!.

Two passages I wanted to comment on…the first is Chanel’s remarks on page 204 Maggie has attended the Nina Ricci Couture show and encounters Chanel as both are coming back to the Ritz.  Chanel asks Maggie how she enjoyed the presentation to which Maggie responds: “I liked the red especially, but someone with my coloring (she is a redhead) really can’t wear that color.”  Chanel: “Yes, I heard there was a lot of red—and sable.  And the wedding dress?”  Maggie:  “Beautiful.  But it might be a bit much for me.  Perhaps an ivory silk suit might be better for these times.”  Chanel:  “Nonsense! We must embrace excess—especially these days!  We’re dancing on the edge of a volcano, after all…..”   Interesting ñ’est pas!

The second refers to using actors, decorators, and designer, all in the US Army, to build “fake” tanks and other equipment to fool the Nazis into thinking the Allies were where they weren’t…see pages 206-207.  This is what Bill Blass did during the war. He told me about it and said it was a great pleasure to be able to divert the German army by creating “stage sets”.  See his autobiography Bare Blass for further details on this operation.

This book gave me more information on the British spy system used during WWII than I knew or suspected and I must say I definitely didn’t expect the ending…obviously there is more to Maggie’s story to be told!  Let’s see what MacNeal has in store in book 8, I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE ESSENCE OF MALICE

imageI am a sucker for a glamorous couple involved in a mystery, aren’t you….as another of my favorite authors, Deborah Crombie, says on this books cover “Amory Ames and her rakish husband, Milo, might just be the new Nick and Nora Charles.”  One lives in hope.

I have enjoyed the first of this series of books and this one not only didn’t disappoint but gave me a bit of a respite from all the craziness of the anxious world we now live in!  Take me to Lake Como, where our story begins, or more importantly to Paris (at any time, please!!!) I always listen to music when I am reading (always have even when I was doing school homework, I must have sound at all times!!!)  I put on some of my Jazz along with some of my dear Stanley Paul’s www.stanleypaul.com playlist, which always soothes me, and read the entire book in short time.  Today I am posting listening to our treasured WFMT-FM www.WFMT.com what would we do without this station.  They are currently doing their Fall Membership Drive, do subscribe, donate, get involved with them or we shall lose our only Classical Music station, that would be horrendous….(not a paid announcement just from my heart).  Oops, I got off track, what a surprise!

While staying in Lake Como on an extended trip to the Continent, Milo receives word from his former nanny, Madame Nanette, (we get the backstory of his childhood throughout the book, much of it news to Amory) requesting his help in Paris.  Her employer, the powerful owner of a major company, dies suddenly and so the mystery begins.  Madame Nanette is certain that he has been murdered and that the murderer is in the household or perhaps one of his rivals.  Amory always loves an intrigue and this one appeals to both her and her charmer of a husband who often leaves her alone to attend gambling halls as well as nightclubs.  Amory often goes along to the clubs but gives Milo space, which in this story takes on a life of its own!  We are, of course, drawn into the intrigue until the conclusion (I must admit I thought it was someone else, as did Amory…Milo set both of us straight…).  I don’t want to do spoilers….it is definitely a fun read (can a murder mystery be “fun”, on dear!) with some twists and turns.

Why did I enjoy The Essence of Murder, I’ve mentioned a few reasons already but what I haven’t told you is that the Belanger empire at stake is the most important French perfumery and the launch of its new fragrance is imminent.  Who will inherit the company?  The daughter is the likely person, she is the logical choice since she is the only one of the three children (two boys and Cecile) who creates scents and is interested in perfume.  She has worked at her father’s side since she was a little girl.  The oldest son, Anton, a bitter young man, is the business end of the company and the younger brother, Michel, a scoundrel (I’ve always wanted use that description and in this case apt!). Helios Belanger was now married to a much younger English woman, with whom he has a young daughter, how are they involved?  Getting back to why I enjoyed the book….the story of perfume, descriptions of the fashions of the mid to late twenties, the interiors of the grand houses and grounds, parties of the time, the manners…loved it all.  In addition, I seem to be reading a lot about strong women at times that being strong and independant was a challenge, I guess one can say it is always a challenge but when we think where we are now compared to the beginning of the last century we have come a lonnnnng way but still have a long way to go, baby!

I look forward to more from Ashley Weaver www.ashleyweaver.com as she lets our heroine and rakish husband pursue other mysteries in an entertaining, elegant, stylish manner…bring it on!  Pick up the book at your Independent Bookseller pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine or cup of afternoon tea and enjoy this debonaire couple and their adventures.  Do let me know your thoughts.