Look what I just got…..The Book Stall Newsletter Literary Community Bulletin Board featuring nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club
I’m beyond speechless….so honored and thrilled.

“The Book Stall is pleased to host this Literary Community Bulletin Board. Any news of interest to readers and writers? Send your information to Robert at with “Literary Community Bulletin Board” in the subject line. Note: The Book Stall reserves editorial privilege.cropped-nenas-notes_updated-header1 image

Tuesday, March 28

5:30 – 7 pmcd569db3-a6cc-4f68-8e1e-85330a1a95a1 image

Host Nena Ivon talks with author Alexis Romano about her new book, Prêt-À-Porter, Paris and Women: A Cultural Study of French Readymade Fashion, 1945-1968. Nenasnotes: The Fashion Book Club (TFBC) is a monthly virtual gathering, meeting the fourth Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 pm, to discuss all manner of fashion and lifestyle books, and features fascinating authors in conversation with the founder of TFBC, Nena Ivon, and a thoroughly engaged audience. See its website here.

TFBC will celebrate its sixth year in June 2023. Since it’s inception, The Book Stall has been TFBC Independent Bookseller of choice. The monthly fee is $25. For further information please contact Nena at Mention The Book Stall in your email to Nena and you can attend your first program for free!”


A peek at a small sampling of my fashion books.

I have been collecting fashion books since high school so needless to say a very long time! I followed fashion magazines long before that…I come from a family of magazine lovers, as well as major bibliophiles! so no surprise. This is the first fashion book I got, I decided to go downtown after school, actually Michigan Avenue, to my favorite bookseller at the time, Main Street Book Store, mid-1950’s, to get the book. I talked Mom into joining me and we could then meet Daddy for supper at one of our favorite restaurants, A Bit Of Sweden….their smorgasbord was perfection….loved it.

Since that time, both establishments are long gone, my fashion library has grown to around 1000 tomes! I have most of them listed on the fabulous site, LibraryThing they also have an app. I still have many more to add. It’s truly a full time job! As you know I have hosted a monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club since 2018, you do the math as to how many I’ve added in 5 1/2 years! I do add those as I get them and have them all together. Just a note on how I house these books…I have them either by designer…think Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent…or by theme such as Hollywood Costumes, French Designers, American Designers, Monographs, Novels, Biographies, Autobiographies, Anthologies…you get the idea. I have many first editions, many signed and many personalized. One of my treasures is a Godey’s Lady’s Book given to me by a dear friend…I found it in a vintage bookstore in Stratford, Canada.

Everywhere I go I seek out bookstores or antique shops and have found lots of treasures. I have also found several at our own Randolph Street Market (it’s celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year at its season opening May 27th and 28th).

I’m hoping to house the collection at the Chicago History Museum in their research center. I want to leave it as a collection…if I find they aren’t interested I’ll seek another institution. Perhaps a fashion school. Need to do more research on that.

Now let’s look at what’s ahead for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club…as usual, for most months, I’ll be in conversation with the authors. All via zoom.

APRIL 2023

MAY 2023

JUNE 2023


Met Museum Exhibition Book


All the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club selections are available at my partner Independent Bookseller I’m always open to book suggestions and be sure to stay tuned for upcoming reviews on these selections….happy fashionable reading!!!!!


When I was asked by a dear friend to read and review a book by one of her close friends I, of course, said it would be my pleasure. It put me in an awkward situation…what if I didn’t like it! You, dear followers, know I don’t do negative reviews and I only read what I like…rarely non-fiction…unless the subject is fashion or lifestyle for all my nenasnotes research and events. For pleasure I prefer historical fiction. Well, guess what…I loved this book! And it fits into my lifestyle genre perfectly. You see the author is a renowned interior decorator…the stars were now aligned! There is SO much information included (I’ll get to that shortly!) that I read it twice, I don’t remember doing that before. Its a story about a creator…a lesson in self awareness and self preservation….a travelogue….anything but your usual memoir, it’s a very powerful story.

I want to share the joie de vivre John has for survival…for life! Sharing his incredible story is a journey more fiction than fact but guess what…it is the story of his life and one we can all learn from. It’s inspirational….it’s inspiring…it should be depressing it is anything but…it’s a MUST read!!!!

The author, John Robert Wiltgen

Okay let’s get to the unbelievable story John tells us. The song, “I’m Still Here” from Follies should be the subtitle of this amazing life. John begins at the beginning…his childhood, filled with adventure which continues to this day. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8 a fact he managed to keep hidden much of his life. As a child and a teenager he was quite rebellious, in a fun way, he started working while in high school at a paint company where he rose to an executive positions, still in his teens, he never told anyone his age…the writing was on the wall for his future career. Loved reading about his time at Ray Vogue College of Design, I worked with the students for many years and Mrs. Ray was a very unique personality! He lived in a Chicago suburb and, as an under age teen, loved disco dancing and would come to Chicago with his close friends to frequent the major discos such as FACES (I spent many an evening there!). He and his friends would practice for hours in his basement apartment in his parents home. They were so good they became the dance floor stars…in my minds eye I picture John Travolta!

Much later with friends and John Travolta!

The book doesn’t sugar coat (sorry, I shouldn’t mention sugar but it seemed appropriate!) when John describes his ongoing battle with the unbelievable complications of Type 1 Diabetes. He has had so many that it could read like a horror story, instead it is done in such a straightforward positive way that you know he hasn’t and won’t let anything stop him from living life fully! He presents his many, many, many challenges along side his interests, cars for an example, travel, the arts and his love for them, his philanthropic endeavors, his love for family and friends and, of course, his extraordinary interior design business. Here are a couple photos of his glorious designs…I could just do a post on photos from his extensive career. One of my favorite sections in the book and I do have many favorites is his time in Nigeria working with the King!

John’s worldwide interiors have been featured in many shelter magazines and numerous TV programs…awards were inevitable and more than well deserved.
He has always loved anything Egyptian…here the foyer from one of his own homes.
Known for his imaginative bathrooms and kitchens, this is one of my favorites.

Speaking of family…how many can say that all members of their family would be a match if you needed a kidney and your mother said, no, I’m donating mine…talk about a mother’s love! John’s support team through the years has sustained him along with his feeling of what’s next in life and always seeking a cure and an end to this life threatening disease. He not only takes his mother to Venice but also to The Academy Awards and many other special once in a lifetime events through the years.

John takes his Mother to one of the balls in Venice, one of his most favorite cities ….(John is in the gold mask)!

Along the way he has designed for celebrity clients, done show houses, model rooms….again the list goes on….and won zillions of awards not only for his designs but also for his philanthropy.

With Jane Seymour at a showing of her art which John hosted in Chicago..

In conclusion what are my take aways from this beautifully written story of a survivor… many things but let me narrow it down. John tackles each challenge in his fight against this dreadful disease…one day at a time, one horrific devastating outcome…one day at a time with grit, determination and, yes, humor. What should be a depressing book is anything but because of the author’s joie de vivre and positive attitude. You will learn so much about Type 1 Diabetes and be inspired to join the fight to find a cure as well as how to handle your own day to day issues. My last words….get the book, it will be published on June 22nd, you won’t be disappointed and by reading it you will be delighted to welcome John as a new fascinating multi-layered friend.

A quote from the book “Type 1 diabetes and I tackled one disaster after another. It can be a harsh lifestyle causing both physical and emotional devastation. Out of desperation, I embraced every new treatment hoping for even a shred of relief.”

From the book jacket.



By now you know I’m obsessed with books! Here just a tiny sampling of my fashion books. I’ve been collecting them since high school. Since we are about to start year five of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club lots more have been added…many signed by the authors I’ve had in conversation. I know I’ve done other posts on my fashion books so won’t bore you again, I just wanted to call attention to todays bookseller celebration. It’s SO important to support our local businesses. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in the world that I have sought out a bookstore and I know I’ve never left with out a purchase or two or……My bookseller of choice, again not a surprise to you is The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois. They are THE best.

Keep reading and actual hold a book in your hands…it’s a good addition!


By now you know my favorite books are historical fiction and you probably also know I am obsessed with anything New York City so when both things come together you can only imagine my delight!

I have been a huge fan of Fiona Davis since I read her first book The Dollhouse why you might ask, simply because she delves into the total story behind each NYC landmark building she features as the lead character and then, here comes the fun part, weaves a story around that building’s beginnings and characters (some historical others fictional) of that time and then brings us to modern times. I am not usually a fan of going back and forth in time but Davis does it with such transparently that it works to perfection.

I must admit I haven’t had much time recently to read for pleasure, my reading has been relegated to books I am featuring on my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. I did, however, want to dive into her new book THE MAGNOLIA PALACE, and I’m beyond delighted I did. Pure escapism! I’m not going to spoil the story for you but I do what to give you a brief overview of the landmark she has chosen this time….The Frick Collection! It happens to be one of my favorite places anywhere. At the moment it is being refreshed and renovated and the Collections are on display at The Frick Madison. One of the things that I looked forward to each week, during our COVID lockdown, and hung on every word, was their brilliant virtual series Cocktails With A Curator….You can see it on YouTube, you won’t be sorry.

But I digress, I always seem to do that, sorry! Back to the book, it follows two protagonists, one, Lillian Carter, in 1919 and the other, Veronica Weber, in 1966. Both happen to be models, Lillian an artists model and Veronica a fashion model (those story lines were, of course, right up my alley). But the main character, is The Frick itself! What I like most about Davis’ writing, as I mentioned before is, her deep dive into the history of each of her chosen landmarks, her detailed research is truly, in my opinion, her strength. Sure the characters stories are captivating, but the story of The Frick (or Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, etc.) is what fascinates me and makes me excited for her next story and makes me want to visit my second favorite city (Chicago will always come first!) as soon as possible.

Just a pretty fountain, in front of The Plaza in NYC, perhaps…read the book to find out more!
The Frick Collection in Spring

Setting the story in two totally different times gives us yet another dimension to consider…obviously everything changes from etiquette, to buildings, to fashion, to food…the list goes on. BUT what doesn’t change is how we appreciate and NEED art in our lives. Henry Clay Frick was a major collector of European art, sculpture, furniture and objects. His daughter, Helen Clay Frick, continued the collecting after her father’s death as well as made it her life’s work to continue his vision. The building, originally their family home, became the museum it is today. It is kept very much like a home, an ultra splendid home, with the art hung in various rooms and you indeed feel as if you are a guest in someone’s masterpiece…the home becoming yet another part of the story!

Henry Clay Frick and his daughter Helen Clay Frick
The Fragonard Room my favorite.
The mansion turned museum

I’m so eager to have you read this engaging story of the mansion and what is what like at its beginning with a man’s vision and his devoted daughter’s desire to keep his legacy alive for all of us to treasure. I can’t wait to see it when it reopens its splendor to us! I say a field trip is in order, perhaps Fiona will join us on our tour!!! Enjoy the fabulousness of The Frick Collection and what might have happened inside its walls…


To celebrate Black History Month….in fact every month, I wanted to share some books by and about Black fashion designers and other Black fashion/beauty/lifestyle influencers. I’m very happy to say it is a long list and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. In today’s post I’m going to feature two of the fashion designers. This is a diverse group of creators and they span three centuries. At a time when we seem to be in a “cancel culture” mode I want to upset that notion….I am a FIRM believer that we must know history….the good, the bad, the ugly….to understand our world, how to not make the same mistakes, how to grow and improve…and how to maintain the positive! I can’t even comprehend the absurdity of banning books…talk about going backward, how can we learn without all opinions! Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox…my blog has and will continue to be a safe zone from the politics of the day.

Here we go….I’m going to begin with the first Black designer of note, Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln and Washington DC socialites. Her story is beyond fascinating, born into slavery she bought her freedom through her dressmaking…extraordinary. There are several books about her, an autobiography, a biography and several novels, I would suggest all of them. Here is a story that needs to be absorbed and, in my opinion is as important as the beginning of Haute Couture and Charles Worth. What makes that a comparison is the period of time when they were creating. Everyone knows about The House of Worth…in my humble opinion, now is the time, long over due, to shine the spotlight on Elizabeth Keckley! An amazing grouping of books, I’m sure you agree…all worthy of additions to your fashion library.

Next, let’s explore the relatively unknown creator of Jacqueline Bouvier’s gown when she married Jack Kennedy, Ann Cole Lowe! Lowe not only produced an extraordinary bridal gown (under the patronage of Joseph Kennedy!) but the gowns for the entire wedding party. Already a known designer for New York and Washington movers and shakers….Ann Lowe was not credited for these gowns! I am featuring two books, the only two I could find, keep you eyes out for a novel to be published on June 22, 2022, the last image

I featured a book by Petra Slinkard in my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club….both these designers are highlighted in this extraordinary book…another to add to your library

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Books…Books…Books: Black Fashion Designer Books posts next week. Lots more to explore.


By now you know my obsession with books…I’ve had it since childhood, I wasn’t able to participate in gym activities in my elementary school and spent that time in my Evanston, Illinois, Oakton school, in the library…I was in Heaven. I had been exposed to books from infancy and lord knows I’m WAY beyond that now. Finding new books is a passion and those who know me well feed that interest. You also know I host a monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and have featured many exciting books on the intricacies of the genre. In addition, I never do negative reviews, what would be the point. I am, therefore, fascinated when a subject, or in this case, a personality comes to my attention that is totally new to me, my antenna goes up! When my dear friend, the Renaissance Man and member of TFBC, Jeffrey Banks, tells me I need to know about a book, I listen! Today’s review is such a book and when you give just a bit of thought you might think it ironic that I’m featuring it. I am, indeed, featuring it because it is a superbly written account of an amazing woman who at the beginning of the 20th Century truly set the standard for specialized service in retail. Let’s learn a bit about Carrie in the riveting story written by her grand niece, Jerrie Marcus Smith, whose father was Stanley Marcus!

Carrie Marcus Neiman, along with her husband and brother, had a dream, no, a vision, early in the 1900’s to create a specialty store devoted to service. Let’s turn our thoughts back to 1907 and visualize, if we can, what opportunities presented themselves to women…not many. This didn’t, for an instant, stop Carrie from creating a store that would cater to not only the new wealthy women but to any women who wanted style and individual attention.

Think about it very carefully, a women in her 20’s with no formal training, Jewish, married and divorced who would create the first specialty store and become its CEO…just imagine! Also envision Dallas, Texas in the early days of the new century…certainly not the Metropolis it is today….never mind, Carrie wanted to offer the high fashion of New York and Paris and offer it she did in what became the arbiter of style, Neiman Marcus!

She not only brought the fashion capitals to Dallas, she also brought her special clients to those capitals where she outfitted them head to toe. She had an eye and instinct that her clients trusted and depended upon for all their wardrobe needs. It wasn’t long before Carrie and Neiman Marcus became highly respected in the New York and Paris fashion salons which she regularly frequented. She produced fashion shows in the Store and was instrumental in creating their legendary Christmas Catalog, which we all eagerly look forward to each year. She along with Stanley Marcus started, in 1938, The Neiman Marcus Awards for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion Service which became known as the Oscars of the world of fashion!

She was quiet and unassuming but don’t let that fool you, she knew exactly what would be becoming to each individual. (A Nenas Note….those of you who know me know I’m not found of the term “Influencer” I’ll break that feeling by saying, I would consider Carrie one of our first Influencers!)

The book is truly a love letter exquisitely written by Carrie’s grandniece, Jerrie Marcus Smith, you will want to savor each and every word and let your eyes feast on the fabulous photographs which include an insight into Carrie’s home which was as enticing as her store. Do get the book, enjoy it and add it to your library. And, by the way, Jerrie and her daughter, Allison V. Smith, will join me in conversation about the book for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club on February 22nd…it will be a not to be missed event!

Jerrie Marcus Smith

Photos from the book which will be published on November 30th available now for pre-order….it would make a perfect Holiday gift, not only for the fashionista in your life but also for those, on your list, who are interested in family histories, it is a gem!


The Vienna New Year’s Day Concert.

Every year, for as long as PBS has broadcast them (since 1959) I have watched the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. This year’s was, like everything else, quite different and somewhat strange due to the continuing pandemic. The Vienna Philharmonic played, exquisitely led by our own Riccardo Muti, in the glorious Wiener Musikverein.

Maestro Riccardo Muti

The difference was the orchestra played to an empty hall but had millions of us watching and listening to this annual tradition, now hosted by Hugh Bonneville, who was in the UK. The broadcast will be repeated, in Chicago on WTTW, this Sunday, January 3. It has just been announced that Daniel Barenboim will conduct the 2022 Concert.

Johann Strauss II

This years program was, as usual, mostly Strauss, some of my most favorite music. Why you might ask…from the time I was very young, actually I could say from birth, I was exposed to many types of music in my home. I have always liked classical music, as did my parents…you by now know my taste, in just about everything (including my brain!), is very eclectic that continues in my music choices. At an early age I became obsessed with music boxes and asked Santa for one that played a Strauss waltz. Santa always delivered my wishes and I got a quite charming Swiss music box playing the Strauss waltz, Tales From The Vienna Woods, composed in 1868.

Here is the top of my very old music box which, by the way, still plays!!!! I played it every night to lull me to sleep after Daddy either read me a beloved story or told me his own stories….loved those most of all!!!! Through the ensuing years I always have sound on, when working, reading, doing nothing at all, and even all night. It is truly the background to my life.

The beginnings of music boxes can be traced to Switzerland in 1796 and were small enough to be carried in a pocket, like a watch and often contained a timepiece. The music box as we know it became extremely popular in the mid 1800’s.

A stunning music box

Also, Automatons became highly prized and are now quite collectible

Remember the Monkey Automaton in Phantom of the Opera, it was a pivotal part of the story. He plays the hauntingly beautiful “Masquerade”.

I have, obviously, just scratched the surface of this fascinating subject (perhaps more in-depth research and a second post is in order!) and have mixed several stories in one post….but as I said my thoughts take many, many different directions and I don’t see that changing in this New Year! Stay tuned to see what I’ll explore next!

You knew I’d leave you with a suggested book or two….

All images from Pinterest photo credits unknown. Image of my music box taken with my iPhone.


BRIDGERTON the new NETFLIX series.

First of all a confession, I have never, to my knowledge, read a Romance Novel. No Barbara Cartland, no Harlequin, and no Julia Quinn. That statement will, probably need some research, to see exactly what a romance novel really is. In my mind’s eye it is the bodice ripping damsels, shirtless rogues gracing the covers of said books, perhaps I’m wrong! For an example in other genres Louise Penny is often listed in Cozy Mystery round ups…I don’t think of her fabulous books as “cozy” but that’s just me!

Well you might ask why am I doing this post…the answer is I have become addicted to the newseries BRIDGERTON on NETFLIX (FYI this isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not fortunate enough to have sponsors, with the New Year approaching maybe that will change….I live in hope!). I must admit I am totally enjoying it.

Why, for several reasons which I will get into in a minute. Let me begin at the beginning with the first episode. I started watching because I am a major Anglophile and enjoy most English period pieces. The Regency period intrigues me with its manners, clothing, interiors, gardens, etc. again more later. We all know this has been an extremely challenging year and I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas which all of a sudden arrived. I usually go to a new movie on Christmas Day with friends, obviously this wasn’t happening this year but there were lots of choices to watch (read this as what to stream) and I choose BRIDGERTON. Almost immediately I said to myself, “this seems to be a live action romance novel and I seem to be enjoying it!” I needed something pretty to look at, I certainly found that and with “romance” thrown in. Is it a bit silly, sure, does it draw you in, yep, do you want to know how the characters evolve, absolutely. This isn’t WAR AND PEACE, it’s an escapist fantasy.

Now for some of the interiors, not necessary period authentic (think the Kristen Durst Marie Antoinette film, hardly correct but totally delightful).

The costumes identify the characters (that is the point after all!)….the socially established, understatement and soft colors and the nouveau riche, bold color and pattern.

Lots of feathers, fans, fluttering, flirty, fainting…manners, etiquette, duels, balls, court intrigue…marrying well (usually to improve the family’s fortune), gossip, lots of gossip, it has it all. It most certainly isn’t a documentary, just a fun interlude in our current very dismal year. Watch it for the fun of it and perhaps you too might become a Romance Novel convert!

Photos courtesy Pinterest photo credit unknown. Mostly still from NETFLIX.



Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Trish McEvoy, Jo Malone, The Kardashians, Pat McGrath, Madame C.J. Walker….the list goes on…are all familiar, extremely successful, innovative women in the beauty business.  Make-up, skin care and well being have been with us through the centuries and are multi-billion dollar contributors to the International economy.  That being said if we look back to the early twentieth century we would find a mostly male dominated industry until two women changed all that….Elizabeth Arden and today’s subject, Helena Rubenstein.

Today’s review is HELENA RUBENSTEIN, THE ADVENTURE OF BEAUTY, published by Flammarion.  It is dividend into seven chapters, (each written by a different author, a brilliant concept), has a detailed biography, list of exhibition works and a bibliography along with a magnificent collection of photographs, many published for the first time.  Is it a scholarly book, yes, but it reads like the best of fiction…that being a real life and one that was well lived. I must admit I don’t do negative reviews primarily because I don’t finish a book if it isn’t interesting to me…this one fills all my requirements for a successful book.

It gives us an extraordinary in-depth look at a self made person who believed in the beauty, not only of her clients, but of art, fashion, jewels and most importantly the beauty of wellbeing.

Born in 1872 in Krakow, Poland the cosmetic titan, art patron, fashionista died in 1965 in New York City (she was buried in Yves Saint Laurent Couture).  She immigrated to Australia in 1896 and makes her own beauty cream copying one her mother gave her, she launches the cream in 1901 and it is an instant success.  She follows this success with opening the first of her beauty salons.

I really enjoyed the detailed timelines at the beginning of the book and since my space is limited for this review, my focus is on the chapter Helena Rubenstein and Fashion.

Barely five feet tall she wore Couture, first from Worth, Jacques Doucet and Paul Poiret to Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, of course, Chanel and Schiaparelli…all of whom she befriended. Her stature belied what we think of as the ideal fashion figure.  Her taste, style and self confidence made her thin and six feet tall. Her feeling for why she dressed to perfection “I have to look good for the business.”

No detail escaped her discerning eye and she collected Couture the same way she collected jewelry, usually large pieces, art and homes, only the best would do.

Included in this chapter is a piece entitled “Why I Love Jewels” a hand written document in her archives…in my opinion, a masterwork and I quote the last line, “Yes, jewels are indeed a girl’s best friend, not, necessarily because of their value — which helps — but because they lend the ‘just right’ note to a woman’s femininity and individuality.”

One has to admire Rubenstein’s joie de vivre and her entrepreneurial ambition.  I highly recommend the book, fascinating, engaging and insightful.

Nena Ivon, nenasnotes, original review, February 2020, exclusively for The Fashion Map  

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