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. 

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BOOKNOTES: SEPTEMBER TO BE READ LIST

16342407-F683-4D48-9B49-0F5DD55F4751I thought I’d give you a preview of some of the books I will be reviewing this month.I have SO many on my TBR list that it was difficult to choose just a few…but here goes…

I am currently reading The Masterpiece by one of my favorite authors, Fiona Davis. So far it doesn’t disappoint.  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…..I’ll post the review next week.

Next up, I’ll probably review a long over due non-fiction work by another of my favorites, Julia Reed, South Toward Home. I always love her books and her other writings….informative, funny, and very, very well written I never want to finish her books and that is a compliment….I think we are in for a good read. 1CBA0F19-D464-40C9-A7EC-151F444932BF

Torn by which of these titles to read next….maybe The Dinner List, intriguing to me and hopefully to you since that is one of the questions I ask each of my nenasnotes Profile guests to answer…”who would you have, living or dead, to your dinner party?”  Should be a fun read

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Or maybe I’ll switch gears and go with another author whose works I enjoy, Natasha Solomon’s and her House of Gold.  Another historical piece set in Austria and England during the World War I era.  You know I love any story set in England and that time period….we shall see!  61A9BA18-7F9F-4A8B-B80E-227AD207A6AA

Of course I need to re-read Bonnie Cashin Chic Is Where You Find It by the Uber talented, Stephanie Lake, who is joining this month’s nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and then read what looks like a stunning addition to the Christian Dior oeuvre Dior and His Decorators by Maureen Footer, this is the October selection for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club.

 

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Stay tuned for my reviews on each (go to the nenasnotes Archives for my review on the Bonnie Cadhin book).  As the song says….the beat goes on, or should I say the books go on and on and on…..

This post is underwritten by an anonymous sponsor.  Contact me for sponsorship opportunities. 

PROFILE: JEFFREY BANKS–GENTLEMAN CREATOR

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The exciting world of Social Media brought me to Jeffrey Banks.  I have, of course, admired his work forever, first and still as a designer and then and now as an author. I got to Jeffrey through Facebook accounts from our mutual friend, the multi-talented, Michael Vollbracht who I did have the pleasure of knowing and working with…I did a blog post recently just following his untimely death.  I am posting this Profile of Jeffrey, who graciously agree to do my nenasnotes questionnaire, on the day of Michael’s Memorial Service in New York.

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Michael Vollbracht’s delightful work as a student at Parson’s where he won the Norman Norell Award, Mr. Norell was not able to present the award instead it was presented by Bill Blass who became a lifelong friend of Michael’s and who designed the Blass Collection after Mr. Blass’ death.  I bet they are now very busy designing the robes for the angels!

Last week Jeffrey delighted my nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club group, via conference call, with reminiscences of the unsurpassed designer Norman Norell as recounted in Jeffrey’s exquisite book NORELL: Master of American Design. Jeffrey’s books are as well done as his design work, all perfection.

Thank you, Jeffrey Banks, for joining my blogging adventure and for sharing your insight into the world of fashion via your exceptional books…you can be sure I will call upon you to chat again in the very near future to discuss another of your books….let’s see which one shall be next….stay tuned!!

Want to hear more about this unique creator…read on in Jeffrey’s own words……

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WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB
My first job was at age 15 selling Men’s clothing at Britches of Georgetown . I loved it and on my very first day sold more than any of the seasoned professional salesman did combined.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION
Unfortunately, it seems to be planning memorial services for friends.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
I always loved to draw, and at a very young age thought that I might become an artist. That was until I found out that most of the artists that I admired did not achieve success or fame during their lifetimes, so at the tender age of 10 I decided to become a designer. The reasoning being that I would know rather instantly whether the things that I designed had struck a cord with the public….or not!
Baby JB
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” 
I think it was the day after the night I won my first Coty Award and I was with my Mother at Bergdorf’s on the up escalator and two guys were going down on the down escalator and I heard them say as we sailed passed …” Oh look, there’s designer, Jeffrey Banks!”
Coty Awards 1982
                                                         Coty Award winner 1982
Mom and I at the Coty Awards September 23rd, 1982
Coty Awards 1982 Cover Invite
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HOW YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
I feel so lucky that my original passion for fashion has allowed me to make a living, branch out to books, go on television, teach, and meet so many of the people I most admired in the world. I feel very fortunate.
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All in Norman Norell…..Lynn Revson one of the biggest collectors of Norell.
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WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
There really wasn’t an alternate choice at the time. But, as I love photography so much, I would have to say, Art Director.
YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT
Favorite Book : A Private View by Irene Mayer Selznick  ( a great read on early Hollywood by Louis B. Mayer’s daughter )
Favorite Movie: Funny Face ( it’s got it all : Fashion, Paris, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy, Gershwin, Avedon)…who could ask for anything more ? 
Theater: Anything Sondheim !
Ballet: Anything Balanchine !
Opera: Anything Directed by Bartlett Sher
I love show tunes , Streisand, and Adele
My favorite restaurant is Union Square Cafe 
HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC
Mostly modern, clean white with some antiques in bleached pine. I work with color all day long so I need an absence of color at home,
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE 
Fred Astaire, George Gershwin, Michelle and Barack Obama, Audrey Hepburn and Rob Wolders, Hubert de Givenchy, Bruce Weber, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Jeffrey Banks, Diahann Carroll would be the guests. 
I would serve my Risotto with Carmelized Onions and Figs with a side salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with a Shallot, Dijon Mustard, and Honey Vinaigrette (see recipe below). For Starters: Baked Brie with Honey, Brandy and Walnuts. For dessert, Assorted Gelatos

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST 
London, is my favorite city after NY and I love Italy, especially Florence, Tuscany and Venice. Love to discover (and re-discover) great museums and try new restaurants.In London, Theater and Shopping is everything for me! 
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING MOST IN YOUR FREE TIME? FAVORITE WORK  OF PUBLIC ART
I LOVE to read (books and magazines ) especially biographies. I love going through The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection here in NY. 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED
As a kind person, loyal to his friends.
                               THANK YOU AND BRAVO JEFFREY BANKS, BRAVO!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF JEFFREY BANKS WITH EXCEPTION OF THE BOOK COVERS, TAKEN FROM GOOGLE PHOTOS.
                                              ELEANOR BANKS’ MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

 

1 lb Ground Chuck

1/2 lb Pork Sausage

1 Medium Small Onion (chopped finely)

1/2 Green Pepper  (chopped finely)

2-3 Spines of Celery (chopped finely)

3/4 cup Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Celery Salt

2 Cans Hunts Tomato Sauce

Combine all ingredients mix very well with 1 can of tomato sauce.  Shape loaf in lightly greased Pyrex pan.  Take other can of tomato sauce and mix with 1/2 can water and set aside.  Place loaf in pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.  After 1/2 hour reduce heat to 325 and bake loaf for additional 40 minutes.  Pour off excess fat and baste with tomato sauce that was set aside.

              JEFFREY BANKS’ HONEY, SHALLOT, DIJON MUSTARD  VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 large shallot, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

 



 

BOOK NOTES: THE ROMANOV EMPRESS

D656140D-AC78-4BC6-8863-CCDFB8346F1AI must begin this review by saying I am most certainly not a fan of the current Russian regime, in fact I am appalled by it.  I was fortunate to visit this extraordinary country and meet its gracious people in 2002 (I will do blog posts on the amazing trip in the future) when it was just learning to embrace its new “freedom” from Communism, well, I’m afraid, that was short lived.  Since I’m not a political commentator nor do I like to express negativity in my posts, I shall not bore you with my opinions on how I feel about the Russian government and its involvement in our affairs, but rather turn to the grandeur of the Romanov’s in the 19th century and their ultimate demise.

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Tsarina Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)

I found The Romanov Empress to be a fascinating read from cover to cover.  The detailed research done by C. W. Gortner is extraordinary.  He has, changed some dates and anglicized many of the Russian names, but I felt, having read a lot about the time of Nicholas II and Alexandra and, of course their execution but not much about his parents, he gave us a precise story.  I have always been fascinated by Russian history and by now you are aware of my passion for historical novels….this detailed intriguing story did not disappoint me, in fact it makes me want to find more novels and non-fiction about this period in time. I was aware of the intermarriage of the European royals, but this telling put these marriages in perspective. The world, in all ways, was at a major turning point and now, a century plus years later, is still in turmoil. Can we change our destinies, I doubt it, but shouldn’t we learn from history or are we destined to keep making mistakes!!!!  Oops, seems a bit deep doesn’t it….perhaps Tzarist thinking!  Let’s get to our story….

It is basically a love story of a man and woman who happen to rule Russia and their children and their children’s children.  It is also the story of a very strong woman, “Minnie” (the Tsarina), who was instrumental, to a great extent, in forward thinking of women’s rights as well as preserving, above all else, the Romanov dynasty, which she supported, in all ways, until the very end. We learn about her sister’s marriage to Bertie, The Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria, the Russian court, exquisite descriptions of the social protocol of the time, the fashion, much from Charles Frederick Worth, the art, the jewelry, oh the jewelry, and, of course, the palaces.  And mostly the pride in upholding the centuries of Romanov rule and then seeing this regime destroy itself….so very sad!  Do I recommend the book, yes, yes and yes.
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Tsar Alexander III, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

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St. Petersburg late 1900’s

I will definitely read more of Gortner’s novels, I’m considering his Mademoiselle Chanel as an upcoming nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club selection

This post is generously underwritten by an anonymous sponsor who is an avid reader. My everlasting gratitude.  Contact me for sponsorship opportunities. 

Photos found on a Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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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 NOW: PARIS HAUTE COUTURE 3 GUO PEI

 

71CEFBE2-F208-45F7-A67F-DABD6F6A3471I wanted to talk about a designer I’m sure isn’t familiar to many of you, unless, of course you obsessed over the exquisite gown Rihanna wore to the 2015 Met Gala, China: Through The Looking Glass…that designer is GUO PEI.  Based in China, her Haute Couture collections in Paris are always beyond spectacular.  Often compared to Alexander McQueen and John Galliano she shows pieces that are, in my opinion, works of art.

B7343817-BFC5-437C-9124-84DB0D70B260In the Met exhibition, China: Through The Looking Glass.

Pieces from the recent Fall 2018 Haute Couture Collection inspired by the current Met Fashion exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

 

Pieces from past collections….beyond description..

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If you love blue and white porcelain…how about this…

Guo Pei : Runway - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Spring Summer 2017
PARIS, FRANCE – JANUARY 25: Carmen Dell’Orefice walks the runway during the Guo Pei Spring Summer 2017 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 25, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)
2010 China Fashion Week - 'Rosestudio' Guo Pei High Class Fashion Show
BEIJING, CHINA – NOVEMBER 6: (CHINA OUT) Model Carmen Dell’ Orefice walks the runway in the ‘Rosestudio’ Guo Pei High Class Fashion Show 2010 during China Fashion Week on November 6, 2009 in Beijing, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Known for dressing China’s elite, her first collection “One Thousand and Two Nights”  in November 2009 featured Carmel Dell’ Orefice, seen in the photo above, wearing the show stopping Costume with its train carrying attendants, a design star was born  In addition, she has designed for the Chinese cinema to award winning reviews.

A book, you bet….

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A movie, sure….the documentary coming soon….

72466B09-D35E-4649-BC0B-9CDB57851A8F9BA7C405-21BF-4658-ADDE-518134759605The designer in her Salon.  I suggest we all keep our eyes out for what is next for GUO PEI!  I personally can’t wait!!!!

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown unless indicated.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ANOTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

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I happen to be a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and, as you know, I am also a big fan of fiction based on reality….so, of course, I was drawn to this novel.  I was not disappointed.  Truly an enjoyable read. The author, Sally Koslow, has used our protagonist, gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham’s, diaries, memoirs, interviews and letters to tell this story of their love affair.

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The beginning of the book explores Graham’s childhood (reads like a Dickens novel, but worse) her time in England, her journey to the States and her transformation into a writer. Fascinating stuff, to say the least. She was a rival to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, all competing to get the scoop on the newest who was “seen with whom”!  Her meeting with Fitzgerald, whose writing career wasin decline and who is trying to eke out a living writing scripts for movies in the ‘30’s, not to much success, is Kismet. His alcoholism is definitely a contributing factor to his writing slump. This affliction also contributes to the ups, major, and downs, also major, of this star crossed affair. While Sheilah (Fitzgerald always misspells her name, Shielah, similar to a gentleman friend of mine, Nina…done to annoy, or just don’t know or care, I wonder….).

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Of course, Zelda and Scottie are always a huge part of the scenario, divorce is not in the picture and Scottie is at Vassar so not a frequent visitor. The love between Fitzgerald and Graham is intense, heaven when he is sober, tragic when he is drunk. He writes his last, unfinished, some consider his best work, The Last Tycoon, 1940 just before his death based on his Hollywood years and his time with Sheilah.

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I must admit I want to reread all his work as well as hers, especially Beloved Infidel, 1959, which I read when it was first published.

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I think you will enjoy their story, I know I did.  As usual, I recommend you support your local bookseller, mine is The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois

                  This post is generously supported by an anonymous sponsor. 

FASHION FLASHBACK, FASHION NOW, FASHION ALWAYS: BOB MACKIE

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

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

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A sketch for proposed costumes in The Cher Show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ISLAND OF THE MAD

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

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

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

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

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

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.