BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: CELEBRATING INDEPENDENT BOOK SELLERS DAY!

A PEEK AT MY BOOK NOOK/OFFICE!

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!

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: THE MAGNOLIA PALACE

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…

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: BLACK FASHION DESIGNER BOOKS PART 1

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.

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: A GIRL NAMED CARRIE

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!

SATURDAY MUSINGS: MUSIC BOXES AND STRAUSS WALTZES

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. https://youtube.com/watch?v=Og3joyCntrI&feature=share

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.

MONDAY MUSINGS: ROMANCE NOVELS

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.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: HELENA RUBINSTEIN, THE ADVENTURE OF BEAUTY

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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  

Please support my Independent Bookseller of choice The Book Stall

My book reviews are funded.  Interested in sponsorship opportunities please contact me at nenasnotes1@gmail.com.  

COLLECTION TRENDS: BOARD GAMES

 

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Recently I have found myself wanting to play board games…is this a summer thing…no, I think a year round thing! While visiting friends at their county cottage a few weeks ago, I found they love to spend weekend evenings entertaining friends, after a divine home cooked supper, playing board games. Imagine actually sitting with “real” people at a table and moving game pieces, tossing dice, stretching your brain and enjoying a giggle or two or three!! We have gotten so use to playing games on our gaming systems or on our tech devices…think PacMan, Candy Crush, Words With Friends, Jeopardy, the list goes on and on and grows daily…let alone the zillion versions of solitaire (I’ll address card games and collecting decks of cards in another post!) we are losing the camaraderie of being with people. Well, that is true of so much of today’s culture isn’t it!! How modern to enjoy the challenges the many versions of board games give us.

Let’s look at their history and then talk about what you might find at the monthly Randolph Street Market….who knows! Board games have been found in Egyptian tombs and, as shown at the top of this post, painted on the walls of the tombs. They can be traced back 6000 years. Senet, as shown in this fresco and in the painting below, dates to around 3500 BC.

Backgammon originated in Persia 5000 years ago. Chess, Pachisi from India. And The Royal Game of Ur, the oldest game known with surviving original rules, is over 2000 years old.

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The Royal Game of Ur

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Hounds and Jackals from 13th Dynasty Egypt.

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Snakes and Ladders began as an ancient Indian game still widely played today.

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A modern Snakes and Ladders…

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As a child I loved all games, most especially Monopoly….we certainly did not want to land in “Jail” but rather acquire the most prestigious real estate….what could be more fun. There are dozens of versions of this one of the all time best selling board games. Conceived and patented as The Landlords Game in 1903 by a feminist, Lizzie Magie (she wasn’t credited with creating Monopoly). Here is the original patented design….

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And the original design for Monopoly….1935.

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Monopoly - car on Park Place with hotel

Books….

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And other games….
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Photos, taken by me, of a few of the games I have found from vendors at Randolph Street Market…

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Some decorating ideas…..

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Another book suggestion, two editions…..

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And a board game Café….they seem to be everywhere…who knew!!!!!!

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Dig out your games or find vintage ones at RSM what could be more fun for a lazy day by a body of water, to past the time at a picnic or barbecue or to play inside on a rainy day…a perfect way to conjure lots of nostalgia and giggles along the way….enjoy!!!!!

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REPRINTED FROM RANDOLPH STREET MARKET BLOG WITH PERMISSION FROM FOUNDER SALLY SCHWARTZ

All photos, unless otherwise credited, from Pinterest credits unknown.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: MISTRESS OF THE RITZ

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I was reluctant to read another book based on World War II, and there are so many, as well there should be, knowing we must never forget the horrors of war and especially WWII. The reason I didn’t want to read this was I needed something not as heavy but I succumbed to the pull of The Ritz Hotel and how it played a major roll in the Nazi occupation of Paris and actually served as its headquarters in Paris.  Being a historical novel written by the amazing story teller/historian, Melanie Benjamin it was a no brainer as I have enjoyed all her writings….and, a bonus, I was able to obtain an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) from NetGalley.  Having recently read and reviewed on my blog (see the Archives) Ritz and Escoffier, which I really loved, I was interested to learn more about how The Ritz survived this horrific period in history.

The story revolves around the Ritz French General Manager, Claude Auzello and his American wife, Blanche.  Beginning with their whirlwind courtship, and his advancement as a hotelier it then follows them through the intrigues of living with and serving the enemy in their Hotel.  Becoming an important part of the Resistance evolves and using historical facts Benjamin keeps the story moving with intrigue, love affairs, behind the scenes hotel stories as well as how everyday citizens respond to crisis in order to survive.

Obviously, wartime at the Ritz was one of the darker chapters in the hotel’s history. When they arrived in Paris, the Germans used the hotel as a swanky headquarters for high-ranking officers, Hermann Göring among them. The Nazis took over half the hotel, allowing the other half to remain open to guests. Gone were the halcyon days of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Porter and the romantic thoughts of Proust….instead the uniforms and boots of Nazi’s filled the lobby, bar and rooms of the legendary hotel.  The hotel staff ate well from the leftovers of the invaders and, of course Claude and Blanche lived on site.

I felt the story told us more of Blanches role as she became more independent of her husband in trying to find her way in a hostile environment, to help those in need, as well as a more self sufficient woman.

Having done extensive research on Paris Haute Couture, I do know quite a bit about how the French Couturiers survived, some are briefly mentioned, and of Hitler’s desire to move Couture to Berlin, not mentioned in the book but worth your while to research if you are interested, it is a fascinating story.  I did enjoy the encounter, in the book, between Blanche, who is wearing a Schiaparelli dress, and Mademoiselle Chanel’s comments to her.  Chanel and Schiaparelli were arch enemies and this sentence conveys this animosity perfectly.

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Chanel in her Suite at The Ritz

Gabrielle Chanel plays a minor role in this novel but her presence is definitely there and she makes an occasional appearance. It was while she was staying at the Ritz during the war years that she had a romantic liaison with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German officer and spy. She also took care of him in her home, Villa Pausa on the French Riviera, after the war.  There is much speculation about Chanel and the Nazi’s….was she a collaborator, was she a spy for the British…for more on this story I recommend reading Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. 

I know you want to know if I recommend reading this book….by now you must know I don’t review books I don’t like so the answer is yes, read it….and guess what Ms. Benjamin will appear at my Independent Bookseller of choice The Book Stall in June, be sure to check it out, I hope to attend.

Melanie Benjamin, Author

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nenasnotes THE FASHION BOOK CLUB

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A portion of my fashion library.

I am almost giddy with excitement, why you ask….I am celebrating a year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and what a year it has been. Meeting each month with bubbles and bites, door prizes, goodie bags and give away books with a great group of regular members, their guests and new attendees it has been something I look forward to.  Meeting in an elegant Private Club, in my opinion, just adds to this special series.  We spend a half hour mixing and mingling with each other, then an hour of discussion.  I’m working on taping the conversations so I can share them with all of you….stay tuned.

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Our signature bubbles…..

I thought it would be a bit of fun to review what we have read so far and what is on the calendar for the rest of this year, I’ve left some dates open to slot in new releases.  I have, so far, only done new releases as close to publication as possible and most months I am in conversation, via conference call, with the authors, leaving time, of course, for Q & A.  In addition, I always have the current book and the next month’s selection on site for purchase and work closely with my Independent Bookseller,  The Book Stall

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Some of us at one of the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club meetings.

Let’s take a look at what we read and a peek into the upcoming books that will be featured this year….

MAY 2018

A book I highly recommended…I recommend all of the books we have studied.  This is a highly researched, detailed account of Loulou de la Falaise and Yves Saint Laurent….great conversation with Christopher Petkanas and here is my Amazon review…

“The book is extraordinary in so many ways, it is a MUST for anyone interested in the complicated intense world of fashion and the people who inhabit the ateliers, wear the exquisite garments they create and move in the social circles of the time. It is unique in that it is an oral biography told chronologically and includes Loulou ‘s family tree at the beginning of the book. I must admit it will take another reading to really appreciate the depth of research Petkanas has evoked. We hear from, I think, everyone who ever knew Loulou (over 200 people are quoted, some often, many are names we all recognize others less familiar, all have fascinating stories to tell), and the detailed family tree, her grandparents, her parents (especially her mother, Maxine “Maxime”), her two husbands, her many lovers, her friends, admirers, and, of course, Yves Saint Laurent. Controversial, most certainly, a fascinating read, without doubt.
Petkanas gives us thumbnail sketches of each contributing source, a bibliography, notes, permissions and an index. He has left nothing out if we want to continue our research. It is written for all fashionistas as well as fashion scholars. A stunning major work on a family, a world renowned fashion house and the times they inhabited, a definite add to your library. If you are looking for fluff…look elsewhere, this is a serious piece while remaining a totally entertaining read.”

JUNE 2018
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Not a new release, in fact out of print, I thought a fun tie-in to the out-of-town preview of The Cher Show and I could talk a bit about my experiences working with the amazing Bob Mackie (fingers crossed that he wins the Tony award for best costumes….how could that not happened!!). A stunning book loaded with very glam photos and I love the typesetting…totally unique just like the designer.
AUGUST 2018
It is unimaginable that this is the first monograph on the quintessential designer, Norman Norell and it is glorious. Written by Jeffrey Banks, a designer himself and extraordinary author with many illustrations by the amazing Michael Vollbracht.  A must for your fashion library.  Jeffrey is a brilliant interview and gave us so many insights into Mr. Norell, I was so fortunate to have fine many shows with him.  And the cover of the book with the iconic Suzy Parker, probably my favorite of the first group of super models.  A profile of Jeffrey can be found in the nenasnotes Archives.
My Amazon review…
“I have approximately 1000 books on fashion. I must say this extraordinary first monograph on one of the most important fashion designers, Norman Norell, by the talented designer/author, Jeffrey Banks, now tops my list. Each page MUST be devoured slowly, each iconic photograph and each brilliant Michael Vollbracht drawing only add to the beauty of the book. I had the great pleasure of working with Mr. Norell and his exquisite 4 models, Claudia, Claire, Denise and Yvonne (along with four local, Chicago, look alike models) on several fashion shows. The book took me back to the days when everyone dressed magnificently and everyone (me included) coveted a Norell specially a sequin mermaid gown. His talent, his creativity, his humble personality are all emphasized in NORELL. I am beyond thrilled that two of my favorite world class designers have now been immortalized in their long over due books…first, a couple of years ago, Bonnie Cashin:Chic Is Where You Find It by Stephanie Lake and now Norell: Master Of American Fashion, both iconic designers who led the emergence of what we now know as American Fashion. Bravo Jeffrey Banks. I encourage all interested in design, beauty and the history of fashion to hit the buy button immediately!!”

SEPTEMBER 2018

Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It yet another long over due monograph written by the keeper of the Cashin Archives, Stephanie Lake (I have written several nenasnotes post on Stephanie check the archives to sample her lifestyle and that of her husband,  Cory and daughter Odette).  Stephanie sent charming take always and book plates for the attendees.  A fabulous in depth conversation that could have gone on for more that the allotted hour but that is true with all my authors.

OCTOBER 2018

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A brilliant book part Dior biography and part the story of his homes in collaboration with just as talented interior designers.  Loved this book unfortunately I could make the schedule work with author, Maureen Footer…she has promised to talk with us with her next book….let’s look forward to that in the near future.

Yet another of my Amazon reviews….I seem to dwell on my collection….ah well…

“I own over 1000 fashion books (my goal to own all published!), did I need to add another on Christian Dior, the answer is YES, when it is this extraordinarily researched and elegantly presented book by Maureen Footer. It is perfection and gives the reader a different slant of one of the most original and iconic of all fashion designers. Dior’s love for creativity in his fashion extends to his homes and salons and love of his gardens. Given the background of the elegant creators he worked with and Dior’s vision it becomes an intriguing story and the accompanying photographs are the icing on the cake. Adding to that icing an exquisite forward by another iconic influencer, Hamish Bowles. I do a monthly Fashion Book Club and this was a highlight of the series. Get this for yourself and for gifts, you will not be disappointed.”

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Door prize box of Dior goodies and a goodie bag for each attendees

NOVEMBER 2018

Another designer I had the pleasure of working with, Carolyne Roehm, who reinvented herself as a brilliant writer, I am obsessed with each of her books, they are glorious as is this one.  Look at this stunning cover, the photographer non other than our own uber talented, Victor Skrebneski!  You will find more of this geniuses work between the covers.  So much to say about this look at creativity at its very best.  Loved her designs, love her homes, love her floral talent and adore her books.

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DECEMBER 2018

i have admired Valerie Steele forever and have heard her speak on many occasions.  Her work as Director of the FIT Museum is exemplary and her books must reads and have in your library.  I was beyond excited that she immediately agreed to be in conversation, and, by the way, will be back with us later this year with yet another exhibition companion book.  We had a fabulous chat and the group was so enthralled that they didn’t make a sound, I had to ask them to say hi so she would know there were others in the room not just me!

Yes, another Amazon review….

“Book Review and other thoughts on pink in fashion and our lives: The book is brilliantly written, edited and illustrated. Giving us insights into a color that has been in fashion for centuries. I particularly like the layout of the book taking us from the courts of Europe when pink was worn by as many men as women through Haute Couture Collections to Punk to Red Carpets to Pussy Hats to Real Men Wear Pink to pink ribbons fighting breast cancer. We learn about the introduction of Shocking Pink by Elsa Schiaparelli to the iconic Yves Saint Laurent black gown with wide shocking pink bow, a garment, that Steele shared with us in conversation, that was a major exhibition coup and one she was especially excited to include. It is a MUST for your fashion library, but then all of Valerie Steele’s books are meant to be included there.

I have had the fabulous good fortune to have many brilliant authors join me in conversation for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and I must admit Valerie wasn’t an exception, we all learned so much! I hope she enjoyed the hour as much as I did and the attendees were in rapt attention, I might even say in awe with her at ease conversation in sharing her expertise which, in my opinion, knows no bounds. Bravo Valerie and thank you….here’s to the next book!”

FEBRUARY 2019

Another author who immediately agreed to be with us and sent me an autographed copy of her book right away….what a joy to talk with the brilliant yet very down to earth, Caroline Weber, who is working on a sequel and will join us again upon its publication.  While some might find M. Proust a bit of a challenge Caroline’s wit and wisdom and beyond extraordinary research discussing the women who influence his writings made all of us rethink delving into his works yet again.

MARCH 2019

I had to reschedule our January meeting due to inclement weather but was very anxious to talk with the amazing Hutton Wilkinson, I have worked with Hutton when he did his first book Tony Duquette as well as when he visited with his fine jewelry collection, also documented in a book…Dawnridge is as unique as both Duquette and Wilkinson are….nothing remotely like either gentleman nor their creativity exists to my mind’s eye….believe me when I say this conversation took on its own life….great fun.  You can find his profile in the nenasnotes archive.

A book review…here you go….

“The beginning of the book gives us a detailed understanding of Tony’s life, and, of course how Hutton became his creative partner. The book is then organized by the three main houses and the elaborate grounds. Hutton takes us through the painstaking process of repurchasing many of the “lost” treasures of the home, the detailed drama of “reinventing” the original concept and not only enhancing it but bringing the dream into the reality of the 21st Century with its modern technology while keeping the essence and tradition of the original rooms, buildings and grounds in their transformations. The photos of the original rooms and new ones of the reinvented spaces are masterworks. I would go so far as to say an exquisite Phoenix has risen from the “ashes”. I could live in any of the spaces since my motto is definitely more is more and my most favorite color is green, let alone all the Malachite, and the chandeliers, and the layering, and…………totally dreamy!”

APRIL 2019

It seemed fitting to end the first year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club as we began with a book on Yves Saint Laurent…another scholarly tome, heavy both in content and heft of the book and one not to be read casually (I do have two novels scheduled for this year, both with designers as their subjects!). It is the first on YSL written in English and not translated from French.  The research is extraordinary.  Yet another for your collection.

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MAY 2019

When we think of Vogue Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington immediately come to mind, well there was a third critical eye with Tonne Goodman whose vision complimented and completed the iconic magazine’s editorial content.  Balancing Coddington’s whimsy with more straight forward, yet visionary, photographs….and photography is what this book is all about.  And the photography is just beyond….I particularly loved the pages of Vogue covers.  Very little text but lots and lots and lots of fabulous photos by all the well known and not so well known photographers of our era….fabulous book!

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JUNE 2019

Another monograph, this time Dawn Mallo, the genius behind Bergdorf Goodman’s revamp and the discoverer of many designers…think Michael Kors and the force who brought Tom Ford to Gucci during her tenure there. John Tiffany brings his investigative reporting to this sensational book with much the same vigor he did with his book on the doyenne of fashion Eleanor Lambert…can’t wait to have John in conversation….it will be awesome.

 

JULY 2019

Our first novel and it’s about Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli….wow, should be  fabulous.  Can’t wait to hear what author, Jeanne Mackin has to tell us about her research.  It is my favorite type of novel, one based on fact…yes, historical fiction..love it!

 

OCTOBER 2019

Who knew one of my favorite male models (actually mad for all my male and for that matter female models….but) Marcellas Reynolds has written his first book and what a book it looks to be…and I’m hoping he will actually be with us in person, he is a Chicago guy…fingers crossed.

 

It’s been quite a year and lots more to come….I’ll, of course, keep you updated and let you know when I can share the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club conversations with you…we just have to figure out logistics and get the author’s permission to tape them….stay tuned!!  In the meantime you can read along with us, I post here and on Instagram upcoming selections.

More of my fashion library….

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