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.

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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.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: FALL OF ANGELS

This post is underwritten by an anonymous sponsor

D0CDC04F-EACC-496E-BD4A-8D630A1EA560Appropriate title for this week’s book review, why you might ask…..I’m doing a post later this week on angels!  I really didn’t plan this and it is only the title, a true coincidence….I’ll leave that up to you!

I have been an avid reader of Barbara Cleverly wonderful series of books (13 so far) featuring Joe Sandilands so needless to say when I read about the first in her series with Detective Inspector John Redfyre I had it on my to be read list.

As you know by now, I don’t review books I don’t like…in fact I don’t read books I don’t enjoy right from the get go….too many to enjoy, too little time to read all of them.  How do I choose, certainly an author I think might have something to say, who engages me emotionally, intellectually, stretches me, and once in awhile gives me a giggle (where are the Patrick Dennis’ with their Auntie Mames!!!!!). Authors I have read such as Louise Penny, Cara Black, Charles Finch, Rhys Bowen, etc. do just that and I am always looking forward to their next adventure.  And yes, a cozy fits into the mix, I think of them like a meal Intermezzo….a mind cleanser, if yout please.

Okay Nena, let’s get to the book. First off I liked our new protagonist Dectective Inspector John Redfyre, he is smart, kind, very good at what he does and, of course, good looking!  Set in Cambridge (a change from most English stories set in University towns…Oxford being the place of choice).  Perhaps not as highbrow (that is how it is depicted, not a criticism on my part), but, of course, still with the English standards of higher education and their rules and regulations. It is filled with mystery starting in the first chapter with a female trumpeter (unheard of then and I can’t think of many now!) who is in performance with a male organist.  She has an accident which brings our hero to her aid and so the story begins. We learn other females are murdered….none of them seem to be connected socially, but the method is the same. We, of course, learn about what the commonality is…I’m not going to spoil it for you. I will, however, say I didn’t guess the murderer until revealed, I liked that, it kept the mystery going, perhaps I missed the right clues!

Set in 1923, I found Cleverly has written a ode to the suffragists and those who followed them working toward more inclusion….not much different from today…equal pay, more opportunities in the hierarchy (hence the title), voting (although women had the right to vote in England they had to be 35!), and on and on. Well done Barbara. I also liked that she mentioned “brands” such as Liberty of London, fashion designers such Captain Edward Molyneux, adding a bit of panache especially when referenced by our sophisticated Redfyre.

Should you read it, yes, will there be another with our clever Detective Inspector John Redfyre, I would say definitely….at least I hope so.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: RITZ & ESCOFFIER

TODAY’S POST IS UNDERWRITTEN BY AN ANONYMOUS SPONSOR

 

868F2B3E-5259-4876-AD6E-29933FF56059You know I love a great historical novel, probably my favorite genre, and here we have real history that reads like the plot of a novel. And if that isn’t reason enough to grab this fascinating tale then just look at the cover (in this case, you can definitely tell the book by its cover), putting on the Ritz or Ritzy come to mind, both in todays vernacular. 

13B00D37-B0FC-4765-BEF8-3A04D86E809DCesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

The innovations these genius’s brought to the hospitality industry set the standard, in the late 19th Century, that are followed by today’s Grand Hotels and fine restaurants world-wide.  They weren’t afraid of doing whatever it took to give their esteemed clientele the best and newest of everything in food, service, accommodations, and, of course, the best staffs in each property.  Ritz was known for  only wanting the best and had no problem spending money to achieve his high standards often to the chagrin of his partners and shareholders.  Think bathrooms in each guest room and suite, electricity throughout the properties, elevators, special meals for unaccompanied ladies to be in the hotels restaurants without male escorts and on and on.

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I remember my first trip to London going to The Savoy for cocktails before the theater, I don’t remember what we saw that night, but do remember a feeling of nostalgia for a time long ago when I got out of the car and saw that amazing SAVOY  sign….wow!

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Cesar Ritz came to The Savoy in London at the request of the owner, Richard D’Oyly Carte (think Gilbert and Sullivan, that D’Oyly Carte!).  He already had made a name for himself managing several properties on The Continent where he made each prosperous and unique.  He turned The Savoy into THE place to go with the partnering of Auguste Escoffier, who had already established himself in the world of haute cuisine as an ingenious creator as well as his streamlined working ofvhiskitchens. Both gentlemen knew how to “work the room” and charmed their ever growing clientele, which included all of high society from around the world and, of course, had the blessing and attendance of the Prince of Wales, at the eleborate meals Escoffier invented and prepared in his perfectly orchestrated kitchen. All went beyond expectations until scandal breaks out (no spoilers from me!) and forces the men to Paris and The Ritz…..

6A185713-EB35-42D5-BFCD-B89BF6C199D3The Ritz, Paris

1639B5D4-3038-4794-9CAF-A2243DE9376AGabrielle Chanel in her apartment at The Ritz, Paris

I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book, the history of the hospitality and food industry and the men and women (their wives, who wore gowns from the Couture Houses of Charles Frederick Worth and Jacques Doucet, played a huge part in the story as do the celebrities of the day, Nellie Melba…think Peach Melba and Melba Toast, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde….all came to The Savoy). I not only learned so much but did so in a most entertaining way, Luke Barr has written a book (get it you will truly enjoy the story on so many levels) that I will refer to often and wish, yet again, that I could transport myself back into that creative time of the Belle Époque, of course with all the modern amenities we have now, in addition, of course, to those Ritz provided, elevators, bathrooms, individual service, exquisite food…..well maybe I don’t need to be that modern and can be extremely comfortable without today’s tech devices!!!!!  And you………..

Two more for your library, they are going into mine.

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One of my favorite Escoffier recipes, there are so many i couldn’t possibly mention them all including Melba toast…love making it from my French Brioche loaf, is  Baked Alaska, which he called “eggs and ice” and served to great acclaim. I have always loved this photo from the original Betty Crocker (yes, even Betty Crocker bows at the Escoffier throne!) cookbook I gave my mother when it was first published (I still have the book and use it all the time, its spine is held together with masking tape!). I have never made it but isn’t it the most fabulous photo ever….the styling, even back then, is perfection. Maybe, just maybe this summer with homemade raspberry ice cream…..just saying….

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: A NECESSARY EVIL

17126C6B-5355-4A14-A66E-3357186082A7I had read about this book on many of the book blogs I follow and was eager to put it on my TBR list. I hadn’t read Abir Mukherjee’s first book in the series, A Rising Man, but found it wasn’t necessary (I will, however, put it on my list), his main characters, our protagonist, Captain Sam Wyndham and his Sergeant ’Surrender-Not’ Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force are clearly drawn in this installment

From the flyleaf ”India, 1920, Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee….investigate the assassination of a Maharajah’s son…..As they desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules….”  Why wouldn’t you want to read this book!!  It certainly got me.

The murder of the heir takes place in Calcutta in front of Wyndham and Banerjee at the beginning of our story.  We then follow them to the wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore (Sambalpur), the wealth is diamonds and coal.  See the map of India below for the ”real” location of our story.

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Here we learn of the Maharajah’s three wives, the middle wife, the mother of the two adult sons has died, the first a contemporary of the aging Maharajah and the third a young beauty with a young prince. The intrigue of Palace politics is explained when we meet members of the inner circle both Indian and English as well as the ”harem” guarded by eunuchs.  We are taken into the world of opium, Indian religious traditions, and ceremonies. We go on glamorous trains (better than the Orient Express), attend formal dinner parties (everyone, of course, dresses for dinner, but then they dress for every occasion! Why can’t we still do that?!) we even learn how to hunt on top of elephants. The Raj is still in effect but times are changing and the power (read money) is the main focus of the time and the novel. Times are changing…wealth and influence are changing as well, while human nature and traditions remain the same.

F8992C77-E53F-4555-B2AD-5136B7B1DAD6An image of a Maharajah with rows and rows of diamonds and other precious stones. Iris….eat your heart out!  Photo from Pinterest credit unknown.

Our story takes many twists and turns. We have a love interest (no sex here my friends, implied, perhaps!), a bit of violence and lots and lots of intrigue and information on a time I was eager to learn more about. I must admit I was taken by surprise by the reveal of the assassin (no spoilers here), you have to read almost to the very end to find out ”who did it”!  I thoroughly enjoyed Mukherjee’s writing, his detail of the time was informational and makes me want to further explore this subject while I wait for the next adventures of Captain Wyndham and Sargeant Banerjee.

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The author, Abir Mukherjee, photo by Nick Tucker.

Would I recommend the novel, absolutely and you know I always recommend patronizing your local Independent Bookseller.

Mukherjee recommends Ann Morrow’s HIGHNESS The Maharajahs of India for further research….on my list for sure.

9EFAE5C6-6702-4783-AC34-4499C04EC42622E8FD27-111E-44BF-ADB6-2D3CB2C64516I am recommending The Great Courses, A History of India, also on my list

COLLECTIONS: ENGLISH IRONSTONE

E8A9FA8C-B041-4D64-8492-A0B752BD9189I’ve been anticipating doing this post forever…..if you are like me, I think of Ironstone as white….well silly me.  The stunning platters are just the beginning of  a connoisseurs major collections. Photo by me on my iPhone. This is my favorite pattern from the several groups in this treasure trove of Vintage Ironstone. Foolishly I didn’t match the makers stamp to the patterns but many of the items in this collection are Mason, the father of English Ironstone. You knew I would find a book or two for your reference!

The company was started by Miles Mason in 1796 and continued to 1856 by his sons most notably his third son, Charles who was married to Sarah Spode the granddaughter of Josiah Spode the founder of the famous potting dynasty. For a concise history of Mason I recommend you to go to Janice Paull

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The shelving on the right is in an antique store, notice the platter on the top shelf in the middle it is the same pattern (Pinterest) the image on the right is a display in a private collection, bottom photo a close up of one of the serving platters with dinner plates on either side. Both those photos were taken by me.

If you are looking for Ironstone to add to your collection or to start one remember this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29, from 10 to 5 each day, is the not to be missed monthly Randolph Street Market

Some examples I found on Pinterest that interested me, no other reason. Photo credits unknown.

Makers marks….I photographed them and at the time knew which went with each of the many patterns in this connoisseur’s carefully curated collections I didn’t take notes bad move on my part….sorry!  But here they are, quite impressive.

Another set….

And more….

All photos taken on my iPhone unless otherwise noted.

The excitement of the hunt can be one piece or an entire collection….what is it all about, well I’ll tell you, when you see it buy it….don’t walk away and have regret. Make friends with the dealers, learn from their expertise, read books, catalogs, go to websites enjoy the pursuit of your treasures and no better place to do exactly that than Randolph Street Market

MONDAY MUSINGS: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT??!!

914DD8BA-0E7A-4835-937B-0AF625C6A4D6A question I have been asking myself, sorry for the lack of posts….lots of reasons, primarily a dead computer….a learning curve of doing nenasnotes on my iPad, let’s just call it frustration, confusion and loss of clear focus…let’s talk about it, shall we.

Perhaps it’s the lack of spring blooms, yes, they will come (I took the above photo last year in Harbor Country…I’ve referenced the grounds in many other posts), but then we rarely have spring until later, if at all. So I guess that’s not it.  I made a decision when I began my blog, a year and a half ago, that I wouldn’t do negative posts and I have stuck to that philosophy….so please let me vent this one time.  I decided to ask a consultant to help me toward my path to monetize nenanotes. I found the perfect person and we “clicked” immediately as friends.  During our delightful meetings over a period of time and lots of glasses of wine, I was advised to do lots of selfies, makeovers, talk about product, etc.  None of which is my style at all.  I’m not a pretty young thing who will have followers to buy what I  wear or droll over tutorials on how I apply my makeup …who cares!!! It has nothing to do with age but rather a preference of what my “mission/goal is”.  I think it is best to leave that to those who do it well. Guess what, I decided not to follow that advice (and it was excellent advice just not for me!) but continue on the path of my original plan to share my experiences in the world of fashion, do book reviews, explore collections, interiors (mine and others) share profiles of interesting people, my travels, in general talk about what interests me.  I do, however, have (suggested at my meetings) a smashingly glorious Media Kit produced by my dear friend, the extraordinarily talented, Christine Hawley, who also worked with me to produce my exceptional logo. I will use it for potential sponsors for nenasnotes. I’ll be happy to share the MK with any of you who are interested.

Okay, rant over. What do I have planned going forward, actually lots!!!  High on my list is to kick off my nenasnotes Fashion Book Club with Loulou & Yves by Christopher Petkanas. I will do a review, Christopher has asked me if I would post my review on the actual date of publication which is Tuesday, April 17th, I’m excited to do so.  It will be the first in my monthly Fashion Book Club choices and Christopher is interested in joining the discussion via Skype, too exciting for words! I will be announcing that May date soon along with the rest of the year’s exciting selections and surprises. Stay tuned!!!!!97B4DD29-93F9-46AC-AA9A-49F169C68071

I’ve been lax in sharing recipes with you lately…..sorry, I’ll correct that shortly. I love to make brownies and think mine are THE best (don’t we all!!!!!), I’ve made them forever.  For some unknown reason I had purchased a box of brownie mix as well as a can of fudge frosting and thought why not give them a try….I added pecans and vanilla to the brownies (sorry Tommy I was naughty and changed yet another recipe!!!) They were absolutely delicious and I think they are my new best!!!!!57807917-295B-4FE7-849E-EE9CDE411161

I am obsessed with looking at other peoples homes and gardens so you can bet you will see more of those, what did we do before Pinterest, I have zillions of clippings from magazines through the years as well as complete issues of some of my favorites, that is what we did. The photo below is a corner of my home (it was taken by Christine Hawley, I told you she is talented in so many ways!)…I’ve already done a post on paisley, there will be several on my needlepoint (some of which you can see on my built-in daybed) textiles, my lily of the valley collection in the breakfront and all over my home.  You can also see how I house some of my obsessive book collections, the two vintage bamboo shelves are mostly fiction and the tall slim bookcase (made for me by Harold Hawley, whom I profiled in my post on page-tuners) holds my collection of needlework books. You can also see lots of art on all surfaces. 3A576191-CDE5-4A95-9A76-C3124C09E84D

Gardens, of course….here is my favorite tree, in spring bloom, in Blue Island at the Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel home.  It is spectacular each season 9BB99CCF-DDB1-49FB-ABD5-3B44A670EAB8

As for my Profiles, I have a couple coming up that I know you will enjoy, waiting for photos on several and transcriptions on others. They are really, really outstanding and worth waiting for.  And always profiles of designers I have had the pleasure of working with.  Below I’m with Bob Mackie who has just launched his exquisite fine jewelry collection and is busy at work on the costumes for The Cher Show which will open in Chicago pre-Broadway in June…all too exciting for mere words!!D3B0A1F7-B99B-47B7-88BA-02BE1144DB92

Collections, of course, mine, and others and those found, like the assemblage below, at my favorite go-to monthly event Randolph Street Market

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From a magnificent private collection of English Ironstone.

Of course, I’ll continue to share fashion shows past and present such as the benefit for RefuSHE on Thursday, April 12th at The Cultural Center. The photo below is from last years show with a gown incorporating fabric produced by the members of the RefuSHE ccommunity in Africa and created by one our talented Chicsgo based designers. 1E65F7B4-9A5E-479F-A96C-806C2A046734I think I’ll cross out the makeup and keep wine…well maybe keep both on the top of my list…..your thoughts my friends!!0589C2AE-6CB4-4D43-B87E-3937333C121C

To sum up, in addition to the aforementioned topics, I’ve been asked to redo my Fashion Show Production class at Columbia College Chicago which i am very excited to do as well as a couple of other CCC projects, we shall see how they develop.

If there are topics you want to explore with me let me know.  Until Spting arrives…..0B5F6705-23E6-4917-B449-380810FA655D                      Photo from Pinterest credit unknown

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: VINTAGE FASHION PAPER DOLLS AND A TEA COZY

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When I was a little girl I loved paper dolls. I had them in all shapes and sizes. My most favorites were the Brenda Starr paper dolls that appeared in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Comics, very glamorous. I would carefully cut them out with my tiny sewing scissors and then create new garments for them. Brenda and her wardrobe lived in their special golden box. The beginning of my love of anything fashion, perhaps!!!  Why am I’m telling you this, because my friend, Randy Bryan Bigham (see his Profile on nenasnotes on January 8, 2018) who is THE authority on all things Lucile Duff Gordon, the Couturier, (see January 12th post) has given us a wonderful insight into the clothes worn on the Titanic.  By now we are all very familiar with the fact and fiction of this ill-fated voyage.  By seeing some of the garments, worn by 6 of the women, of different stages of society, as illustrated by the renowned artist, Norma Lu Meehan, makes them even more ”real” to us. Randy has provided a thumbnail sketch of each of these women.

BAF1C28C-4912-4338-9CB3-8EB3035309B3I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the book when it is published on April 27th, (you can pre-order on Amazon or Paper Studio Press right now!)  I will actually need two, one to treasure and make it’s home in my fashion library, the other to cut up and ”play” dress up with like I did as a child.  There are many ”celebrity” paper doll books but trust me this has the authenticity of being championed by one who knows what he is talking about!  I believe this will start a new trend in paper doll book collecting, move over coloring books!!!

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While we are thinking England, yes, that is what we are thinking, let’s talk tea, shall we!  The next book I wanted to discuss today isn’t set in England at all but it is all about tea.  The 19th in Laura Childs Tea Shop Cozy Mystery series, Plum Tea Crazy, reunites us with our heroine, Theodosia Browning and her ”crew”.  As always, in this series, the murder occurs at the very beginning and Theo is pulled into solving ”who done it”. Set in Historical Charleston, insightful details about the charming homes, neighborhoods, traditions are always woven into the plot along with a multitude of characters, many are in each volume, along with new shop owners, visitors, business and cultural leaders, etc. Our protagonist owns a tea shop, the Indigo Teahouse, where she hosts many themed special teas with her debonair tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley and chef, Haley, who creates magic in her teeny kitchen. The murder isn’t all it seems to be, a fall, but rather death by an antique crossbow and arrow. Many suspects, many encounters and consultations with the head of Homicide, Detective Tidwell, a romantic attachment to the handsome, charming, Detective Pete Riley.  This story involves us in guns and other weapons, rather interesting given all the important issues regarding gun control we are contemplating now.  It goes into jealousy, fraud, money laundering, I didn’t suspect the murderer right away, and lots of talk about what tea to serve with each course (you will want to check the appendix for tea purveyors, there are many) and as always in Childs’ books, recipes….yay, you know I love recipes!!!!!  What’s not to love about a Cozy Mystery, and when they are by Laura Childs, you become enchanted with her characters, her locations, her enthusiasm for giving her readers a thoughtful feel good reading experience (besides the murder, of course!!!!!!!)  Thanks to Penguin Random House for giving me the opportunity to read the book, it is out now for you to enjoy.

FASHION REMEMBRANCE: HUBERT DE GIVENCHY

6C698FF1-A8C6-44DC-ADDC-E30AD447BB89A week after we learned of the death of the last of the great couturiers I feel everything has been written about this extraordinary creator by those who knew him, wrote about him and treasured his memory. His creativity was unparalleled not only in the world of fashion but also in his homes and his magnificent gardens.

I wanted to briefly talk about my memories of the few times I met him.  The first time was at the launch of his first cosmetic collection in 1966. It was always a ”contest” to see which of the major stores, usually the Speciality Stores….Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, I. Magnin (Neiman Marcus wasn’t in Chicago yet) and, of course, Marshall Field’s, would launch the newest, hottest fragrance.  I must say Saks saw it’s share of these prestigious events. Obviously a cosmetic collection by one of the worlds most illustrious designers was beyond exciting. We had a huge fashion press in Chicago at the time and they were all vying for exclusives. I didn’t then believe in exclusives if the story doesn’t run you are ”dead in the water”. Instead, we always had a press party for visiting designers in addition to a reception for clients usually to benefit a charity. All was set, caterers in place, champagne chilled and I had the tuxedoed wait staff with their champagne ladened silver trays lined up on either side of the cosmetic aisle ready for the guest of honor, M. Givenchy, his people, the President of Saks, Corporate Cosmetic VP’s and our guests. I ran up to my office to quickly change, I am in ”mid-change” when my walkie-talkie (this is before tech thingies!) is swawking….”M. Givenchy’s car has just pulled up”!  My office was on the fourth floor, I finished pulling on my clothes torn down the stairs and made it to the door to escort the entourage into the store and the reception. Whew!!  I have worked with many, many wonderful creators through the years and I can say he was one of the most gracious, charming of all.  He made you feel like you were the only person he wanted to talk to, if only for a brief moment in time. This cosmetic line was short lived and we had the privilege of a second launch several years later. AFD15AD3-A8F0-45DC-9E8C-A92419EFF774.jpegThis photo, now in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, hung on my office wall was from the first launch.  Unfortunately, like several other designer photos, the salutation has faded into oblivion over the years.

In M. Givenchy received the Designer of Excellence Award from the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum at a sold-out black-tie gala held in the Museum in 1995 sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. The front and inside cover of the evening’s invitation, the evening was planned with the direction of M. Givenchy’s dear friend, Victor Skrebneski (holding my hand) who took the photo on the invitation and is seen here with M. Givenchy and Bonnie Deutsch, the President of the Costume Council at that time.  The evening was a roaring success monetarily and prestigiously   It was the talk of the town. All the guests were given a small ivory silk pocket square with the Givenchy signature and rolled hem in grey. All three images courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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A close up of another Skrebneski photo of one of my favorite Givenchy dresses….you by now know my love of lily of the valley…what could be more divine!!!!!  Photog found on Pinterest.

We all know of the deep friendship between Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn from the time she chose her garments for Sabrina through most of her many films, as well as her personal wardrobe.  One of my most favorite garments are in Charade, loved the film (what’s not to like) and the clothes are to die for…she seems to have a new outfit in every frame…each better than the last.

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My favorite Skrebneski photograph of a Givenchy gown. Everything is perfection….the composition, the lighting the incredible staircase, the floor and of course the gown…oh my the gown!!!!  Found on Pinterest.

Of course, a few suggestions for your fashion book library….

I have very fortunate to have worked with the creme de la creme of the fashion world….lucky, lucky me!!