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 (I can’t remember the exact date but I’m thinking mid-1970’s).  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.


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.


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!!



95107314-4DDC-450D-B57F-FEE0BF43A45D.jpegA print found at Randolph Street Market in Paper Patty’s booth. (My photo)

Audubon book found in the NOV booth at Randolph Street Market open to two pages.  (My photo)

I don’t know about you but I am so ready for Spring, although it hasn’t been the worse Winter I have gone though. Yesterday I actually saw a “haze” on some trees which indicated, to me, a glimpse of the future, buds!  And Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend…another harbinger of Spring!!!  Living in an major urban environment I don’t see many bird varieties, mostly dear little sparrows, pigeons, of course, and, at the moment, four huge crows or are they blackbirds or ravens, sorry I’m not an ornithologist, whatever they are they are gorgeous but extrembly vocal!

6DA49802-C0CF-415E-91AC-7B853E042251A beautiful sleek American Robin, I do see them occasionally. Image from Pinterest credit unknown.37B0A860-6BEB-4280-9E02-8E57395EB64E.jpegA basket of Robin’s eggs photo found on Pinterest credit unknown.

C9A4EE8E-ED8D-4BC6-9D3D-C2F5C7D761B1A charming watercolor (one of two) of an English Robin given to me by a dear English friend who is no longer with us….I have it close to where I can constantly see it to remind me of her and our weekly Sunday chats!  I found the hand carved destressed white wood frame at RSM and feel it compliments it perfectly.  I love the difference between our Robins…ours sleek and their British cousins, short and stout!!!!  I love both.  (My photo)

More nests, 1870’s English prints, from Paper Patty’s extensive collection you can find her on the Balcony of Plumbers Hall at the next RSM on March 24 and 25  (Also my photos).

1860’s Italian lithographs from Paper Patty’s vast collections of birds and many, many other images  (My photos).

9106E498-4FDC-431B-9BA8-9A6605D87E53.jpegOne of my vignettes, I try to group like items together, here you see several variations on the bird theme, a book of poems given to me by another dear friend, two already framed pictures…the larger a lithograph print with metal frame, the small round carved wooden Italian frame surrounding a delightful miniature watercolor of a bird’s nest.  The concrete bird is the lone element left from my Evanston garden (and Mom’s over two hundred English roses plus other cutting flowers!) part of the birdbath shell with a cherub (which now reside in a friend’s country estate).  I used one of my iPhone filters to distress the image, I think makes it a bit moody!

Speaking of pigeons, and these most certainly are not the ones on the streets of Chicago…….here are two amazing lithographs from a new friend I follow on Instagram who has kindly let me share these with you.  You can follow at cpgoodrich  on Instagram  I think what I like most about Social Media is how you can make new friends virtually.  Everyone I have contacted to share images and more with me for nenasnotes, has been so willing to do so.  It, to my minds eye, makes my posts a bit more personal, hope you agree. C884ED91-00E2-4FBE-8A2D-7CCB8038E295More from Cary, this time glorious hummingbirds.


296F4747-E8F6-4204-BE21-6204884A13BFSilver plated Woodcock mounted on a wooden disk.


A vintage needlepoint piece.


Charming wooden bird and it’s little house (I’ll do a post on birdhouses in the future.)

The above 4 images are of items at Council Oak Antiques in South Bend, Indiana. Pat is always so generous in accommodating my wacky requests. Again, we are Instagram ”friends” you can find her posts at patricia_mcmahan_smith and I am so excited to finally meet her in person this weekend.  I’ve been to the store and the selections are beyond fabulous. I’ll be like a kid in a candy store.  I can’t begin to imagine what material I will find for upcoming posts!

A couple of books….there are hundreds, that I found appealing…


Of course, I couldn’t do a post without a bit of fashion…how about a vintage 1960’s Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture…what makes this even more special to me is when I visited the Lasage Atelier in Paris I held the sample for the embroidery, an incredible experience.





5E98AAE5-16F5-4ED0-B779-26F05FB81C60.jpegI’ve been fascinated with paisley forever and in my very eclectic home it works perfectly in many ways from draping the back of a chair, to pillows, to the layering of authentic vintage pieces, Ralph Lauren textiles, and modern fashion shawls on my day bed (I’ll feature the “made” bed in another post, it is a pillow explosion!!!!) to many other renditions of the paisley pattern.

In the above illustration you see how the paisley shawl was worn during Victorian Times. While watching the superb second season finale of VICTORIA on PBS (having planned on doing this post for a long time) I was thrilled to see the Queen pick up a paisley shawl and wrap it around her shoulders….heaven!!!


Paisley’s origin goes back centuries in India, Iran and other countries but the name came from where it was manufactured in the 19th Century, Paisley, Scotland. Just as Queen Elizabeth II attended her first fashion show during London Fall 2018 Fashion Week to present the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design to Richard Quinn, she also made a huge endorsement to the British fashion industry. The same was true of Queen Victoria. This being said the royal presence and seal of approval is a huge boom to any industry in the UK.







Some examples of paisley in clothing


Wooden paisley fabric stamp

Above images from Pinterest photo credit unknown

There are many sites and articles and, of course, books where you will find more information on this glorious pattern. I wanted to share my own collection in my home as well as share some from my Pinterest account where you will find many more examples.

50D97176-BCB4-4E6E-9F1E-AA5AD1E4E7AF.jpegOne of my window ledges with vintage bamboo shelves (mostly holding novels and to be read books) collectibles (of course, many treasures found at Randolph Street Market ) and festooned with a vintage paisley fragment next to antique lace panels backed by two panels of green drapery, one silk one velvet perhaps overkill, to me not too much!!!!  Linda Heister helped me get the drape exactly right…took a bit of time with me standing on my build-in daybed and adjusting all the elements just so! She also gave me 4 pillows also made from vintage paisley fragments. They are unadorned, I will, at some point in time, do some trim.

5D3F6AF2-F441-4207-B8FC-976F30F8DFF4.jpegThe elements of the top of my painted antique French daybed one of my first purchases for my room when I was in high school. One piece I would always keep. The upper right you can see a peek of the base which is a fitted sheet from a long ago Ralph Lauren linen collection (I have several just in case one wears out) the stripe is a mix of pattern (I often use it as a table cloth especially for Christmas time dinners) on the bottom left the tradition paisley pattern which layers over the stripe and the black banded piece is a challis shawl from a Gloria Sachs outfit (worked with her on many personal appearance trunk shows at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago).  The outfit was three pieces, jacket, slim skirt and this shawl each a different paisley coordinating pattern, loved it, wore it, wish I had it now…more to the point wish I could fit into it now!  At least I can enjoy, and wear the shawl!

35D23D7B-0C0E-49C8-BA87-AF4BF86C5C6D.jpegThis pillow sham is at the head of my bed and holds my guest bed pillow  love the combination of paisley patterns  F153C9CD-D13F-454E-9924-BAD694F95EC3.jpegInteresting assortment….actually three paisleys the base is yet another vintage fragment that I used to “upholster” a love seat in the library area of my apartment, a few of my vintage pillows and two bolsters one more vintage paisley and the smaller piece made from a watered velvet paisley that I found in a remnant bin that I also had upholstered on my antique dining chairs (my point here is don’t walk away if there are holes, tears, small amount yardage, think of how you can use them in your decor…use your imagination and creativity). The lily of the valley rug  drapped over the caned settee is one of my many needlepoint projects. Most of my pieces I do from charts rather than painted pieces. I will do a story on my needlework later (of course I will!!!!!)

79D971F6-36CC-4D3D-9941-5218F60D6DF7.jpegI showed you this pillow in another post it was a gift from my friend and former boss, Michael Hawley (you can check the nenasnotes archives on his profile) he had it made for an Antiquity piece when he was at Gumps in San Francisco, yet another of my treasures. At the moment it resides on one of aforementioned watered velvet dining chairs.


A closeup of one of my many full paisley shawls (this one is on my “comfy sit in all the time” chair) it is in mint condition…not always easy to find, especially the centers which are often solid red or black, and usually quite pricey. I have gone that route but LOVE to find that illusive bargain.  I actually found a beauty last summer at RSM! Love the treasure hunt, that is why I always look forward to the monthly Randolph Street Market. I don’t drive so can’t get to antique malls, etc. a joy that we can visit this always fascinating event right in the heart of the City….thank you Sally Schwartz!!

The above photos are my images




The above  images are all from Pinterest photo credit unknown.



I have done this recipe to rave reviews for years it is from the Life Picture Cookbook. I use leftover leg of lamb which I usually serve for Easter the recipe below call for lamb shoulder…choice is yours. You can substitute beef, veal or pork, I never have. I serve with small bowls of the following toppings…shredded fresh coconut, chutney, peanuts or pistachios, Golden raisons, chopped hard boiled eggs, perserved lemon slices, chopped green onions and lots of white rice. It serves 6. Does keep well if you have any left over it can be frozen without the add ons.

3 pounds lamb shoulder

1/4 cup flour

2 cloves minced garlic (I use the jarred garlic, which I love)

4 large white onions, sliced

3/4 cup butter

4 small apples, pared and chopped

4 Tablespoons curry powder (I use Spice Islands and probably add a bit more)

4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

4 Tablespoons raisons

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2 lemons sliced

4 Tablespoons shredded fresh coconut

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel

1 Tablespoon salt

Cut meat into 2-inch cubes, roll it in the flour.  Sauté the garlic and onions in butter in a large skillet for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add meat and sauté for 10 minutes (less is using leftover lamb), stirring constantly.  Add apples and curry powder.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients and two cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  The aroma is a killer!!!  Serve over white rice and accompanying garnishes. Enjoy. Suggested wine…your choice but I would do a love a full bodied red  Dessert I would do a fruit sorbet with season fruit and a slash of orange liqueur.





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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


image_540068691156591Christian Siriano celebrates his 10 Year Anniversary with a knockout collection of 72 looks shown on his usual diverse models.  He just gets better and better and never compromises his design philosophy….Siriano is, of course, known for his drop-dead red carpet looks but his style is all about the person wearing the clothes. While the majority of the collection was evening there were day pieces to pay attention to as well.  And, of course, the shoes, always the shoes!!!!image_540068638988719image_540068648472106This is a color I will be watching for the next few weeks….obviously red isn’t new to our wardrobes but so far I am seeing it in all collections either full-blown as in the examples above or as accents or accessories.image_540068661812128image_540068681180316Two trends here….the midriff or cutouts and the opulence of this exquisite full ruched tulle skirt….magnificent! …image_540070685940205Ombre metallic in purple and turquoise let’s see if this goes further…..image_540068671040589 Black is in every collection (with a couple of exceptions) thus far and teamed with metallic, fresh, modern and chic. Is black a trend, yes, I believe it is and metallic and/or shine is as well.image_540071345881365Which brings me to Tom Ford and Alexander Wang….first up Tom Ford.image_54006849020784image_540071965059734

image_540068498890673image_540071568836831Still, his trademark cut outs, love the jewelry and shoes and for once, I can say I like the leggings….in silver metallic.image_540068507752591And then a throwback to the ’80’s but I want you to look at the print combinations and either pattern or textured tights, we are already seeing these as trends as well as the feeling of patchwork for it’s tunic…just saying!!!!image_540068629160438image_540068629160438

image_540068609220792Alexander Wang a predominately black collection with a splash of color.image_540068538248785image_540068527976751image_540068519559216Jeremy Scott loves to play along with us with color, pattern and whimsy making him the darling of the cool music lovelies such as Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus and, of course, those who want to follow their trend and Jeremy’s….note the pattern, the color, the tights, the shoes and one can’t disregard the wigs! image_540068561253829image_540068581384346image_54006857039288From fun and games to feminine looks set in a garden of pink carnations…Tory Burch shows us trends that are both fashion-forward and understandable.  A boho look of print combos and a perfect dress in an orange-red.  Not a fan of the shoe looks more spring/summer to me!image_54006860028214image_540068590179901Jason Wu shows the orange-red with midriff top and wrapped skirt and a classic black look for after five.image_540068698727599image_54006870664723image_540068714068922Tomas Maier brings a new luxury to a classic brand Bottega Veneta.  I particularly like the casualness of the bathrobe coat and jumpsuit in one of the color combinations of fall shades of pumpkin, a working of patchwork….and, of course, black for evening.

Obviously these are just a few of the multitute of collections being shown in New York.  There are many new designers that I will touch upon in the coming days and weeks….stay tuned.

All photos from Pinterest credits unknown.




image_539470344904957The glitz of a Chanel shoe pared with a ombre tweed jacket from Lafayette 148 New York.

image_53947051014348This has always been my motto in my wardrobe choices and when I assist others in planning and updating their closets and refreshing their hair and make-up.

It was time for my own refresh…..I’m not changing my signature base of black top and either a black pant or skirt and an occasional dress.  I am looking at a new make-up, a shorter hair-cut and new jackets and shoes, ah yes, shoes!!!! I am so tired of hearing all the convesations that one can or can’t wear this or that after a “certain age” whatever that means!  Let’s take a look at Iris Arfel, Tziporah Salamon or the ladies (and gentlemen, you can use a refresh as well you know!!!!) in Ari Seth Cohen’s books Advnced Style and Advaned Style: Older and Wiser.  Seriously, enjoy the fun, excitement and ease of being yourself.  Are there restrictions to what we can and can’t do, perhaps physically, but not our sense of who we are and what we wear.  Mini skirts should be left to those who have great legs no matter what the age, leggings never did get them unless worn under a skirt or with a shoe boot or boot or at the gym,. but not as a pant!

Now some pointers on how to shop….

  • Get a personal wardrobe stylist (perhaps me!) or a sales associate at your favorite store….Personal shoppers will take care of more than your wardrobe, they become your PA’s
  • Nothing wrong with shopping on sale, just be sure what you fall head and heels over works with what you have in your closet…adding items that can’t work, unless you are doing a whole new wardrobe (don’t we wish!!!!) isn’t smart at all
  • Think of adding one new trend or color a season
  • Adding a new shoe, handbag, piece of jewelry, sunglasses, scarf can make all the diffenence in your established wardrobe
  • A top notch alteration person/tailor can make your existing wardrobe look new and be able to make that little adjustment on your skirt or pant length taking it from dowdy (and who wants to look dowdy or dated!) to fab
  • A refreshed make-up….go to any store to any make-up counter and find a new look not only fun but empowering, we all love a new color lipstick and often need the new eyes of a trained make-up artist to give us the updated look along with technique tips
  • A new hairstyle and perhaps a fresh color, both will make you feel and look a million% better

Are you ready for my journey for a New Year New Nena….well here we go….. First up I made a long overdue (my hair grows very fast and I find it loses it shape quickly, I really need to get it cut every 4-5 weeks, hadn’t been in ages, bad Nena!) appointment with Daniel Paterno at Workshop Daniel Salon 

image_539470118295115Arrival with Danielimage_539470198059126Pondering the look…..cut it off Daniel!!!!

image_539470228711568Some of the old look on the floor…..image_539470285650732Much better, don’t you agree…..

A few days later I arrive at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago to do my make-up with Armenia Vasquez, the Chanel Business Manager, she is a delight to work with, please check with her, the Chanel Beauty boutique has so many wonderful upcoming events for you to enjoy.image_539469959312981image_539469972631423image_539469951591516image_539470009801908The Spring Chanel palette Armenia used on me (she had Googled me to plan ahead the look she thought would be best and she was spot on! Smart lady!)image_539469935890495image_53946955686051The Chanel special blush formed like a Chanel tweed….amazing!

image_539469569565254I love make-up charts, this is mine (wish I looked like the sketch…one lives in hope)…she did a green liner on top of a smoky dark grey liner above the lash and in the waterline under the top lash.  I usually do a nude on the lower waterline.  A blend of a couple of lipsticks for a softer red than I have been using…like it alot.  She kept my smoky eye and added a bit of blush, which I usually only do for evening, I also intensify my eye  for evening.  I liked the addition of the green, having green eyes they change from green to blue to hazel but the green brought out the green perfectly.  Luckily I have a lot of lid and it does like color… brows are in the process of growing in but must be groomed, they are wild otherwise and one can’t have wild eyebrows…oh my! I find having my make-up done, in fact any personal service, so relaxing and rewarding to take away not only a new and refreshed look but a new tip or two on application and/or color.

Next up wardrobe….I had been in the week before to review my picks for the photo shoot…image_539470450808004The initial pull…a couple of the pieces were sold (that is the idea!!!!) so you won’t see them in the actual photos.  I also took a couple of photos of the jackets with my shoe selection…one of which is at the top of this post…here is anotherimage_539470365977791I am obsessed with this Chanel tweed “sneaker” can you even stand the pearl detail, oh my.  The 10022 Shoe department at Saks Chicago is beyond amazing I wanted everything I saw but did contain myself with ones I wanted to share with you.

image_53946990359299When I got to the Fifth Avenue Club Bryant Keith Von Woodson II was ready for me with the garments pulled (we took a couple of minutes to pull more shoes) and was all set to photograph the “try-on” portion of the refresh.  He is always spot on with own trendsetting look as you can see reflected in the mirror.  New York City you had better get ready because as soon as he graduates from Columbia College Chicago in May he is planning on taking the Big Apple by storm….just saying!

image_539469878207016image_539470409428505Let me show you my favorite look of all, this incredible print jacket by Etro…love everything they do, but this mix of color and pattern is superb and would be the one piece to add to my wardrobe.  My closet is seasonless (a few hot weather pieces thrown in but mostly year round clothes…drop the turtleneck for a black shell or cammy for those hot summer days).  I am wearing my own new gold triple hoop drop earring a bargain found at the last Randolph Street Market, the next one is Satuday and Sunday, February 24 and 25 from 10 to 5.  I would wear a black pump with this to complete the outfit.image_53946974658994image_539470497905241Two of the trends I followed in the Spring 2018 shows I covered in nenasnotes, Crome yellow and a bold abstract print.  The jacket is from Lafayette 148 New York and the charming black lace trim print top from Kobi Halperin, one of my new favorite designers.  Can’t wait to see what will show us for Fall 2018 in New York Fashion Week shows beginning this week.  I’m suggesting a high heel black suede sling from Manolo Blanik.  The jewelry featured is from my own collection of jet necklaces, you can be sure there will be a feature on jet in the near future.image_539469805633221Love this Lafayette 148 New York jacket in an ombre black and white tweed but perhaps too similar to pieces I already own.  But it is a stunning classic that can be worn forever! Hum, I wonder and with that Chanel shoe…….image_539469795004381Another trend that I followed through all four major markets for Spring 2018, stripes, here on an Akris jacket accented with stripes that look like a bar code and a triangular detail of metallic.  The shoe, picking up another trend polka dots, Chanel’s clear and black patent with pearl dots…love!image_53946959308132All shades of pink were on the catwalks for Spring, this classic blazer from Oscar de la Renta, many items in my established wardrobe are OdlR.  I’m holding a slide, I don’t usually like them because I tend to walk out of them but found this one a delight in a charming rose print from Gucci.image_53946982600754image_539469757423854Every designer I ever worked with wanted me to wear red, not my color of choice but this one might be the exception.  Again from Oscar de la Renta and I’m showing you two shoe choices, both from GUCCI, the floral applique leather stiletto or the carnation embroidered flat. The pin on the jacket from my Bakelite collectiion also from a visit to the Randolph Street Market.image_539469855247259image_539558973934025For some unknown reason this looks architectural to me….like a pointilist painting of a skyline, vivid imagination, I know!  It is from the Akris Punto spring collection. The shoe I have chosen is from Ferragamo and is black patent with a sculptured gold heel, yum!

Well there you have it some of my picks for an updated look for Spring 2018 and beyond.  I will be covering the Fall 2018 month of the four major fashion markets starting this Friday…let’s hope I reign myself in this season and not do daily posts…we shall see, Fall Colelctions are my favorites!

Just a note, none of the vendors mentioned, including Saks Fifth Avenue, have compensated me in any way for this post.  All are my opinions and my photos via Bryant!



image_538613420344442Viktor & Rolf

image_53861322232845Charles Frederick Worth the Father of Haute Couture.  The first Couturier began in 1858.  The term Haute Couture was coined in 1908 meaning High Fashion and By Hand.

Let’s take a look at this season’s presentations always shown in the current season, Spring in January and Fall in July.  Always amazing, sometimes quirky, always trendsetting, always the laboratory of Fashion….here we go and not in any order of presentations.  There were over 30 houses that showed, lots of the names you know, Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Armani, Margiela, and many new names to watch.  As well as a couple of Fall 2018 ready-to-wear collections from the states, such as Proenza Schouler.

I’ll start with Chanel this time…as always Lagerfeld does not disappoint in his staging,  this time a garden theme and inspired by Mademoiselle herself from a classic Cecil Beaton portrait (dying to see the documentary on him…need to be vigilant in finding when and where it will show…let me know if you know, please!) image_538613176265413image_538613460216972Too magnificent for my words…just enjoy.  You can always view the shows on the designer’s websites or stream them on YouTube…what did we do before technology, don’t even remember.

image_538613199772245The inspiration.

image_538613449638286And 2018’s interpretation…glorious!


image_53861319002956Lots of white and pastels, pale pink, in particular, which was shown in many of the Spring 2018 Shows in the Fall, in the Chanel Collection, along with appliqued flowers embellished with jeweled beading.


image_53861310480742image_53861311509812image_538613087745137image_538613096309979The Dior collection was primarily black and white with a few nude tones and pale pastels here and there.  I thought the black and white pieces were exquisite, very wearable and timeless from the day pieces through the elegance of the evening gowns,  Total red carpet ready.  I also liked the simple one strap gold sandal with all! Another accessory seen in more than one collection…the mask, are we getting ready for another try at a Capote Black and White ball, how exciting!

image_538618217077619image_538622000282254image_538622009792344Valentino does feathers as hats, feathers were everywhere, and the collection had fabulous color combinations and exciting prints.


image_538622746222262Giambattista Valli always the showman who does unbelievably beautiful gowns.

image_538621741956686Jean Paul Gaultier never disappoints, love this androgynous outfit.image_53862175004566I actually found this collection to be quite wearable for him!image_538624001591528image_538624014533993Armani Privé

image_538613069042253Maison Margiela….don’t quite know what this is but perhaps after I study it a bit more I will get its brilliance!  We shall see…….

image_538621983758828Valentino…I thought this was great fun my friend Virginia Heaven hated it!  Such is the debate over Haute Couture!

image_538613428881128Another Viktor & Rolf

So much more to include but I have shown you some of the highlights of what appealed to me…the good, the trends to watch in the upcoming Fall Collections and the strange….On to the major four markets for Fall 2018, can’t wait….let’s see what our little eyes will spy….image_53862493694967




imageNancy Plummer
I really love doing Profiles on my talented friends who I have met through teaching, you can check out several in the archives.  Today’s post is on Nancy Plummer, a very talented woman who truly enjoys, and is very good at it, sharing her passion for helping her clients look their best.  Her background is retail as well as teaching a perfect combination for her business.
Nancy and I have been friends since 2001 and although we don’t see each other as often as we would like we fall back into a common love of our industry and its strengths and challenges, usually over a glass or two of wine and a nibbly bit!  Nancy is a whiz at technology, over the years I have learned a lot from her.  Let’s learn a bit more about her, shall we…..
I asked Nancy how we met……
“I believe it was one of the many fashion events when I was teaching at AI and Program Chair at IADT. I do have communication from you on speaking at several of my events and at school since 2009. You did speak in November of 2010 – topic was NENA’S FIFTY YEARS OF FASHION. Remember that? You also was my guest speaker at one of my successful style events at the Center on Halsted. You were a guest speaker, and that was October of 2009. I was active as Program Chair from 2007-2010.
No, we met when I was at Neiman Marcus 2001-2003!”


It has to be when I was a member of the Swinging Needles 4-H Club in Huntsburg, Ohio. I received numerous awards for my sewing. I made aprons, potholders, sundresses, etc. My Mother, seamstress extraordinaire, was also the leader of the club.


February 11, 2009. My book, Your Personal Style was published and released by Fairchild publications. All the learnings I had received throughout my career was now written down for me to pass on to others. It’s not only educational but a beautiful keepsake. It has been used in over 30 colleges across the United States.



I began my business, Fine Threads, sewing for professional women. These women believed in me and pushed me to continue their style journey. So, I went inside their closets and took them shopping. At the time, I didn’t know what it was called, but quickly learned it was image consulting. I was introduced to the organization The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) where I honed my craft.



I would be a college professor. I really liked teaching others, and so I went back to college to get my Masters Degree in Training & Development. I wanted to not only teach others but to plan the curriculums and organize the training. I became a Program Chair for the Fashion Department at IADT (no longer in existence), yet still, teach and train plenty of individuals and groups.

imageNancy working with clients, here a classic trench, one of the Spring 2018 trends.

imageAppearing on Windy City Live


I have 3 favorite books! 1) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 2) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and 3) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant


Pretty Woman


Alvin Ailey Dancers, the plays Wicked and Hamilton, Music from The East Village Opera Company, Adele, Sam Smith, and John Legend




Reading, writing, Bikram Yoga, bike riding, walking along the Lakefront (or any body of water – ocean perhaps!), Sunday Church-Brunch-Movie, sewing (especially fabric stores), and live music concerts, and hearing great speakers on a variety of topics.


Unique Modern Furniture like West Elm and Anthropologie Home


Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, Diane von Furstenberg, Zac Posen, Byron Lars, Sarah Jessica Parker, Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Michael Jackson, and Madonna.

I would serve an Ethiopian, Mediterranean buffet from Chef Marcus Samuelsson

imageMarcus Samuelsson…. Nena’s note, I visited his restaurant Aquavit many years ago…must do Red Rooster in Harlem, New York on my next visit.  Photo from Pinterest credit unknown.


Martha’s Vineyard and would love to visit Paris, France


BLVD in the Fulton Market area of Chicago. I’m excited to check out the “old Hollywood glamour and glitz” and of course the food.

imageBLVD, I want to go too….really glam!  Photo from Pinterest credit not available.


Anything from Chicago artist Sam Kirk

imageSam Kirk and a portion of a mural.  Photo from Pinterest credit unknown.


Kind, creative, and a unique blessing to mankind!


Arroz Con Pollo from my Mother. Ingredients include white rice, chicken, green olives, tomato sauce, celery, thyme, green peppers, salt, garlic, black pepper, vegetable oil, onion,  Add 2 cups of water. Bake at 350 until rice is cooked. Nena’s Note.…there are zillions of recipes online with photos…I went to the Williams Sonoma website for the recipe…..Arroz Con Pollo Williams Sonoma



website:,“Let us guide you in developing a style that’s uniquely your own.” 

Pinterest nancy-plummer3, Twitter @nplumm, Facebook @FineThreadsStyle

Your Personal Style 


Man Repeller, Sartorialist, Advanced Style, Atelier Dore, A Cup of Jo, Cupcakes and Cashmere




imageI have wanted to do a story on Lucile’s time in Chicago and have researched it for years, when I met Randy Bryan Bigham (see his Profile on nenasnotes on Monday, January 8, 2018) on Facebook I hit paydirt.  Randy is the reigning expert on all things Lucile and he has helped me find more information on Lucile Ltd. in Chicago.


The story of Lucile Ltd. begins in London in 1890 and continued until the early 1920’s when she left the company (reluctantly!) She was the first to do many, many things that we now take for granted in the world of fashion…the first to release women from corsets (along with Poiret and others of the time) the first to create her own fragrance (note “French Novelties” in the advertisement above, that was how her fragrances were promoted!), exquisite lingerie and most interesting, to me, did the first “fashion parades” (fashion shows) using live mannequins.  She gave her garments provocative names and was a HUGE success in London, then New York and Paris.  If you GOOGLE Lucile Duff Gordon you will probably be taken to the Titanic site, she and her husband Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon sailed on the ill-fated crossing and were survivors of the sinking of the ship. Randy’s insight….”Yes it was awful but Lucile came through that bad spell and went on to become even greater. It has been said she was tainted by the scandal but I have not found that to be true. The press defended her and her publicity value only increased. So, while we may think of the Titanic today as the thing she’s most known for, that was absolutely NOT the case in her own day. She was hugely famous as a designer and public personality, and she continued to be celebrated well into the 1920s. It was a horrible tragedy to have witnessed, and the aftermath was very hurtful to her and her husband personally, but it was a blip on the screen of her life. At least that’s how I see it, and my research shows it was her fashions that kept her in the public eye and her amusing personality was also very entertaining. The Titanic was something to forget and the press seemed to feel that way too.”

imageLady Lucile Duff Gordon.

That is an entirely different story and one that has been told.  The new bit of information, to me, that Randy thought would interest me was two other passengers on board are part of my fashion history (many degrees of separation!)  From Randy… “You may be aware of this already but Leila Saks Meyer, the daughter of Andrew Saks, one of the founders of Saks, was on board the Titanic with her husband, Edgar Meyer. In fact, Lucile talked with the couple in the lounge on the fateful night the ship hit the iceberg. Leila Meyer survived in Molly Brown’s lifeboat, but Edgar was drowned with so many others in that terrible disaster.”

imageA page from Lucile’s memoir Discretions and Indiscretions.


Sensing there was a market in the Midwest, especially Chicago, she sought a site where her clients lived, Lake Shore Drive, in a mansion that was directly across the street from the Potter Palmer Mansion which put her in contact with Bertha Honore Palmer and the rest of Chicago society.  In addition, she did a collection for the Sears Roebuck catalog to bring her vision to the “masses”!

imageThe doorman at the entrance of Lucile Ltd. in Chicago, the townhouse of Colonel Franklin McVeagh at 1400 Lake Shore Drive.

imageimage The Rose Room in the Chicago Salon. The images above graciously shared by Randy Bryan Bigham.imageFrom Pinterest photo credit University of Michigan.  Designers such as Bill Blass. who did the Lincoln Mark VII cars from 1979 to 1983, continued this tradition.  Again Lucile was one of the first!  Chalmers, like the Maxwell, is now owned by Chrysler

She came to Chicago in 1914 and in 1916 hired an unknown young man to work for her (he later traveled with her to New York, served in World War l returned to work for Lucile in Paris and other Parisian designers and then….Hollywood!)  That young man was Howard Greer who worked at Paramount Studios and also has his own couture and ready-to-wear collections into the 1950’s.  He was placed at Paramount Studios by a woman we all know, Edith Head! Again a story unto itself. Find out more about his time with Lucile Ltd. in his autobiography, Designing Male.  His description of the interior of the Salon… “Its paneled walls and inlaid floors remained as he (McVeagh) had left them.  Thick purple rugs lay on the showroom floors.  Curtains of gray satin draped the windows.  Gray taffeta upholstered the divans and chairs.  Glittering chandeliers hung like stalactites from the ceilings.  Until now I had known only the culture of and refinement of bird’s-eye maple and hand-painted china propped upon a plate rail and I spent most of my time ogling all this dazzling splendor from the vintage point of a doorway.  The people, too, were in no way reminiscent of my friends at home.  Mannequins, like haughty duchessses out of a Graustark novel, emerged from the little stage that was framed and clouded with gray chiffon curtains.  the saleswomen and their assistants wore rustling gray taffeta bouffants, and were patronizing and superior.”

imageHoward Greer around the time of his tenure with Lucile Ltd.imageA photograph and sketch from a film in the late 1920’s looks like a Lucile garment. Both images from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The images below were graciously given to me by Jessica Pushor, Costume Collections Manager, Chicago History Museum 

imageimageimage This dress was donated by Mrs. Irene Castle Enzinger in 1953; it was created for her by Lucile when she appeared in Irving Berlin’s Watch Your Step, circa 1914.

imageimageDress, wedding-style, of off-white satin. Bodice trimmed with pleated self-fabric, white organdy, Chantilly lace, and sprays of satin flowers. Square neckline; elbow sleeves. Light blue satin sash at natural waist. Full-length skirt of white organdy trimmed with Valenciennes lace insertion and edge stiffened with whale bone. White satin overskirt lined with light blue satin. Petticoat of Pussy Willow silk (stamped on selvage “Genuine pussy willow”) with crepe chiffon ruffle.Worn by Katherine Keith at her marriage to David Adler on June 1, 1916.

imageimageDress wedding-style, of white silk satin. Bodice has low, square, lace-trimmed neckline in front. White satin flowers attached at proper left front corner of collar. Long fitted sleeves. Back satin buckle closure. Slim-fitting skirt; floor-length. Train of white satin with silk-thread embroidery of floral bouquet at base. Worn by Ginevra King for her marriage to William H. Mitchell on September 4, 1918.

imageimageCoat of black satin embroidered with multicolored chinoiserie pattern and ribbons. Wide sable collar. Fingertip-length sleeves with sable trim. Falls below the knee. Black and blue velvet lining. Worn by Margaret Harwood Stevens.  Lucile was known for its use of exotic motifs and silhouettes. This coat from the Paris branch reflects the taste for chinoiserie in French fashions around 1923.

Updated information from Randy Bryan Bigham…
“It’s important to know the coat post-dates Lady Duff Gordon’s association with the label. She left the year before the coat was made. Since a few of her designs were used in the house’s first collection after her departure (spring 1923), it’s possible the print or fabric was her choice, but the overall design may not have been. There had been disagreements about the aesthetic direction of the Lucile houses for several seasons, and she was decidedly on the outs with the company by that time, so all her ideas were not being adhered to, and sadly she was very much disrespected by the new director by 1922, when she was sacked as chief designer.”
You knew there would have to be a book (I gave you Randy’s superb monograph on Lucile in his profile….be sure to order it, it is a MUST have for any fashion library!)  And the author I am now presenting to you references Randy and his book along with other publications she researched.
Here is a novel by Karen Harper that I think you might enjoy, I did. What wouldn’t I like about a story set in Edwardian times (a bit before and a bit after) a historical novel, you know I love them, and not only about a designer I have always admired but her sister Elinor Glyn, the notorious author (at least at the time…her scandalous novel, Three Weeks, has been re-released, it was the Fifty Shades of Grey of it’s time).  It is a romance to be sure, the Sutherland sister’s love lives read like a romance novel but all based on fact and not always happy or successful. I was particularly taken by the affair between Elinor and Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, fascinating and tragic…. Of course, the book discusses the sinking of the Titanic but does not make it the defining moment of Lucile’s life. The book gives us glimpses of the people of the time from the Royals and the American women who married into English society (they had the money, the husbands had the titles…think Downton Abbey!) Hollywood stars, Broadway (Lucile designed for the Ziefeld Follies), and all the names of the time…The Duke of Windsor, Lillie Langtry, Elsie de Wolfe, Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow (supposedly Elinor gave her the title The IT Girl!) and on and on.  But it so much more than that it is the story of two independant women, way ahead of their time, knowing what they wanted to do with their lives and doing it their way. They were definitely The It Girls of their generation!  A good read.
 A surprise…….
imageThis stunning sketch is from Rosemary Fanti from her Facebook page and she has given me permission to use it….the copy reads:  “Thank you, dear Nena Ivon, for piquing my interest with your fascinating blog on early 20th Century fashion designer #LucileDuffGordon.  Here’s my take on a thoroughly-modern-Lucile dressing gown design.”  Rosemary is one of Chicago’s treasures and an amazingly unique talent.  Do you think I can have her do a sketch of me…now that could be a very interesting post!


imageRandy Bryan Bigham with his book, Lucile-Her Life by Design

I am extremely excited to share a profile on a very special individual I met on Facebook, Randy Bryan Bigham.  I became totally intrigued by his scholarship and dedication to Lucile Duff Gordon, a designer I have long admired and whose story is a unique and fascinating part of fashion history.  I asked Randy for some advice on Lucile’s venture in Chicago (you will read more about that in this week’s Friday Fashion Flashback) and we became “off Facebook friends” via correspondance (he follows nenasnotes much to my delight) and I asked him if he would be one of my “profiles” and he said yes!  His answers to my questions along with his biography and photos are very personal and I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to such a humble scholar.  I know you will feel you have found a new friend just like I have!

Randy Bryan Bigham is an independent fashion history scholar whose research has been featured in a number of books, including Lucile Ltd (2009) by Valerie D. Mendes and Amy de la Haye; Hollywood Before Glamour (2013) by Michelle Tolini Finamore; and  London Society Fashion (2015) by Cassie Davies-Strodder, Jenny Lister and Lou Taylor.

The author of Lucile – Her Life by Design (2012), the first full-scale biography of Edwardian couturiere and Titanic survivor Lady Duff Gordon, Randy has contributed to TV documentaries for the BBC, the Sundance Channel and the National Geographic Channel. His journalism has appeared in Women’s Wear Daily, the Sunday Times Magazine and The Lady. He’s also the author of Finding Dorothy, a biography of silent screen star Dorothy Gibson (2012), and of Life’s Décor, a biography of Helen Churchill Candee that was included in the 2008 reissue of Candee’s 1924 travelogue Angkor the Magnificent.


Randy was a consultant for the 2016 exhibition Lucile – Fashion. Titanic. Scandal at the Guelph Civic Museum in Canada, and coming up in 2018 his own private collection of Lucile garments and memorabilia will be spotlighted in an exhibition at the Titanic Museums in the USA.

imageRandy (on the right) with Edwardian era and Titanic historian Hugh Brewster who worked together on the 2016 Canadian exhibition Lucile: Fashion. Titanic. Scandal.

Since 2015, with friend and research colleague Inger Sheil, he’s been an admin for the Facebook group, Fashion Designers, 1800-1950.


With Inger Sheil, a friend and colleague of 15 years, Randy is an admin for the Facebook group, Fashion Designers 1800-1950. This 1919 cover of Les Modes features an evening gown by Paris couturier Jenny (Jeanne Sacerdote), whom Randy has researched.


Do you mean my first job as a writer? Or do you mean my very first job? If you mean the latter, it was mowing lawns at about age 13! It was for an old lady, a Mrs. McClain, whom I used to ply with questions about her memory of the fashions of her youth. She was born in 1902, and could recall the dresses of the Edwardian era, which I was already fascinated by. Mrs. McClain said she remembered lawn parties where the women’s gowns trailed the grass, and I just loved that visual. Talking to her was fun. The long hours of hard work, mowing her huge front yard — not so much!

As to my first proper writing job, it was for the small daily paper in my hometown. I had worked freelance, writing for big papers, doing art and book reviews, but no editor would hire me on staff until the tiny newspaper in Ennis, Texas took me on. That started my evolution as a writer, learning to pare down sentences, to edit, to get the best quotes, to tell the story so simply that readers are — hopefully — moved. The human interest feature story always mattered to me. I was a horrible news reporter. I must have driven my first editor mad! Hard news and politics weren’t for me. I still hate all that, and I’m sure I’d die of boredom if I had to write about it!


I write freelance – locally and nationally, and I work as a consultant on various projects, some having nothing to do with fashion history. One thing that’s come along fairly recently is my working as a consultant for Paper Studio Press, which publishes beautiful paper doll books. I’ve worked on three titles so far, all of them on fashions of the 1910s, my favorite era. And I just did an interesting section on the history of the fashion show for a Bloomsbury textbook that will be out in 2018. Really, I just have fun. I don’t make a lot of money, but you don’t need a lot to be happy. Some of the research and writing I do is for free. Helping other writers out with material for magazine articles, assisting curators with info on garments for exhibitions, etc., are some of the things I do. Not so interesting to some but it amuses me.


I’m not sure that it’s talent. I think it is more luck than anything, and a lot of determination. If you love something you just have to do it. There isn’t much of a choice. It’s in you or it’s not. You’re led to do what you do through passion and tenacity. But going back to talent: I knew I could write reasonably well, and I had that gift in elementary school. Teachers noticed it and asked me to read my stories to the class. I can’t recall now what the stories were about, and how I had the nerve to get up in front of the class, I don’t know. I’m in my 40s now, and should be past being shy, but I’m petrified of speaking in public, and can only do it impromptu. I cannot prepare for it. I would be too nervous.


I don’t think I have made it yet! I’m just a fashion history nut who’s been lucky to find ways to express my love for the subject. I have contributed to important projects – books on the Titanic, which started my interest in some of the famous women aboard, books on fashion history, exhibitions. But all those projects just sort of happened. The accomplishment I’m most proud of is writing Lucile’s biography. That’s been such a driving force for me, and the research has opened doors. I’m very grateful to the people who saw my work as important and helped me along the way. There were a few naysayers but you can’t listen to people like that.


My original passion was Lucile. When I first found out about her I was intrigued but didn’t think I would find very much. I was really surprised she was so celebrated and influential and, to tell you the truth, a little shocked she was not better remembered. Back in the late ‘80s, when I first went to school at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, almost no one was interested in her. People would ask “Who?” And it used to irritate me. I felt I had to justify myself all the time. Now it seems everybody is an expert on Lucile! (Nena’s note…no one does it as well as Randy, without question!)


Randy was first drawn to the work of Lucile, seen here with a model in her New York studio in 1916, when he was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the mid-1980s.

The library at FIT has the scrapbooks and photo albums kept by the staff of the New York branch of Lucile Ltd, so I became fascinated and immediately thought I should do a book. That was just a dream then. I had to earn a living, so I couldn’t devote a lot of time to it, and that’s why it stretched on until 2009 when I finished the final draft. Publishers were interested along the way, including a university press that wanted to cut it down and to not use very many color images. As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled with offers like that, so I finally published it myself five years ago. I was excited and am still happy to see how it’s been taken up and cited in various major studies on the history of dress. There’s so much drivel about how one can’t hope to have a success with a self-published title, and while that might be true in most cases, if you’ve got a special subject, the right people will be drawn to it. And I probably have made as much money from it as have authors who’ve gone the traditional route.



  1. Lucile, among her achievements, is responsible for launching the first modern fashion parades, using a stage, music, lights and all the accoutrement of show.


I don’t think I could have done anything else well. I went to FIT to be a designer and I was hopeless. You should have seen me trying to draft a pattern. I don’t have a natural perseverance with anything but writing and editing. Nothing else seems worth it. If I had the talent, I would have loved being a designer. I have the creativity, I think, just not the technical skill.


I read mostly fashion history and biographies. I don’t care for fiction, although I quite enjoyed E.M. Forster a few years back, but that’s mainly because I’ve seen the films that have been made of them. One of the dress history writers I enjoy most is Caroline Evans, whose book The Mechanical Smile I was honored to contribute research to. She was one of the first scholars to embrace my work and to make me feel what I had done mattered. I also love to read Christopher Breward. His books are all excellent. He is excellent. So is Alistair O’Neill.


Randy with fashion historian Marlis Schweitzer, author of When Broadway was the Runway and other titles featuring her own research on Lucile.

As to theatre, I don’t have modern favorites as far as plays. I so love researching early 20th century musical theater. While learning about the Ziegfeld Follies, when I was working on Lucile (she designed for the Follies in the 1910s and early ‘20s), I got hooked. And I’m crazy for silent film history, particularly the costumes of the early female stars. I’ve written an article on Theda Bara’s influence on fashion in the ‘teens for a scholarly journal, and I hope it sees the light of day. And you know the first paper doll book I helped with for Paper Studio Press was on Theda.

Regarding modern film, I like some foreign titles, particularly French and Italian. I’m crazy for Anna Magnani! And, believe it or not, I like a few horror flicks. I know that doesn’t fit much into the rest of my personality but I can’t help it. I’m a fan of The Blair Witch Project and of the first Friday the 13th, if you can imagine that. I’ve even become friends with Adrienne King, the star of that first film, and the only really good one in the series, if you ask me. I interviewed her a couple years ago. She’s a dear, sweet person, so real and supportive.

imageAlthough Randy loves romantic period films, he’s a fan of the horror classic Friday the 13th, and has become friends with its star, Adrienne King, with whom he’s seen here in Dallas in 2016.

As for TV shows, I watch CNN, “The Golden Girls” reruns and I haven’t missed a season of “Survivor.” And, you’ll probably laugh at this, but I like the “Finding Bigfoot” series on Animal Planet. I’m not really a believer but I like the mystery of it.

imageRandy loves history but isn’t above enjoying pop culture reality shows like CBS’s “Survivor” and The Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.” This card, signed by the cast, was sent him by a friend, Linda Plochocki, for Christmas last year.

I don’t have a favorite restaurant but I do love Italian food. I’m not hard to please in that area, and my expanding waistline is proof of it.


I love taking country drives and snapping photos of nature. I’m not a gifted photographer but I like being out and about on a beautiful day and recording what I see.

imageA pastime for Randy is taking photos along the country roads in and near his hometown of Ennis, the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.

I used to enjoy hiking but my injury has so far prevented my resuming that. Someday, I hope to get back to it. I lost my right leg from the knee down back in 2013 due to an infection that came on suddenly. It was a huge adjustment. To say it changed my life is an understatement. It just about did me in, but I think if you keep focused on what matters, you can come through anything. It has taken the four years since I lost my leg to have a firm philosophy about it. The bottom line for me now, when it comes to being disabled, is it doesn’t matter. And I don’t feel disabled. I am still me. I haven’t changed in the essentials. But I don’t walk as fast, and I can’t run anymore. I used to love to run. That’s the only thing I get emotional about. I hate that I will probably never run again. But in general I’m still happy with life; whatever good it has in store for me, I welcome it. The bad stuff nobody wants, of course, and you just learn to work around it.Randy lost his right leg at the knee in 2013, after surviving a serious infection. The setback only strengthened him, he says, and made him more determined to enjoy life.


This shot of Randy was taken in a field of bluebonnets near Ennis during the town’s Bluebonnet Trails Festival.


I love anything Elsie de Wolfe would have approved of. I adore Louis Seize antiques, mirrors, chintz, old wicker, green and white stripes. I’m a huge Elsie fan.  I think with certain tweaks that take into account changes in modern life, her ideas are still in good taste.

imageElsie de Wolfe’s early 1900s interiors featured design elements Randy appreciates.


I would invite Zandra Rhodes, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington (I love old jazz), Cecil Beaton, the cast from Finding Bigfoot and Bigfoot! And I would add you to the list because we could compare notes afterwards! I’m not a gourmet so I have no idea what I’d serve but I’d hire someone to do it all up perfectly.


I fell in love with Versailles when I first visited the Palace and Petit Trianon in 1997. I’ve gone back twice, and would love to go again. It really is a spiritual experience for me, having researched Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin.

imageOne of Randy’s favorite places in the world is Versailles, where this picture of him at age 28 was taken in 1997.

That reminds me: I do have a favorite book! Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. It’s stellar. Get it. You’ll love it.

imageOne of Randy’s favorite books on fashion history is Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell’s Fashion Victims


I really appreciate Corot’s landscapes, especially Souvenir de Mortefontaine. I know it’s one of his most famous, so it may be expected that I would like it, but I never tire of it. It warms the soul. And that’s what great art is supposed to do. I have a copy framed on the wall by my bed. It’s been there for over 20 years.



Just as someone who loved history and who got a kick out of sharing it with others. I hope I’ve had a hand in shedding light on the work of great designers in history like Lucile who are in fact artists deserving of admiration and respect for the beauty they gave the world in their time. That’s what we try to celebrate in the Facebook group, Fashion Designers, 1800-1950.




I’m not a cook. I do make a mean pimento cheese but that’s probably too simple to brag about. I eat salads when I can, and that certainly saves on calories, but I’m not going to lie — on busy days it’s a McDonald’s cheeseburger! And believe me, if I could eat pasta every day and not gain weight, I’d do it. A family friend who’s an incredible cook, and is surrounded by other gourmets, shared a recipe recently and he gave me permission to include it here. Kevin Graves is his name and he collaborated with his friend Robin Dailey to come up with this delicious recipe. Kevin calls the dish Palm Beach Chicken because that’s where they were when they conceived it. It is garlic infused sautéed chicken breasts served on a bed of cooked asparagus with a creamy sauce and topped with green onion and chopped fresh tomato.

imagePalm Peach Chicken, a recipe by Kevin Graves and Robin Dailey, is delicious and beautiful.

Palm Beach Chicken with Asparagus and Tomatoes

2 lbs. Aldi Boneless Chicken Strips
3 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 stick Butter
4 Tbsp. Avocado Oil
6 Green Onions Chopped (divided)
1 medium vine-ripened Tomato, chopped, drained
6 oz. Whipped Cream Cheese room temp
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tsp. natural tenderizer with no MSG
1 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Onion powder
1 Tsp. Dried Cilantro
1 Tsp. Dried Parsley
¾ Cup fresh Shredded Parmesan (divided)
½ Cup Grated Parmesan and Romano
Dash of Lemon Pepper
1 Tbsp. Powdered Chicken Bouillon
Tsp. Corn Starch

Melt butter in pan on ned-low, add avocado oil, 5 chopped green onions, sprinkle tenderizer into mixture, add chicken. After it’s been sautéing and has been turned a few times add garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, paprika and dried seasonings. Add a few more shakes of tenderizer, keep turning, then let simmer on low.

Rinse, snap, rub 2 lbs of asparagus with avocado oil and a few dashes of garlic powder and salt and steam in the microwave for 3.5 minutes.

Tomato: Chop, drain, add 1 chopped green onion and a dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder, sit to the side in small colander

Take a long oval tray and spread vertical to the length of the oval tray (imagine the tray is horizontal so lay asparagus spears in opposite direction and place chicken pieces in the middle.

Keep the chicken drippings simmering on low, add the heavy whipping cream and cream cheese, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and cornstarch and whisk. Pour a few ladles over the chicken and put the rest in a pourable cup. Keep it warm or it will break and separate.  After adding the sauce sprinkle the tomato mixture and top with remaining shredded Parmesan and serve.


Some links Randy has shared with us….

Lucile – Her Life by Design by Randy Bryan Bigham, currently only available via, can be ordered here:
“Ontario Today” CBC Radio interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by Rita Celli
“Beautiful and damned” by Randy Bryan Bigham in The Lady
“A beautiful, devilishly gorgeous career” by Randy Bigham for Urbanette
“The Pioneering Fashions of Lady Duff Gordon.” An interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by James Blake Wiener for Fair Observer
“Lucy Duff Gordon.” Entry by Randy Bryan Bigham and Leslie Midkiff DeBauche in Columbia University’s Women Film Pioneers Project.
PastFashion, Randy Bryan Bigham’s fashion history blog.
“Pop Culture Tonight ” Radio interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by Patrick Phillips