FASHION FLASHBACK: LUCILE DUFF GORDON

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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.

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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.

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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.
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 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!
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PROFILE: RANDY BRYAN BIGHAM

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.

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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.

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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.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB

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!

BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION

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.

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR TALENT

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.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

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.

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

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!)

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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.

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  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.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

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.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, LIST THE FOLLOWING,IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE…THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT

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.

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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.

HOBBIES….

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.

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

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC DESCRIBE

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.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE

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.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST

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

FAVORITE WORK OF ART

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.

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HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

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.

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A FAVORITE RECIPE

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

Directions:
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.

Asparagus:
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.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF RANDY BRYAN BIGHAM

Some links Randy has shared with us….

Lucile – Her Life by Design by Randy Bryan Bigham, currently only available via lulu.com, 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

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: ICE SKATING

imageWhen I was a little girl I wanted to either be a ballerina or a figure skater.  I took lessons in both and loved every minute of them.  Today let’s talk about figure skating.

I think one of the things I liked most of all about skating was wearing the incredible costumes Mom made for me.  Totally adorable,  little skirts of felt or velvet with tops and little bonnets to match and, of course, I could wear colored tights long before we wore tights. the only time you wore tights in those days was either for ballet or figure skating, lucky me I got to do both!  I thought I was totally cool!

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Each Saturday, during the winter, Mom and I would take the El/Subway from Howard Street (we lived in Rogers Park in Chicago at the time) to the Grand Avenue station where we got the Grand Avenue bus East to Fairbanks and walked a couple of blocks to the Arena (which became the CBS Chicago headquarters).  Daddy would often go with us and stop off at work and meet us or go with us to watch me skate.  The figure skating classes were taught by professional skaters and I was crazy about mine.  The classes were small and we had the entire rink to ourselves…the ice smooth as glass (I always had difficulty skating on outside ice, especially when used for hockey games, fairly rough compared to figure skating ice, yes there is a difference!)  But the most fun of all was when The Ice Follies were in town and we got to skate on their ice which had exquisite colored patterns in the ice.  We felt like we were The Ice Follies…and then we got to watch them perform at the Saturday Matinee….it was magical! We, of course also had The Ice Capades, but The Follies were my favorites especially since they shared their ice with me!   I have searched and searched for a photo of the Arena’s rink to no avail, but did find a couple of fun illustrations from The Ice Follies.

imageimageA couple of programs I found on Pinterest.

imageimageI have never heard of this film, now a must-see on my list…..and she skated in it….amazing!

Often after class, we would go to The Hilton to the Boulevard Room for their ice show, I could have watched for hours.  I would have what I thought was a grown-up cocktail, we didn’t call them Shirley Temples…Mom and Daddy, of course, had “real” ones and with a wink from Daddy to the waiter, mine was the “same” (these were the days of Old Fashioneds, Whisky Sours, Manhattans…each served in the proper glass!). imageFrom the book Vintage Cocktails Assouline

imageimageimageHow in the world they skated on so tiny an area is still a puzzlement to me.  It was truly amazing and wonderful, so glamorous!

Now, of course, we watch the Winter Olympics with the incredible skills of the skaters (by the way a new movie, I, Tonya, is now in release, mixed reviews but for all accounts an interesting film!) and are able to take advantage of the extraordinary outdoor skating opportunities our fabulous City offers us.  Here are some that are worth a visit.

imageThe McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park (you can, of course, rent skates) It is wonderful any time of the day but what can be more fairytale-like than at night!

imageAlso in Millennium Park in Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon, to be enjoyed by all, again the views are part of the experience.  An ariel view of the rink.

imageThe newest kid on the block The Rink at Wrigley, how fun is this!

Skate at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm in the Zoo, remember this spectacular Zoo is one of the few in the world that is free!  Yet another exquisite view of the skyline of our City!image

Have you been to Navy Pier lately, if not you are in for a major treat it just keeps getting better and better.  I love going in the Winter it has an almost magical charm, its calm, and totally beautiful with views of the City that you can only get if you are out on the Lake.  For a special treat, you can skate indoors in their Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest….

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And this hidden gem at The Peninsula Chicago, complete with its own Chalet, for its guests to enjoy, could this be any more enchanting, I think not!imageimageimageimageCould there be a more romantic spot…no, there couldn’t!

Of course, there are many other ice skating venues in the City and indoor rinks to polish your hockey skills along with your pair dancing and singles savvy.  Just grab your skates and enjoy!

The last three photos I took with my iPhone all others from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

imageReady for Hot Buttered Rum…..

For 4 drinks from epicurious:

2 cups water

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dark rum

Bring all ingredients except the rum to a boil in a 1 1/2-to 2-quart saucepan over moderately high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes.  remove from heat and stir in rum.  Serve hot.

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: HOLIDAY READING

imageIf you are this far along with your Holiday plans it’s time to sit by the fire with a glass of “real” eggnog, a slice of the fruitcake, I gave you the recipe for last week, or some of the cookies that I am featuring at the end of this post, and a Christmas Story or two….here are some thoughts for you and, of course, for gifts.

A couple of new ones this year by two of my favorite authors who by the way, have new books coming out early 2018…can’t wait!!

imageThis is a charming mystery with one of my most favorite detectives, Charles Lenox.  He is almost my favorite but I’m afraid Armand Gamache still has the biggest part of my heart!!!  But I must say Charles Lenox is very close….You can get this on your Kindle for a major bargain.  An easy read and one I know you will enjoy….the mystery had me guessing until the end but not so Lenox, the smartie!!

imageI am crazy for all of Rhys Bowen’s stories and have followed Molly Murphy since the series began.  Yet another mystery but set in the US, you know I am a bit partial to an English mystery as you shall see.  Read for your pleasure and give as a party gift or a perfect grab bag present.

imageA charming bit of fluff and why not.  If you are addicted to all the Christmas films on The Hallmark Channels…this is for you.  I’m more a White Christmas (I cry every year!), kind of gal!

imageimageOf course, a couple of Christie’s in the mix…definitely in the English spirit of the Holidays and a bit of murder thrown in, oh my!

imageA beautiful vintage A Christmas Carol, nothing more classic and again a perfect gift…I’m mad for this hand tooled leather volume.

imageNew this year and the basis for the film in theaters now…looks fabulous and both are on my to-do list before the end of the year.  And, of course, an annual must-see is the Goodman Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol, I never miss it. It runs through December 31st.

imageAnd speaking of a must-see have you gotten yourself and everyone you know to The Joffrey Ballet’s exquisite version, you have until December 30….hurry, you don’t want to miss it, if you have gone I suggest you go again the details are so intricate you need to see it more than once, that is a given!  How about a doubleheader with both The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, treat yourself to a couple of days in our beautiful City with a stay at one of my favorite hotels, The Peninsula,  The Ritz Carlton or any one of our fabulous boutique hotels with a special dinner….it is the holidays after all!  So much to do and it is already the middle of December, oh dear!

imageA charmingly nostalgic short story made into a vintage 1966 TV piece, you can watch on YouTube, with Geraldine Page. Capote narrates it.  Talk about a tearjerker!!!!  It is my chum Tom Mantel’s favorite and The Toms and I watch it every year while doing our holiday marathon baking weekend.  The strangest thing happened last week, I was going to bed and turned on WFMT-FM, my favorite station, and heard a familiar voice, no it wasn’t one of the hosts, it was Truman Capote reading A Christmas Memory, karma, I think so!

imageA beautifully written book and one I read every Christmas Eve when I was commuting from Evanston to work, I still read it every Christmas Eve day.

imageA lovely book on the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah which begins on December 13th.

These are just a few of the Holiday books that are available, each of your Independent Booksellers have tables full of more suggestions, not to mention all the cookbooks, children’s books and on and on and………..As you are well aware nothing pleases me more than a book at any time of the year.  Enjoy!

imageThis charming scene is actually a pop-up book, well not really it is a record album cover in The Tom’s magnificently decorated home.  I took this photo all others are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Remember the last Randolph Street Market is Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17.  You will be able to complete your Christmas list, enjoy a glass or two of spirits along with some goodies.  A perfect place to fill those holes in your list or grab last minute items for stocking stuffing (Mom and I always got special goodies in the toes of our stockings, no coal for us…thanks, Daddy!), grab bags or to take to those many holiday parties on your horizon.

I’m leaving you with one of my most favorite cookie recipes that I have made since I could stand on a chair and help with the baking (and cooking), so for a verrrrrry long time.  I don’t remember if I shared it with you last year, I think not, but in any case, worth having in your recipe box.  The cookies just get better with age in their cookie tin.  You won’t be able to eat only one!

From Nena’s Recipe Box

Russian Teacakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Heat oven to 400º. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Work in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until set but not brown.  Watch carefully so as not to burn.  While warm, roll in addition confectioners’ sugar.  Cool and roll in sugar again.  I use quite a bit of sugar.  Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.  (I can eat all 4 dozen in one seating, don’t but can!!!)

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: FASHION FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Rather than doing a review this week, I wanted to give you some recommendations on outstanding fashion books that have come out this year along with a couple other book thoughts for gift giving for your fashion friends and, of course, for yourself.  2017 has been an extremely good year for fashion titles and I am listing them in no particular order….here goes…..

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imageimageThe first three volumes in the series of designers for the House of Dior, the first, of course, Christian Dior.  Absolutely magnificent and our very own Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum is represented!

imageI have been an admirer of Siriano’s work since he appeared on Project Runway!  His “fierce” style has just gotten better and better.  It was my pleasure to welcome him to Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago on November 13, 2009, with one of his first Collections and I interviewed him later for a President’s Club event at Columbia College Chicago.  He was my last personal appearance at Saks, that is the day I retired!  When I have seen him over the years, he always says, “I was your last designer!”

imageBy now you probably know I am obsessed with anything Dries Van Noten…here a two-volume set of his collections, it must be brilliant! Can’t wait to add them to my library.

imageOne of several books that accompanied museum exhibitions…this one at the Met, as always exquisitely done!

imageThe book that accompanies the exhibition that is currently at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Several of my friends have seen it and say it is a superb exhibition.  I can’t find it on Amazon, only on the Museum’s website if you are interested in it.

imageFrom the Museum of Modern Art in New York featuring their first fashion exhibition (I swear I have seen fashion exhibits there in years gone by, I guess not!)

imageA wonderful anthology on the long-running Bazaar.

imageThis looks amazing…a must add to your fashion library….

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And speaking of fashion photography…one of the first was Cecil Beaton and this book accompanies the film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who gave us The Eye Has To Travel about her grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland.  You know that I am mad for anything Beaton does…anxious to read this and see the documentary.

imageimageAnd speaking of DV, the man who worked with her at Bazaar and Vogue and who we immediately think of when we think fashion photography…Richard Avedon, he, of course, did much more than fashion (as did most of the “fashion” photographers) and the second book, Avedon Something Personal, goes deep into his life.  There was a fascinating review in last week’s weekend Wall Street Journal…does not paint a pretty picture, well let’s judge for ourselves, shall we!

imageThere has been so much type re this scathing “diary” that it has put it on the New York Times Best Seller List and every other book list out there. Brown, known for not pulling punches, has done it again and it is another I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Probably shouldn’t be on my fashion book list, but most certainly a book that chronicles social mores.

imageAnother one out in left field but sounds fascinating….

As usual, do let me know what you have read, your thoughts on which, if any, appeal to you and then we can compare notes.  Happy reading!

 

 

FASHION NOW: HOUSE OF Z

Before I talk about the House of Z, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention, of course, the hurricanes both Harvey and now Irma that are devasting vast areas not only in the States but the Caribbean and now the earthquake in Mexico.  Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in their paths.  Another sad note, Pierre Bergé died at the age of 86.  The person who made Yves Saint Laurent a household name and gave us unprecedented art and antiques and the new Yves Saint Laurent museums in Paris and Marrakech.  We must thank him for giving us beauty in so many forms, RIP.

On a happy note, New York Fashion Week is in full swing and the Collection that caught my eye is Calvin Klein, designer Raf Simons has turned the Brand around and Spring 2018 is chocked full of color!  More on NYFW in upcoming posts.

Now for this post….my first “movie” review.

imageI had the pleasure of being invited by Brooks Brothers Chicago (Zac is the creative director of Brook Brothers) to attend a reception at the Michigan Avenue store and a screening of the House of Z a documentary on Zac Posen.  The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews. You can watch the film on www.vogue.com/houseofz

The film traces the designer’s life, from childhood to 2014, and his beginnings with his mother and sister at 20, in 2001, at which time his premiere collection was met with great enthusiasm from the press and stores.  It goes through the major ups and the major downs when no one wanted to know him…ego does get in the way of many creative people.  It doesn’t hold back on anything, the details are not glossed over, which I found refreshing and at times very sad.  It is the story of triumph, failure, and triumph once again…only in America, which I believe is true.

My opinion of Zac Posen has always been a positive one, he is extraordinarily talented and I feel his early success was too much too soon.  Not unusual in our industry but in many cases if a desinger goes into a decline they often don’t come back.  Fortunately for all of us Zac most certainly has come back and with a bang.  He, of course, kept in the public eye and became even visible with his participation on Project Runway. Always the darling of celelebrities walking the red carpet and once again with the press. The Collection that is featured as the “comeback” show is his Fall 2014 Collection and is presented in his atelier, it is an ode to Charles James who he feels has always been his inspirational designer.  Watching THE blue dress come to life and how many hands and hours it takes is fascinating, charming and nail biting. The only other fashion designer documentary that I have seen that resembles this is Isaac Mizrahi and Unzipped, which I thought was so sad…and look at Isaac now into so many things, including one man shows…he will be at the City Winery www.citywinery.com/chicago on September 29th!!  I found House of Z to be gritty, honest, with major doses of what goes on behind the scenes of not only creating clothes but into the heart, and yes, the soul of the designer.  Bravo!

imageIsn’t this amazing….

Did I work with Zac, yes, I did.  Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago hosted him at a benefit for Steppenwolf Theater www.steppenwolf.org at a show at the Murphy Auditorium www.the-murphy.com an absolutely gorgeous venue.  My production team from Ravenswood Studios headed by Deb Gohr built a runway out from the stage and painted it to look exactly like the wood on the stage everyone thought it was part of the room. Backstage was right next to the audience and very, very tight quarters…trying to keep 20+ models quiet is always a challenge but all went off without a hitch and was quite a stunning show.  We featured the Fall 2008 collection that spring, I always liked to do the collections as close to the actual time they are shown during market weeks rather than in season when everyone has seen them especially true now with most of the designers either live streaming and everyone in the audience immediately posting their photos and/or videos on Instagram.

imageTwo of the looks from the Zac Posen Fall 2008  Collection.

 

 

PROFILE: ME!!!

imageThe sketch is for some anniversary and by a dear friend……..

I hope you don’t think I am being very self-centered in profiling myself, I thought it would be a fun exercise to answer my own questionnaire.  You already know so much about me, my likes, my obsessions, highlights of my career, etc. but perhaps, just perhaps, I can give you a bit more insight into Nena!

Here goes….

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT AND HOW DID THAT PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I don’t know that I would call my career talent so let’s say when did I realize what I wanted to do…I always knew I wanted to be in “fashion” I just didn’t know what part of it.  Did I want to model, be a designer, be in public relations, advertising, or what!!!???  I had been on many “high school” boards during school both downtown and in Evanston.  That intensified my interest.  Being the daughter of a commercial artist I was very familiar with advertising.  I had begun sewing as soon as I could hold a needle (Mom gave me a beautiful sterling silver thimble with cloisonne on it, I could never use it, can’t stand the sound of the needle hitting the metal of the thimble!) Evanston Township High School offered a dress design course in the art department, (the head of the department was a dress designer at heart) my Junior Year.  I loved the class and did so well I was asked if I wanted to take it again for my Senior Year and do what ever I liked…I did!  I never modeled, but did teach modeling at a local “charm” school while I was in high school…loved doing that.  One day, when I was a Senior in high school I put on my hat and gloves (yes, you heard that correctly) got on the bus and went downtown.  For some unknown reason I felt one needed to know retail before you could do anything else in the business, after all that is where the product ends.  We usually shopped at Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the first stop on the bus route downtown was Saks.  I got off at Erie and Michigan and went to the Personnel Office (AKA Human Resources), interviewed (lied about my age) and got the job selling in “Debutante Sportswear”…what I thought would be a summer job became a career!  By the way, during that year I found I was a very good sales person, no magic formula just treat people the way you want to be treated and keep up with the trends.  The working title of the book is “A Hell of a Long Summer Job!”  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, the Personnel Director believing in me….who will ever know.  I have taught in all the local fashion schools and have been at Columbia College Chicago for many years, I love to teach and see my students grow and learn more about an industry that I am passionate about  I am still doing lectures, an occasion fashion show and, my new passion, NENASNOTES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

When I got the job in the Fashion Office and each and every day for the 53 years, where did they go….I knew that it was, in my opinion, a perfect fit.  I always thought I had the perfect job with the best retailer in the world, I still feel that way. I wanted to be one of one and not one of thousands in New York or elsewhere.  The job grew through the years and, of course, changed not only with fashion but with technology.  I happen to love to work with figures as well as knowing what garments to show to each audience, and adding technology just enhanced the job.  In retail you must be very, very open to change.

imageFashion Group International Chicago Gala, given in my honor, in the Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton (one of the most glamorous and magnificent rooms anywhere!!!!) My wonderful models and I didn’t have to dress them!!!  I have profiled 8 of them…let’s hope I can get more to participate, they all have such wonderful stories to tell. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE?

I firmly believe you need to love what you do you or you will be miserable.  Having said that, I have always wanted to have a independent bookstore/tearoom/needlepoint shop or a bed and breakfast, but instead I am a blogger, who knew!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES, BOOKS, THEATER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE) TYPE OF MUSIC

Movies: I am particularly found of Musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films in particular, all the 1940’s musicals and, of course, My Fair Lady and Gigi. love them. Recently found LaLa Land charming. I adore Film Noir and The Thin Man series. My most favorite film is Gone With The Wind, in my opinion, everyone was brilliantly and perfectly cast.  Love all the original Disney films, especially Fantasia.  Of course, any fashion documentary or films based on fashion personalities or fashion in general…what could ever top the original 1939, The Women.  Obviously, I could go on and on and on……I do love a good movie.

Books: I devour books, always have.  I couldn’t take gym in school so I lived in my school library.  The Evanston Public School system has amazing schools not only in their teaching but in their buildings.  My grammar school, Oakton, had incredible mosaic tiles (I’m sure they still do, note to self must do a visit!) and it was not only a place that set all of us on the right track with reading, writing and arithmetic…but also with art….and in my case an even greater love of books.  My home was filled with books and I was read to from birth and then read to myself as soon as I could.  Hard to choose one book…Let me mention these authors rather than one book….not in any order: Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Virginia Wolff.  Current authors, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Charles Todd, Cara Black (a review on her new book next week!).  Genres: most English Mysteries (don’t like thrillers, horror or fantasy), novels based on historical figures (concentrating on artists and authors) and, of course, fashion books….it seems to be my goal to own every fashion book printed (I have around 1000 now!)

Theater: 1. Musical Theater 2. Legitimate Theater 3. Ballet 4. Opera 5. Symphony

Type of Music: A very long list (basically the only types of music I’m really not into are Hip Hop, Rap and Country) Here goes….Frank Sinatra, Broadway cast albums, Stanley Paul and his Orchestra (or just him playing piano!), old time Rock and Roll, Simply Red, Adele, Bobby Short, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, anything Gershwin, Porter, The American Songbook, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart, Strauss, etc. etc etc.

YOUR HOME:  Very eclectic, a mix of antiques, Randolph Street Market finds, www.randolphtreetmarket.com, lots of art, needlepoint (mine), layers of textiles (in particular, paisley shawls and crazy quilts) and lots and lots of lily of the valley pieces! And, of course, stacks and stacks of books. I guess we could call it Boho!  I have shown you many of my collections more to come.

RESTAURANTS:  Everest would be #1 without question, I have never had anything less than a spectacular meal there and Chef Joho has done many special occasion dinners for me! Les Nomades, RL, Deca at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, Sophie’s at Saks, The Dearborn, Shaw’s, RM Champagne Salon, Kiki’s, Pelago, Uncle Julio’s and Su Casa, RH Three Arts Club Cafe, I’m very fond of Alpana Singh’s restaurants, just about any steakhouse in the City and anywhere I can get a good hamburger and, of course, any Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Rich Melman is a genius!  I’m a foodie, also am fond of a great glass (or two) of wine and I love the wonderful variety we have, the food is, of course, important but the atmosphere and who you are with are primary.  Love, love, love all the roof “top” terraces we now have, they are amazing.  In addition, all our wonderful private clubs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE TRAVELED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO:

I spent many vacations in New York and I adore it to this day…I am an Urbanite and love, love, love big cities, including my home town of Chicago, you do realize that Chicago has CHIC in it! Next would be London and the English Countryside.  Then Paris, I have only been once so can’t really talk about it as much as I would like.  I adore New Orleans, would have, in another life lived there.  Stratford, Ontario Canada, not only for it’s theater but for it’s atmosphere and it’s fabulous restaurants, again I would live there in a minute.  I was fortunate to travel to Russia several years ago and it was a major epiphany…Moscow in particular, magnificent…The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg wasn’t bad either!!!  Where would I like to go…Marrakesh, Cairo, India and China, back to Paris and England.  I do love a cruise, I would sail on the Queen Mary II any day of the week.  A cruise to South America or the Mediterranean would be nice, any offers!!!!???? Oh, I almost forgot, The Orient Express. I had better pack my bags…..

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART:  Oh my, yet another toughie…I’m going to “cop” out and say our architecture, we are, after all, the birth place of modern architecture.  Aren’t we lucky to have ALL the magnificent pieces not only outside but inside public and private buildings.  I will be doing many posts on our street art.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER PARTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE…

I am going to take “author’s” license and do a dinner party of 20 (not the 10 to 12 I have allotted my other Profiles to have!) at one long “King” table in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org and change seats between the second and third course, not the heads of the table but the two sides…there will be a seating plan, could be fun…and then for after dinner with demi-tasse, cordials and sweets we will all move into another room and be at 5 tables of 4, also seated and again with different people than for dinner, for more intimate conversations.  Stanley Paul and his Orchestra will play only my favorite standards and Frank Sinatra will entertain us with a few songs!  Perhaps we can get Coco, Fred, Cole and Stephen to join in!!!  Heaven.

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

My favorite caterer would supervise the dinner, with Ruthie, my Mother, overseeing all details, I think Flora Danica as the china, why not (both would prefer being “off stage” and they would join us for the “after-party”)…the menu would be :

Cristal champagne before, during and after!!!!!

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

Choice of Beef Wellington (my recipe) or Salmon en Croute with seasonal vegetables

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:  Wow, that is a very difficult question…to answer and not sound full of oneself…I guess a person who used her career producing fashion shows, special events, chairing galas and being president of many boards, to not only raise substantial funding for many, many organizations, but more importantly to raise awareness of those causes.

Re_Nena_Ivon_018.jpg

Some of the world renowned designers who came to the benefit of the Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago Place opening September 1990.  The black tie event benefited five charities, Beverly Blettner, seated behind Bob Mackie. was the over-all chair of the event.  Beverly and I worked on numerous events together.  The designers from left to right: Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie, all of whom I worked with on numerous events.  I have profiled Pauline, I will do in depth Fashion Flashbacks on the others in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

COLLECTIONS: INSECTS PART 1……IN FASHION

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I’ve been seriously thinking about bees and how their demise will effect our beloved Earth, we MUST protect them and see that they continue to exist!!!  It got me to thinking about how insects, in general, are always with us and how they turn up in fashion, beauty, interiors, art, books…etc., etc!  I have gathered so much “stuff” that this will be a two-part post this week and next week.

As I was preparing to do this post I was drawn again to A. S. Byatt’s book, Angels & Insects.  I actually saw the film before I read the book.  I found both beautifully detailed, the 1995 film, in particular, was visually stunning, (I love Kristen Scott Thomas in anything!) but also disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it here is the trailer https://youtu.be/bdqnz-FtIog to wet your appetite.

imageFrom the film Angels & Insects, one of the main characters in costume.  No, it isn’t for a costume party it is a day dress but why, one would ask, would you want to look like a bumble bee???!!!

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imageA Lasage gold embroidered bee that was created for an Haute Couture garment. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA truly magnificent gown and hat from the genius of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.  I am obsessed with the faux tortoise shell detail scattered with gold and tortoise bees. The gold honeycomb and bees are all embroidered by hand.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Lesage embroidered, on net, sleeve of a Chanel Spring 2016 Haute Couture gown.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA jeweled honeycomb minaudière from Judith Leiber, I mean seriously…what a work of art!!! Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I’ll do a Fashion Flashback story on Judith Leiber in a future post.

imageA needlepoint chair seat on an antique chair at a private club in Chicago.

imageNapoleon adored bees and used them in many forms.  Here is a woven piece.  Perhaps I should adapt it for my logo!!!???  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageBee hives on the top of a downtown Chicago building.  All new commercial roof tops must have green space.  Many older buildings such as City Hall have gone green as well. Bravo Chicago.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The following is taken from the absolutely fascinating website The Honeybee Conservancy www.thehoneybeeconversancy.org  You can sponsor bee hives and learn so much about bees and their place in history as well as today.

“Although he was never a beekeeper, Napoleon used the honey bee as one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of his empire.

There seems to be two schools of thought of why Napoleon’s government chose the honey bee as part of its iconography.

One school of thought says the honey bee is representational of the Merovingian kings, the founders of France, with whom Napoleon sought to align himself.

Or...

“When Napoleon moved into the Royal Palace at Tuileries he refused to spend money on new decor. However, he could not allow the drapery – with its embroidered fleur-de-lis (the French Royal emblem) – to continue to hang in the windows of the palace. His solution was to have the rich and elegant drapes turned upside down. The inverted symbol of the overthrown monarchy looked like a bee.  From then on, the tenacious bee became the emblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.

imageI took this photo at last month’s Randolph Street Market at Carrie Homann’s booth, on the Second Floor in the Ballroom, from a collection of insect pins. Isn’t the golden bee especially fabulous!  Carrie always has some insect jewelry at the Shows, but she has so many other collections I would suggest you check her out each month (I’ll be posting more from her especially her Bakelite pieces) and remember if you see something you like, at any of the booths, buy it, it many not be there later that day nor the next month.  When you find something you like be sure to ask the dealer if they have any other treasures you might be collecting, they will be happy to let you know what else they might not have brought that month. www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageA close up of a silver bee pin from Carrie Homann’s jewelry collection.

imageA magnificent necklace (I may need to make this my own, love it!) from the unbelievably talented Stephanie Lake (you remember the week of posts, the week of December 12, 2016, I did on Stephanie, her book on Bonnie Cashin and how she and her husband entertain) www.stephanielakedesign.com  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake Design.

Let’s switch from bees to beetles….a fascinating story about beetle wing embroidery this amazing phenomenon was brought, along with the site infomation, to my attention by my friend and Columbia College Chicago Faculty member, Virginia Heaven (you have seen some pieces from her vast collections of objects in past posts).  I, of course, needed to do some research on this and found a couple of photos on Pinterest photo credits unknown, that I am sharing with you.,

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The following excerpt is from the scolarly journal,  Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide www.19thc-artworldwide.org  It is an absolutely fascinating site.

The earliest form of insect-adorned Western dress derived its inspiration from beetle-embridroidered fabric from India imported by England in the 1840’s and 1850’s.”

Next Thursday we will continue to explore the world of insects in fashion, beauty and home…don’t freak out, we will look at some more beetles and the sheer beauty of the webs spiders spin.  I think you will be interested, and perhaps educated, I know I have been, in how they are used in ways you wouldn’t consider, and no, I’m not doing any recipes using them!!!!!

I leave you with a man and his suit……image

 

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: PAULINE TRIGERE

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It’s a Sunday afternoon and the phone rings, a deep throaty voice with a magnificent French accent “Nena, Pauline….” it could not be anyone else!  Most every Sunday for many years I would get this call and the same introduction.  Always just a short hello and touch base for the week.

Sit back, pour yourself another cup of coffee or a glass of champagne this is a long one….

imageA treasured photo that hung on the “designer wall of fame” in my office.  The criteria was that you had at least made a personal appearance in the Store.  It is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago and I am using it with their permission.

I was a very, very lucky gal to be able to work with the best of the best during my career at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  I have done several posts of some of the designers I have worked with, I’m trying to do them in some order, not always working, I’m sorry to say, but that is my intent.  Having done shows, personal appearances, etc,. with well over 150 fashion personalities we will have lots of time to explore their importance on fashion and, for the purpose of nena’snotes, on my life and career.  Of course, there are those who impacted me more than others, Adolfo, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie, Oscar de la Renta, Norman Norell, Mark Heister, to highlight several that I worked with and admired most, and who became friends (sorry all others….loved almost all of you…those are other stories to be told!!)  And for this post, Pauline Trigère.

When I began at Saks, Pauline was showing her collections at Millie B. Oppenheimer (located at 1300 North State Parkway in the old Ambassador Hotels) and worked with the dynamic Ellie Pope, one of the Chicago fashion icons.  Since I was totally into knowing as much as I could about all the “name” designers, the name Pauline Trigère was totally familiar to me.  We did carry her line in Chicago and, of course, in New York.  I got to see her garments up close and personal when doing the annual St. Luke’s Fashion Show (now the annual Rush Medical Center Fashion Show) in which Oppenheimer always featured her garments.  When Oppenheimer closed we were fortunate to have Pauline join us for personal appearances and formal fashion shows.

I have talked about going to the New York Fashion Weeks for many years and when I began the shows were primarily in the designer’s showrooms, Pauline never varied from this practice.  Her shows were intimate (usually done over two days, two per day) and at the beginning of my attending the shows she commentated them, then she became a back of the house last minute check while a number or name of the garment was read.  When she did shows for us in Chicago she always commentated the shows and her audiences loved her insightful comments…we sold her clothes like popcorn!!!

imageMaybe if we look very closely we can find me in the audience….this coat was very typical of the Trigère look (I remember having many conversations with her about her major regret of not “licensing” her coats.  She wanted to keep complete control over her garments, rightly so.)  You could always identify a Trigère garment it had her creativity all over it.

imageHer signature coat, it spells PAULINE TRIGÈRE!  Two of my coats are in the Columbia College Chicago Fashion Study Collection, one in a royal purple mohair and the other in a cranberry wool with wide notched collar.

Let’s go back to the beginning of her story.  Pauline was born in Paris, France in 1908 (some references say 1912) to Russian émigrés, Alexander, a tailor and Cecile, a dressmaker.  She wanted to become a surgeon but instead at age 15 apprenticed with a Paris Couture house and afer a few days she was told that they couldn’t teach her any more than she already knew, she stayed a year when she returned to work for her parents where she had begun as a young girl picking up pins and scraps from the floor.  Her first design was a party dress when she was in school it was made because there wasn’t money to buy one.  .

At age 19 she married a another Russian immigrant and tailor, Lazar Radley with whom she had two sons, Jean-Pierre and Philippe. In 1937 she, her two sons, her brother and mother fled France with the intention of going to Chile.  Instead, after having a layover in New York for 6 weeks and a trip to Detroit to visit an uncle, she decided to stay in New York (she has stated that she wouldn’t live anywhere but New York!).  She knew no English and learned to speak by watching movies.  She became a design assistant at Ben Gershel & Co. and then an assistant to Travis Banton at Hattie Carnetie (FYI Carnegie never had a woman designer, didn’t believe in them) from 1937 until 1941, leaving just after Pearl Harbor.  She separated from her husband and opened her own company, the House of Trigère with her brother Robert in 1942, by 1945 she had a respected label and shall we say the rest is history!!!! Throughout her career she made clothes for a woman with an active lifestyle.  She designed for herself and was always her best model.  She planned her clothes to move with the wearer, using fluid jerseys, chiffon.  Her forte was wool, and she loved working on the bias, using sheer wools for afternoon and evening gowns.  She usually added a jacket, a full length coat or a cape to go with each dress, and as I mentioned, always cut her garments into the cloth rather than making a pattern or muslin. Pauline won every fashion award, the Coty 3 times and in 1982 the highest decoration of the City of Paris, La Medaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.

imageIn her workroom working on a garment draping and cutting into the fabric which she then turned over to her pattern maker…you are looking at a genius at work.  Image from Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

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The finale of one of her shows in her New York showroom.  From Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

imageThe finale of her 50th Anniversary Show 1992.  The finale was a retrospective of her collections.  It was a huge hit with the audience at a private club in Chicago.  We did a show for the Club for many years.  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, www.colum.edu.

She was 5’4″ tall but gave the impression of being 8′ tall with her wonderful personality and unmatched talent.  She draped and cut directly into the fabric, didn’t  do a model she just DID IT!!!  On one occasion I flew into New York to surprise her, she was doing a lecture/demonstration at FIT, I stayed at the back of the room and listened along with the students and guests to her explaining how to design while working on a dress, which she completed at the end of her talk.  She looked up and saw me and the smile I got was worth the entire trip!  She was thrilled that I thought enough of her to surprise her.  I also attended her 50 Anniversary Gala, it was some party!!!!

She adored her home in Connectcut, La Tortue, so named because when she was looking at the property a giant turtle was basking in the sun on a big rock in the pond on the property.  I once asked her about her love of turtles, she replied “I didn’t really love them but since the country home is named for them everyone gives me turtles…pins, boxes, paintings, etc.” so now I love them!”  Her signature scarf is an abstract turtle print.

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At home at La Tortue.  Image from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

She adored entertaining at her New York apartment, which had a wonderous red room (think Diana Vreeland!!) and she often did the cooking (I’ve included one of her recipes at the end of this post). When I was in New York, which was at least twice a year sometimes more and I often spent my summer vacations there we would go to dinner in small neighborhood restaurants, always French and always delightful and beyond delicious.

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Some stills from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Givenchy did all of Audrey Hepburn’s costumeas and Pauline Trigère did Patricia Neals!  Neal’s character was the Trigère woman, elegant, self assured and moneyed, a perfect collaboration.  Pinterest photos credit unknown.

She adored men and, in my opinion was quite the flirt in a totally charming way.  When she was in Chicago for events I would oftens take her to dinner with some of my gentlemen friends and she found them delightful, so much so that they were invited to join me at her shows in New York on several occasions (on these trips we all stayed in a three bedroom suite at The Mark and would cross the street to the Cafe Carlyle to hear Bobby Short with much champagne and caviar…those were definitely the days). And did I mention the foyer of our suite was always filled with dozens of Cassablanca lillies…glorious! The guys loved going to the shows and were always treated royally by my designer friends…a totally different world from their businesses.  She closed her ready-to-wear business in 1994 but continued to design her scarves and jewelry as well as produce her incredibly delicious fragrance.  She also designed a collection for Gold Violin a line of accessories for seniors.

Her sketchbooks are housed at Kent State University in her dear friends, Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rogers Collection. Pauline Trigère gave the KSU Museum more than thirty dresses and ensembles, as well as sketchbooks spanning her entire career, from 1944 through 1994. The Trigère sketchbooks are currently housed in the June F. Mohler Fashion Library, located in Rockwell Hall, where they can be viewed by appointment. I visited the archives serveral years ago, they are amazing.  In addition, the Pauline Trigère’s papers are held by Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections.  And, of course, her work is part of every major costume collection in the world including our own Chicago History Museum Costume Collection, www.chicagohistory.org.

imageIn her red room surrounded by items she created for Gold Violin. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

Pauline was always beautifully dressed, of course she was, coiffed and always, always, always wore a wonderful red lipstick and shaded glasses.  She came to all our special shows, such as SFA/USA, our 50th anniversary Party in 1979 and the opening of the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Chicago Place in 1990.  Also in 1990 she was an honored guest at the Fashion Group International of Chicago gala held in my honor at the Chicago Hilton…needness to say she was the life of the party!

imageFrom New York’s Designer Walk of Fame.

imagePauline and Nena at the Mayfair Regent in the main floor lounge.  I did many events coordinating with the then PR guru of the Hotel, Biba Roesch as well as many dinners in the Hotel’s Ciel Bleu restaurant, still miss it!  This photo was taken at one of the breakfasts with designers we did.  Informal get togethers with personalities who would share their stories….always fascinating.  I think it’s time to do this again, any takers!!!!????  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

Pauline remained active, with her great personal charm, French style and joie de vivre, into her 9th decade, she passed away in her sleep on Valentine’s Day 2002.  Oh, how I miss those Sunday “Nena…Pauline” calls!!!!

FROM HELEN O’HAGAN’S COOKING IN STYLE COOKBOOK

PAULINE TRIGÈRE’S CRAB SOUP

2 cans celery soup (PT’s note any brand will do, NI’s note, I use Campbell’s)

1/2 can water or chicken bouillon

1 large onion, grated

Salt and white pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 pint heavy cream

1 pound crabmeat (preferrably fresh can be frozen not canned!!!)

1 cup light sherry

Chopped parsley for garnish

Put celery soup, water or bouillon and the very finely grated onion to heat in a saucepan.  Add salt, white pepper and nutmeg.  When warm, add the cream and crab, and the cup of sherry.  Do not allow to boil, correct seasoning. Top with chopped fresh parsley.  Serves 6.