I received an email from my friend, Barbara Varro, with a blog post from her niece, Dr. Jeni Waeltz, suggesting it might be of interest to me….not only is it of interest to me, I wanted to share it with all of you. I know you will enjoy this eloquently written informative piece. A nenasnote…..I was fortunate to meet Aunt Lillian on several occasions and found her to be the gracious, charming, well informed woman described in this post. We should all aim for such a full, productive life. Thank you Jeni for allowing me to share your insight…it is brilliant! Do visit and subscribe to Jeni’s blog you are in for a treat…https://www.drjeniwaeltz.com

My Why and the Wonder of Life

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”


“I remember feeling the knot in my stomach as the thought flashed through my mind, 

“This is probably going to be the last time I’ll see her.”  

I was not ready to fully accept that thought.  

Instead, I sat in the hospital room with my mom, my two very little girls, and my Great, Great Aunt Lillian, and I talked about the girls and how tired I was as a young mother.  I asked her how she was feeling and talked about how she’ll get better.  

I tried desperately to keep the girls company and entertained with toys and stories and looking out the big window, down to the cars below.  

I look around the room that day, took in the beauty of such wondrous women present.  I thought of my two little girls, Lilli just about to turn 2, and Madi only 8 months old. I thought about the presence in the room of one life ending and two just only beginning.  

I ignored what my heart knew.  That this time my 97 year old aunt wasn’t going to make it back to her assisted living home.  That those beautiful 97 years of life were coming to an end.  

But the words of love, gratitude, and awe of her life were never spoken aloud.  

Oh — the goodbye I could have said.  

The words never came that day, but I think of them often.  

I think about all the women like my Aunt Lillian that came before me and all the worldly changes she was able to see and live during her life.  

I think about my mom, who went back to school at age 42 to finally get that college education that so many people didn’t believe she could get.  And how she now has a major role as grannanny to my two little girls.

I think about me, a millennial woman, who was taught as a little girl that I could do and become anything I wanted to, but had no idea what doing and being anything they wanted to would feel like and look like after kids came into the picture.  That the “real world” was nothing I was prepared to experience.  

And I think about my two little girls now and how they will become the women of the future.  

And oh how exciting that future will be for them. 

You see — the opportunities and potential for innovation, social justice, equality, and expanding the human consciousness are just beginning to take on a new level that my Great, Great Aunt never will be able to see.  

My Aunt Lillian was born February 12, 1920.  Almost 100 years ago. 

One hundred year’s ago women didn’t even have the right to vote.  It wasn’t until half a year later on August 18th, 1920 that the 19th Amendment was finally certified granting women the right to vote.  

Aunt Lee in the WAC Army.jpg

When my Aunt Lillian was just 22 years old, she joined the WACs (Women’s Army Corp).  It was 1942.   

The WACs had been formed by Oveta Culp Hobby, US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, just a couple of years before to offer support to the military. She was the only woman from East Chicago to join the WACs, and she left by train for Fort Meade, Maryland, an Army Training Camp. 

The courage it must have taken to leave home all alone and travel to an Army Training Camp as such a young woman.  No cell phone. No GPS. No text messaging.  

During her career, which included clerical jobs in Boca Raton, Florida, she was selected to be a recruiter for the WACs in Pittsburgh, PA.  She lived with other WAC colleagues at the William Penn Hotel downtown. While there, she was selected to be on a recruiting poster with Commander Kelly, who was an important Army officer. She had attained the rank of Technical Sargeant. 

She stayed in Pittsburgh until she was discharged in 1945, when WWII ended. She always said that she was extremely proud of her Army service because she had learned so much and had made good friends while she served the country. 

When she returned home, she got a job as a secretary at LaSalle Steel in Hammond, Indiana, then worked for many years as a clerk/analyst at IBM, in Calumet City, Illinois, then in Hammond, Indiana.  

She had loved traveling with friends, mostly to cities in South America and Europe. She often went to Poland, where she had relatives. Her mother and father had been born in Poland, and my Aunt Lillian was fluent in Polish.  

My Aunt Lillian never had kids.  However, she loved all her nieces and nephews with all her heart and she played such a big role in my family’s life growing up.  

My Aunt Lillian lived through one of the most progressive 100 years in women’s history.  She witnessed and watched so many BRAVE women blaze the trail towards equality. From Amelia Earhart, to Rosa Parks, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to Sally Ride, to Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and to Hiliary Clinton.  She herself was one of those BRAVE women. 


And yet, almost 100 years later, there is still work to be done.  America is still a patriarchal society with men holding the majority of leadership roles and political positions.  Women, just like you, are still trying to find their place, working to find the courage to have a seat at the table, and finally be heard and seen.  

As a millennial, I’ve heard time and time again how entitled, lazy, and needing feedback we are as a generation.   Add that to being a millennial working mom, and I’ve heard countless times, oh — “we’ll see how long she comes back after maternity leave.”  

As a recruiter for two major veterinary corporations, I’ve been blown away at the negotiation difference between male and female counterparts.  Not that I was offering my male veterinary candidates more, but that my female veterinary candidates didn’t even ask for close to what the male doctors were asking. 

And the thing is, even with the best of intentions, our work systems are just not working!  We are a society that is more burned out, more stressed out, and suffering from our environments than ever before.  Female veterinarians are between 2 to 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general public.  

We women are not broken!  Our systems are broken.  

Instead of trying to fit the mold and status quo of what has come before us, it’s time to rock the whole systems and create a life and career that works for the 21st century woman.  

And do I think that’s possible?  


Why?  Because of all of those the leading ladies that came before us, just like my Aunt Lillian, blazing that trail of progress. 


It’s time to actually be taught how to handle our broken systems to where we either have the tools and resources to deal with them or the courage to create new businesses and become leaders that support these new needs.  

It’s time for those bread-winning working ladies to celebrate their victory and drive versus playing down their successes. 

It’s time for those stay at home mamas to snuggle their babies and nurture their teenage children as long as they want to, and then not be scared to start over and follow a dream when they decide their ready.   

It’s time to stop pretending that you don’t care about money and letting it scare you. It’s time to protect and claim your financial freedom.

It’s time for those working mamas to to stop striving for balance and instead focus on work-life satisfaction. 

It’s time for those workaholic ladies that can’t say no to their work demands to stop defining their self-worth by their work success and start setting boundaries and find the confidence to strive for progress not perfection.

It’s time for women to love their bodies as is and start eating healthy and exercising to feed their soul instead of defining their self-worth by a number on a scale. 

AND it’s time to evolve our mind. It’s time to continue the mental health discussion and invest in the resources to adopt a more conscious mindset.  


My girls have reached an age where they’re asking about life and death.  I tell them all the time if your lucky you’ll live to be 100.  

But the reality is that we have no control over when our lives will end.  Yes, it would be great to make it to be 100, but how would those 100 years have been spent if you didn’t live fully?  

Lived that width and not just the length.    

To stop foreboding JOY and really feel the highs of life.  

To stop trying to mask and numb the pain but allow yourself time to grieve, be angry, depressed, and sad.

And to take daring risks and go after big dreams and leave fear of failure behind.  



My goal is to create a dialogue about women’s empowerment and to offer coaching, leadership, and education to as many women as I can as my contribution to this world.  

This new business adventure is in honor of my Aunt Lee, in honor of the other strong women in my family, my girlfriends and coworkers, and to those whose lives were taken too soon because they just couldn’t see another way out.  

And in honor of my young veterinarian self.  For the years of suffering in silence due to lack of confidence, fear, and anxiety that she just wasn’t good enough.  

And most importantly, in honor of my two little girls.  My why is for them. For the future be so bright.  

In the coming weeks and months this blog will be filled with actionable strategies that will inspire you to make the change to a more fulfilled and conscious driven life and to step into the leader you were destined to become. We’ll cover mindset, emotions, goal setting, fulfillment, time management, productivity, confidence, money mindset, positive body image, decluttering, thought work, physical health, relationships, and more.

Are you ready for this mindset revolution? If so, leave a comment and tell me about your journey and your dreams for the future.”

Be sure to subscribe to Jeni’s blog for more in-depth perspectives on life….I know I am looking forward to getting a new slant on the now and the future!!



October 13, 2019

It’s the beginning of year four of nenasnotes amazing how quickly a year goes by…..I must admit I am basically in the same position I was when I wrote last year’s updated post. I have been remiss in doing regular posts and for that I apologize. The nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club has taken on a life of its own and the monthly meetings are continuing to grow. I was beyond thrilled that the Uber talented Victor Skrebneski joined me in conversation about his sensational new book SKREBNESKI DOCUMENTED: 1948-2018. I will be doing a post in the near future, I promise, on the friendship we have shared for many, many years….stay tuned.

I finally had my first guest post with Barbara Varro’s nostalgic trip with her fabulous reminisces of her celebrity interviews while fashion editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. More guest posts to come, again, I promise. I know you like my book reviews…you can count on more of them.

Okay, your turn what would you like me to concentrate on….by now you know when I post I do have a lot to say…I’d love to know what you want me to research for you….or do you prefer when I take a trip down memory lane with designers I have worked with, personality profiles, book reviews, or just my ramblings about things I find interesting….please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Year four…..here we go!

October 13, 2018

Another year has flown by and I am now starting year three of NENASNOTES.  I must admit I haven’t been consistent of late, computer issues, other obligations, etc.  I plan to continue my same schedule with more tweaks.  I am asking the people I have profiled over the last two years to do a guest post on whatever subject they like.  I think their thoughts will be of interest to all of us.  I do like my Tuesdays posts, BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS, and will continue them and probably expand to an additional day.  This has led to the formation of NENASNOTES The Fashion Book Club a monthly gathering to discuss all manner of fashion books, featuring fascinating authors and a throughly engaged audience, I will do monthly posts on these books as well.  More recipes, more decor, more fashion….yes, all of those along with interesting personality profiles.  If you have something you would like me to discuss please let me know.  By now, if you follow me, you know I have a wide range of interests that I like to share with my readers.  I now also do two monthly posts for the Randolph Street Market blog, one on collection trends and one on fashion trends these are totally different from my NENASNOTES posts.  Do follow me there, on Instagram, (I’m having a blast there!) and Pinterest.  I am in the process of launching a sponsorship program with unique incentives based on level of funding.  So lots to look forward to…I do hope you will continue to join me in my ventures and do recommend NENASNOTES to your friends and please make comments, they are invaluable.  Here we go….welcome Year Three!


October 13, 2017

Here is what I wrote one year ago today when I launched NENASNOTES, as I begin my second year, my goals remain the same.  I have tweaked the daily themes a bit but the concept hasn’t changed. I will be adding new features and ask that you watch for an upcoming announcement of how you can supoort me and what incentives you can expect.  I hope you are enjoying my thoughts on the variety of lifestyle things that interest me…so I say, Happy Birthday NENASNOTES and I hope you, my followers, will continue to join me on a regular basis and invite your friends to have their morning coffee with us as well.

October 13, 2016

Well, here we go….I have been waiting to start my blog NENASNOTES for what seems like ages, actually, it has been ages!

I, therefore, feel it is necessary to give you my thoughts on what you can expect on what will become daily postings.

It began with the current trend of focusing on people reinventing themselves, through career and/or lifestyle changes.  I realized that there are so many of my friends and acquaintances whose diverse lives now are totally different from how they started.  First up were my many former models who were superstars in the myriad shows I produced during my lengthy career as Fashion and Special Director at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  Most, if not all, have totally changed careers and become successful with their new life choices.  You will learn their stories, reminiscences and photos from then and now.



I thought why not carry this further to my other friends and people I know who had fascinating stories to tell and was I correct in that assumption!  I began this process with a handful of people, which soon became many more, by doing an in person hour long taped conversational interview and Proust-like questionnaire.  Again, I asked for photos and this time a favorite recipe. I hope you will enjoy these posts as much as I am enjoying gathering them.  They are riveting.

These two groups of conversations will be my Monday posts, here is what I have planned for Tuesday through Friday:


Tuesday….Books, books, books.  I’m afraid I have a book fetish, especially fashion books. It seems to be my goal in life to own every fashion book printed!!! So we will start there.  I do read a lot, particularly historical fiction, I love fiction about “real” people, we will go that route as well.  Nothing like a good English mystery but don’t mind a “Cozy” once in awhile and can never miss Louis Penny’s newest (who doesn’t love Armand!).  So much to read so little time.


Wednesday….Miscellany day could be a great recipe, restaurant, movie, play….whatever strikes my fancy that week.



Thursday….Homes and Gardens, again tapping my friends and their eclectic styles, mostly self-decorated homes and brilliant gardens.  A glimpse at my tiny space as well.



Friday….Fashion Flashback.  I’ve worked with over 150 designers and fashion personalities through the years and want to share some of these experiences with you.  I’m sure those of you who know me thought the blog would be all about the “glamorous” fashion shows I produced, yes, there is that but the nitty gritty as well and only one day a week.

Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass
 Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass

Here we go….I hope you will join me on my on reinvention.


                                                      HAPPY FALL!


Repost with permission from the Randolph Street Market blog.  A reminder the last outdoor vendor portion of this year round market is Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 2019.  Do go it is chocked full of treasures in vintage clothing and everything else under the sun!

From “Greasers” to high fashion and everything in between, let’s look at where the leather jacket began and see it developed into a fashion wardrobe classic.
Obviously leather has been with us for centuries but the jacket we are featuring today we are tracing back to “modern” history.

The brown leather jacket made its entrance on the scene on the aviators of World War I.


Then again for the air women and men as the Bomber jacket for WWII.

In 1928 Irving Schott designs the first motorcycle jacket and sells it for $5.50 at the Harley Davidson store in New York. He named it after his favorite cigar, The Perfecto. And perfect it was, on and off motorcycles.

In 1953 The Wild One starred a sexy Marlon Brando in a classic leather motorcycle jacket. Often the jacket became its own character.


And other stars jumped on the bike, so to speak, definitely defying the norm and defining the person on and off the screen…James Dean


Steve McQueen…..


Tom Cruise….


Elvis, of course…..


Henry Winkler before he was The Fonz (notice Stallone) in The Lords of Flatbush…


And as Fonzie….


And then there was Grease…..(my era!)


The Beatles before suits and Ringo….


The English Punks and, of course Sid and Nancy and The Sex Pistols…


The one and only Michael Jackson…



From the outrageous to….David Beckham….

And so many more celebrities….
Three blonds….Madonna, Glenn, Lady Gaga…..who wears it best, I’ll leave it to you…

Haute Couture, why not….a bit of Schiaparelli…

Some embellished jackets…they have come a long way baby, how shall you embellish your Randolph Street Market Finds…..so many options…here are a few suggestions…


I must admit my favorite of the bunch, although the feathered piece or hand painted or……





Let’s look at a few ways to style and update your vintage jacket…..

I’m obsessed with this on Elizabeth Moss…DA30D24B-A3E8-4B8C-BCFF-F57832335FDD


Robert Mapplethorpe Self Portrait…a recent Retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

Self Portrait 1980 by Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989
For your own research some books (you knew I would have some suggestions didn’t you!)

The one and only Ralph Lauren who exemplifies “Always Classic Always New”


And your blogger in one of four black leather jackets, a motorcycle piece needs to be added if only to embellish!!!!! RSM here I come!!


All photos with the exception of the one of me, from Pinterest photos credits unknown.


I asked the best reporter I know, actually the best all round writer and editor I know, my long time BFF, Barbara Varro, to write a post or two or more…on her reflections of celebrities she interviewed while fashion editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. Her wit, wisdom and total honesty make her a perfect person to do my first nenasnotes guest post.  She sent along some tear sheets of her interviews with many of the icons of the 20th and thinking of Streisand, Tomlin, Twiggy and Shrimpton into the 21st Centuries.  I have added some head shots of her interviewees.  I know you are going to enjoy her reminiscences….perhaps I can convince her to do more in the future.  Here we go on a trip down memory lane…



Nena has prompted (pushed) me to reminisce about my life as a newspaper writer and editor. We go way back when I was the fashion editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and she was the fashion maven at Saks Fifth Avenue.

    In reflecting on my newspaper activities I remember interviews with designers, but some of my fondest memories are those with celebrities. Colleagues at the paper used to say, “follow the stars with Barbara.”

    Of the models I interviewed one of the standouts was the British Twiggy who came to Chicago for a promotion for Gamble/Aldens catalog. The narrow-as-an-arrow model with huge eyes enhanced with multiple pairs of false lashes was only 17. She giggled and seemed vacuous. But she was very popular at the time. She was sweet to a group of teenagers crowding around her when she arrived at the Ambassador East Hotel, saying in her cockney accent, “Oy love Chicago. Never been here before.”



  Jean Shrimpton, another wildly popular British model of that era, was classier than Twiggy. She retired from modeling after a few years and ran a bed and breakfast in Penzance with her husband. On a vacation there one year I ran into her and she was friendly but did not want to talk about her modeling days and the adulation she experienced.  She said she was happy just being a normal woman living in Cornwall.



  Whenever I went to California to cover fashion I had opportunities  to talk to celebrities. Once we fashion editors were invited to a clambake on the set of the TV series, Peyton Place, and we hobnobbed with such stars as Ryan O’Neal, Mia Farrow, Dorothy Malone and George Peppard.

    Another time we hit a jackpot of stars at the discotheque The Factory, set in an old furniture factory in Hollywood. We were guests of actress Polly Bergen, who was hawking her Turtle Oil cosmetics at the time. We were gaga whenever the elevator stopped and out came stars such as Rock Hudson, Sonny and Cher, Liza Minnelli, Rosalind Russell, Fred Astaire, Tony Curtis, Joan Collins, etc. Polly had asked the editors not to bother the stars, but one of the women had the nerve to ask Astaire to dance, and he did. The rest of us were too chicken to do such a  thing but what a story she had to tell.



   Debbie Reynolds was a delight, brash and witty.  We fashion editors were invited to her home (when she was married to shoe magnate Harry Karl) for dinner and a showing of the Helen Rose collection.  Standing next to Helen by her pool, Debbie said, “Years ago Helen told me that I looked terrible. I had been wearing $11 Lerner dresses at that point. Today, whatever I know about dressing this lady taught me.” Later, Helen said, “Over the years I have designed for a lot of stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, oops…I forgot.” Debbie shot back, “I didn’t.”


                                         Debbie Reynolds and Helen Rose


  I interviewed singer/actress Doris Day twice. She was lovely and talked a lot about animals. She was weepy when she told a story about Strongheart the German Shepherd. She said that friends referred to her Beverly Hills home as “the canine country club.”  She also said that whenever she was on a movie set people would say, “here comes that animal nut whenever I went around looking to see if the animals were properly cared for and fed.”




  I spoke to Barbra Streisand by telephone just before she gave her first concert  in Chicago at Soldier Field in 1966. She mentioned that her sleek, short hair was styled by Chicago’s Fred Glaser and she had bought three gowns by Sarmi at Saks Fifth Avenue. She said that she had attended the fashion openings in Paris and  had bought several Diors but had to had them altered because she was pregnant. At the time she was married to actor Elliot Gould. The Sarmis she would wear for the concert were all tent shapes to accommodate her growing mid section.



  Zsa Zsa Gabor was a stitch. She was holding forth at lunch in Booth One at the Pump Room and was flattering a male friend, telling him that she loves a man who knows how to order, when she actually did most of the ordering.  She was her usual bubbly self and was wearing a lot of jewelry including a humongous diamond ring that I said was big enough to give her hand a hernia. She told me that she had always been impulsive. “I even get married and divorced on impulse,” she said.



  Ginger Rogers came to Chicago to do the play “Forty Carats” at Drury Lane. She was very particular about how she was to be photographed. When the photographer and I entered her suite at the hotel she was seated on a sofa surrounded by four big lights on poles. She said we could not take candid photos. She looked fine but her hair was long and platinum, billowing on her shoulders like cotton candy. She told me that she did not relish talking about the chiffon and feathered gowns she wore when she danced with Fred Astaire. “That is over,” she said. But she did mention the old saw about how she danced as well as he did but she did so backwards and in high heels.



  Singer Rosemary Clooney was a great interview subject, so warm and self deprecating. She talked freely about her disturbing marriage to Jose Ferrer, who was abusive. She spoke about her former addictions to Percodan and about the rehab treatment that saved her. She also spoke fondly of Bing Crosby, who appeared with her in the movie “White Christmas.” And he wrote the forward to her book, “This for Remembrance.”



  Lily Tomlin, who was performing on the TV hit “Laugh In” at the time, was a witty interview. She said, “I have no taste. I like comfortable, raggedy clothes.” And she said she hated to shop. Her idea of heaven would be opening her closet and finding “all new clothes that someone put in it and all in my size.” Asked about her character Ernestine, the telephone operator who wears 1940s clothes, she said, “Ernestine likes the 40s look. It was the look she had when she was young and she never changed.”



  It was fun to walk down memory lane with the stars, some who have passed and some still present.”

A nenasnotes…Yes, Barbara it was fun to walk down memory lane with you and here we are friends  for more years than we care to admit, still sharing a giggle or two, good food and always…always a bit of nostalgia!  I’m going to work on her to share some of her incredible travel stories, fingers crossed.  Good times….to be continued.


 All Chicago Sun Times tearsheets courtesy of Barbara Varro.  All other photos from Pinterest no photo credits available  Barbara and Nena photo taken with Barbara’s camera several years ago at one of my visits to her home.















I wanted to do this post in advance of what I always think of as the new year when all of us say good bye to summer and head back to full time work and the new school year, after our summer breaks (we will leave pumpkin spice everything for another post…it is a season unto itself…I just learned that there will pumpkin spice SPAM……now really!!!!!)


This strange looking thingie is called a typewriter (I’m obsessed with her hair!!!!)….remember them, no, well let me explain a bit….long before the technological age we live in, they were the devices used to communicate with others using the written word via type…..I know inconceivable but true!!!! Yes, we did get in touch that way for a zillion years….the typewriter, in its first of many guises, was introduced in 1829 in Detroit but it is said to have officially evolved in Milwaukee in 1867….another “tool” that advanced women in the workplace. Progress was fairly quick and many, many different manufactures jumped on board, Royal, Smith-Corona, Oliver, etc. It was one of the reasons women could respectfully enter the workforce.




I want this, isn’t it stunning….I, by the way, didn’t learn on this particular machine but must admit I did learn to type on a standard keyboard, not an electric. I switched high schools to be able to do two things, art classes and “office” skills, typing and shorthand. I was an excellent typist, still not too bad and I do love technology, (did a lot of thesis papers for Northwestern U students while I was in high school on my portable Royal)….but sucked at shorthand, I could always write faster in long hand…once I proved that, my teacher gave me a pass!!! We had electric typewriters in the classroom, but had to learn manuel first pretty much like a shift car (I also learned to drive a stick shift) with special permits for automatic…yes, pretty much the Stone Age….but I digress! Let’s look at some machines.  You will find many vintage office collectibles at the monthly Randolph Street Market


Decoupage….love it!! Notice the ribbon…to be discussed later (the disks on either side of the carriage that round thing at the top..)


A decorating idea for a vintage piece…stunning for an office accessory.



The two photos above taken by me at Randolph Street Market at Jocelyn Reimann’s The Green Door Booth…always perfectly merchandised and styled.




More from The Green Door Booth…a Hermes portable…to die for… perfection mine was similar but a Royal…green, naturally.

A couple of books on the subject, of course….and one by the gentleman who only uses and collects manual typewriters, Tom Hanks!!!! He loves the sound of hitting the keys and has even done an app! Check out his YouTube pieces…they are delightful.


Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Speaking of keys…..or perhaps do jewelry with finds at RSM….

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

The aforementioned ribbons….in their decorative tins another collecting thought…

Vintage Office Collectibles

Oh my….look what you can do….

Vintage Office Collectibles

From pencils to…

Vintage Office Collectibles

Staplers to erasers to chalk and rulers, think of vintage in your collecting to add a bit of charm and nostalgia! And guess, what they all work to perfection….who needs new?!

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

These found in Marci’s Green for Style Booth at RSM, the inspiration for this post.

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Two more images found at the Green Door Booth at RSM.

Vintage Office Collectibles

Vintage Office Collectibles

Here is little Nena writing fashion show scripts for her boss!

Vintage Office Collectibles

Today’s technology combined with a “real” keyboard…my dear friend, Barbara Varro, would love this. Vintage meets modernity!



All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.



A portion of my fashion library.

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


Our signature bubbles…..

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


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

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

MAY 2018

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

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


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



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

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

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


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


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



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

Yes, another Amazon review….

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

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


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

MARCH 2019

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

A book review…here you go….

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

APRIL 2019

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


MAY 2019

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



JUNE 2019

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


JULY 2019

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



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


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

More of my fashion library….




F1F5255C-3973-4867-B59D-F6AD84E41B21Nena with Danielle Hollis, Executive Director, Water Street Studios, Andrea Reynders, Designer and Exhibition Curator pictured in exhibition space. Here you can see the natural stone of the building….I am obsessed with art against natural material such as brick, wood and stone in my opinion, it becomes an artwork itself.

I recently had the great pleasure of being invited by my dear friend, Andrea Reynders  who curated the exhibition, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER…Artists Explore The Theme of “Transparency”, to speak at a gathering at WATER STREET STUDIOS in Batavia, Illinois.  My talk was to be in conjunction with their exhibition of mixed media art including extraordinary wearable art.  Keeping with the theme of “transparency”, I did a Power Point presentation featuring some of the designers I have worked with through out my career, beginning with Bonnie Cashin and ending with Christian Siriano, just a small sampling of the over 200 designers and fashion influencers I did shows and events with from the mid-1950’s to today.  Of course, I did a running commentary with some enlightening tidbits.  The guests had great questions and I throughly enjoyed the evening most especially the incredible creativity of the artists work.

Let’s look at some of the work and read Andrea’s statement about the exhibition.

The Baptism…..DAWN ZALKUS
“I am a river, soft, inviting, nourishing, transparent. I cleanse away your demons and invite you to my shores. Drink from my waters. I can grant safe passage, or rise up in rage. I am powerful. Mountains move beneath my current. Whole ships are devoured by my abyss. As I invite you to swim in my pools know you may drown in their depths. Gaze into my pellucid surface. Let me enchant you with the rhythm of my tide. Bathe in my waters, refreshing, renewing, shimmering, mesmerizing. I am a river. Materials: Wax paper, quartz, tulle, canvas.”

“The experience of being under water physically surrounded by an intimidating clear expanse while simultaneously adopting a calmness and peace of the mind is what inspired our design.”
Materials: Paper quills, paint tarp, iridescent cellophane, plastic baggies, zip ties.    Sue is photograped with the garment that she and her daughter, Katie created.

Curator’s Statement….

“Eye of the Beholder is an exhibition dedicated to the art of clothing as a second skin. With this year’s theme of Transparency we expanded the opportunity for artists working in various media and across scales and dimensions.

Transparency: n., transmission or admission of light –a clarity–crystal clear—sheerness, gauziness. V. to show through. Adv. see-through, revealing, lucid–clear, thin, gossamer, filmy.

Artists were challenged to clarify and translate what Transparency meant to them and to create a work that is either worn or observed. From garments that capture emotions we cannot readily share, moments that capture chrysalis transformation, to paintings that capture light in transparent layers of color, the work included here bridges the divide between poetic reflection and political comment and from dynamic movement to quietude.
The results are both serious and whimsical—an amazing cross section of personal interpretation. From sophisticated couture and hand crafted assemblages to paintings –all as a response to the idea of Transparency.
Come and be transformed.”  Andrea Reynders

Fish Need Clean Water, Citizens Need Transparency by KATHERINE KRATZER
“This rallying cry, after a chemical dumping in the seawaters off the coast of Vietnam, should be a rallying cry for all citizens of the world. Corporate polluters, government ineptitude, business greed, poisoned humans and an unforgivable disregard for aquatic life and environments is threatening us all.”
Materials: Tyvek, assorted papers, watercolor.                                                        Katherine photographed with her imaginative piece.

The Unveiling by CLAUDIA CANON
“In a marriage, both parts need the ability and the willingness to see the true inner self and the responsibility to be transparent before committing to each other. The goal with my wedding dress is to enable the viewer to see the beauty of the exterior and also view the interior where the “truth” often exists.”
Materials: Japanese rice paper, tissue paper, tyvek


Translucent by MORGAN DONOHUE
“This dress captures the fragile balance between wanting to be understood, while also having a constant fear of failure in the back of your mind. Once we become see-through, we become vulnerable and sometimes invisible. The feathers emphasize how delicate the whole process can be, but also remind us that we have the potential to soar.”
Materials: Fabric, seeds, feathers

Childhood Transparency by PRESTON WILLIAMS.                                                       ”This piece to me is about growing up and defining who I am.  Using my boldness as a strength then growing into a person who can be open and transparent.”                     Materials: Rice, bike tires & tapioca pearls

I asked Danielle Hollis, Water Street Studios Executive Director, to give me detailed information on the Studio and Gallery so I could share it with my readers.  I know you will be as impressed with the concept and the space as I am.


“In 2007, a group of interested community members, artists, a property owner and the City of Batavia started developing a plan for artist studio spaces. In the spring of 2008, a group formed Batavia Artists Association (BAA), what we now know as Water Street Studios (WSS)

The Batavia Artists Association at Water Street Studios incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit arts organization in the state of Illinois in 2009. Our mission is to help make the arts accessible to the Fox Valley area and beyond. Our vision is to be a cultural hub in the Midwest. Water Street Studios is committed to maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, or disability.

Our Art Education program provides high-quality art classes for all ages in a variety of mediums including drawing, printmaking, painting, ceramics, metal-working, jewelry-making, and more. We serve hundreds of students from 35 surrounding towns through our paid programming including Aurora, DeKalb, Naperville, Joliet, Rockford, and more.

Our Art Outreach program provides free art instruction for under-resourced families and schools in the area to help make the arts more accessible to those in need. Last year we provided over 2,000 free art sessions by partnering with key stakeholders in our community such as public schools, libraries, senior centers, and more.

We are in our third year of providing our Ripple Effect program to the Fox Valley area. Ripple Effect is a free, weekly STEAM class that focuses on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math with art. During this 3-week course, students between the ages of 8-12 learn about dendrites and fractals in nature and in math. This program is generously funded by the Dunham Fund.

We have 26 artist studios for emerging and professional artists to work in a highly creative and collaborative environment. The Artist Studios at Water Street Studios come with a wide variety of benefits to support artists including: subsidized rent, opportunities to exhibit and sell artwork, exposure to thousands of visitors every year, opportunities to be employed as an instructor, connection to a vibrant arts community, and more.

Our Gallery and Events program draws many new visitors to our facility to experience the arts. We provide 24 exhibitions and exhibit over 100 artists annually in our two premiere galleries, The Dempsey Family Gallery located on the first floor and the newly named Chicago Capital Gallery located on the second floor. Every month we host a Gallery Opening Receptions, Live Art Series events, Waterline Writers events, and other community events as scheduled.

Water Street Studios is the only nonprofit community arts center in the area that provides all of these services to the Fox Valley area and beyond through high-quality arts programming. We are able to make the arts accessible to our community through high-quality programming because of the dedicated efforts of our staff, board members, donors, and volunteers.”

For more information about Water Street Studios please visit their  website at www.waterstreetstudios.org


Mammie’s Window by LISA YOUNGDAHL
“Mammie’s Window” is a colored pencil painting of my great-mother’s house in Kentucky. No one has lived in the house since 1963, and the owner has kept the house just as it was when my great-grandmother lived there. There’s even a filled cookie jar still on the counter. To the viewer, the windows are the eyes of a home. Through those eyes we see inside the tattered remains of a house abandoned over 50 years ago. We can only guess why it has been abandoned, but we see a bit of its history.”                                                                                                                                           A Nena’s note….love this painting….but then I was gobsmacked by the talent, creativity, diversity and materials used by all the uber talented artisans.

I was beyond impressed with WATER STREET STUDIOS…two full floors of exhibition space filled with impressive works of art, artists studios, communal spaces, teaching areas….extraordinary and well worth a day in the country, a quick trip from Chicago and any suburb, make a day of it in Batavia and visit the other charming “sister” cities Geneva and St. Charles, where you will find antiques✔️interesting shops for clothing, home, one of a kind finds✔️restaurants✔️charming places to stay for a weekend or longer✔️seasonal activities✔️and more✔️.

I was lucky to have my BFF, Tom Mantel, with me.  We had been at Lyric Opera for the outstanding production of West Side Story….amazing in all aspects.  My host, the always generous and gracious, Tom Hawley, who kindly includes me in the Lyric’s Musicals as well as the Goodman season…always great to be with Christine, Elenor, Earl and Ralph.  Fortunately the highways weren’t too hectic and we arrived at WSS in time to do a tech check.  I had made reservations at Atwater’s the restaurant at The Harrington Inn in Geneva to have a late supper after my presentation.  I have stayed there on several occasions, love it, need to go back soon…..  We arrived around 9 and found ourselves to be the only guests in the dining room, strange for a Saturday night!  Neither the food nor the service suffered, in fact both exceeded my expectations and were perfection.  Do try both Atwater’s and The Harrington, you are in for a treat.

The Harrington, Atwater’s and our insanely delicious chocolate “yum-yum”!!!!  Photos from Pinterest credit unknown.

All other photos taken by me with my iPhone.