Elsa Tullos came to Saks Fifth Avenue in the mid-1980’s.  She was one of my favorites for many years (obviously, I didn’t book anyone who wasn’t the best, but like children you do have favorites….and they know who they are!)  Elsa checks in with us here for an update and a flashback on her story then and now as well as sharing some photos of her modeling career.


“I began a 16-year modeling career as a teenager doing commercial print and television spots.  My first job was a McDonald’s television commercial that aired during the Super Bowl providing immediate entry to the Screen Actors Guild and six years of residuals.


imageElsa’s Early Composite

During the early 1980’s I worked every day as a print model for Sears, Montgomery Wards, JC Penney, Marshall Field’s and catalog production studios around the Midwest.  Every six months I had to reinvent myself to stay in business.  I wore long hair, short hair, bobbed cuts, pixies, bushy eyebrows, pencil thin eyebrows, the wholesome look, the sophisticated look, the girl next door, the glamour girl and business person looks.  I portrayed a range of ages from 17 to 32, depending on wardrobe and makeup.  I even changed my name a couple of times as a strategic shift in direction.

In the mid-’80’s I transitioned from being a busy print model to a runway model.  The Chicago apparel industry was thriving.  Chicago fashion designers were gaining critical acclaim nationally, and I quickly established myself on the runway in all of the major shows: Oprah Winfrey Show fashion segments, Oak Street shows, the Chicago Apparel Mart shows, Marshall Fields, I. Magnin, Bonwit Teller, Neiman Marcus…and most often, Saks Fifth Avenue.

imageElsa’s Runway composite

Already known as a print model, I didn’t want to appear as a novice on the runway.  With that in mind, I sought the services of choreographer, Kathleen Keith Burg, as a movement coach. who drilled me on all the standard mannequin moves.  Runway models at the time were quite serious, very sophisticated and typically did not smile.  I decided to smile, and differentiated myself as the model who smiled!  For the next ten years, I was in high demand for all the top fashion shows,  Actor training, smiling, the movement coach and tai chi (believe it or not) contributed to my success on the runway. Tai chi enhanced my ability to fully project and connect with the audience.  While always based in Chicago, 10 years on the runway took me to Italy, Switzerland, and France with extended assignments in New York and location work throughout North America.  I toured nationally showing Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne collections and worked many other ready-to-wear labels including Albert Nipon, Norma Kamali, Donna Karan, Zandra Rhodes, Calvin Klein and Ellen Tracy.


For Saks, I showed Jacqueline de Ribes, Pauline Trigere, Adolfo, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Bob Mackie, all memorable experiences.  My favorite, most transformative “couture” collection experience at Saks was Christian Lacroix.


Elsa photographed at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Jacqueline de Ribes personal appearance and fashion show at a black tie sit down dinner to benefit the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum.  Photo by Robert Carl.

Also notable, an Apparel Mart showing of Paris Collections in which I wore Karl Lagerfeld’s haute couture, Pirate.  The choreographer directed me to walk the runway straight-faced, no smile and turn at the end with a smile.  Well, I thought to myself, “Pirates do not smile.” So, I did the straight face down the runway as instructed, then, on the way back at the end of the run, I walked up the three stairs near the stage wall, turned around and belted out the biggest, loudest, “in your face” wicked, back bending, open mouth pirate laugh that I could imagine! (Lights fade to black.) It was stunning, quite dramatic, memorable for all (in a good way), and the most fun EVER for me on the runway. (Thanks, Susan Glick, show producer.)

Just prior to “hanging up the pumps” and calling an end to runway work, I fondly recall Saks’ weekly fashion seminars for business women.  The series was a great time working with Nena and Ruth (Ivon), and the small group of models who did the weekly luncheon shows…Working Women Seminars:  Jeanouche, Lou May, Karen, Connie, Gail, Ingeborg, and Marilyn.  I listened while showing and learned a lot, loved it!


By the mid-1990’s, I reinvented myself, yet again, this time as a public relations practitioner.  I began my PR work at the Edelman Worldwide agency and from there went on manage public relations and events for the Chicago Tourism Office, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, and other government agencies.  Along the way, I completed an MBA in Management and shifted from governmental affairs to higher education.  I taught Business and Arts Management at Columbia College Chicago for a few years, and currently, manage communications and development programs for Columbia’s School of Media Arts.

imageElsa with 44th President Barack Obama during her governmental affairs work

Contemplating this blog post, I realized skills, qualities, and subtle behaviors from the modeling days that continue to work for me today.  As a part of the fashion community, I gained a keen sense of timing and visual sophistication, as well as experience in collaboration and teamwork.  The early exposure to standards of excellence helped prepare me for the broader business world.

As I morphed from teenager to print model and the fashion stage to PR, in retrospect I see that it was not reinvention at all, but rather the peeling away of layers, refining me—my evolution to now!


I am excited about the possibilities of my next chapter and things to come.  There may be a book, a screenplay or regional theater in my future.  There will likely be nonprofit fundraising and grant writing. Experiencing art in its various forms is important to me, as is, spiritual growth, leisure travel and spending quality time with my family.  I am happy to reflect here on the great run so far and to imagine the many possibilities of what is next.   I still live in Chicago and am restoring my 100-year-old family home and enjoying interior decorating.  I also actively pursue philanthropic projects.

Cheers Nena!”



From Nena….I think you can see why I wanted to profile Elsa and her journey from model to educator.  Not only has she had a fascinating career but she is one of the nicest most considerate people you will meet.

Elsa has remained a dear friend and when I was retiring from Saks Fifth Avenue, she had the idea of having a model reunion retirement party for me.  She took total control over the event inviting models I hadn’t seen in years.  The Palmer House arranged for the party to be held in their Presidential Suite.  Over 50 models from the beginning of my career to the time  I was retiring (the prerequisite was that you couldn’t be one of my current models…). They all came show ready, in black, hair and make-up done.  My concern was that many of them didn’t know each other and would feel uncomfortable, they were from different eras, in seconds, of meeting each other they were friends.  It was like a sorority reunion. ABC news covered the event (I have the B-roll) and, I must admit, it was one of the best parties ever!  I will share more, along with photos,  with you in an upcoming post.


I have been extremely fortunate, throughout my career, to have worked with many extraordinary creators one of whom was James Galanos.  Mr. Galanos passed away on Sunday at the age of 92. With his passing, one more star of the fashion world has left us, but we all know his star is shining brightly in the galaxy! How lucky we all were to be able to share his brilliance.

Here is a personal story of how I related to Mr. Galanos when he visited Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago with his stunning creations.  A little insight into how I personally worked with the designers and/or their representatives

There have been many tributes written since the announcement of his death and there will be many more to come.  All telling us that he was one of our true originals, one who set his own rules, followed his own passions and created some of the most luxurious, beautiful garments any of us can imagine.  His creations were considered American Couture.  Each garment conceived by him, sometimes sewn by him, pressed by him, etc.  He never licensed his name…he did do a perfume. He even created his own prints working with the best textile companies in Europe. Nothing escaped his vision and he strived for perfection, I would suggest he reached it!

Photo uncredited

Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago hosted Mr. Galanos twice a year with his collections.  The collection had been at other stores in Chicago so when Mr. Galanos came to Saks it was huge!!  He always traveled with an assistant/model, first Pat Jones and then Natalie Terrell, who assisted him with his clients as well as wearing his garments. He preferred not to present a formal fashion show but rather to work directly with his devotees.  I can tell you when he decided to close his atelier not only were his clients devasted but so was the Store, it left a huge hole in very expensive, exclusive garments.  We didn’t buy the collection for the Chicago store, everything was by special order, in my opinion, this made it even more exciting to own.  Certainly not one of a kind but made especially for the individual client.

With Pat Jones in his Los Angelos workrooms (image from Pinterest not identified)

I was always amazed that we were instructed not to unpack the collection once it arrived at the Store, Mr. Galanos, without any help, did this himself down to the last piece of jewelry, shoe, hat, as well as the huge collection itself which was at least 100 plus pieces each season. In addition, the collection was housed in dressing rooms, with a few pieces displayed on the selling floor in a very upscale salon manner. It was not only unheard of it was a show of complete control over his creations.  Nothing was left to chance.

We always did a very special invitation to our Galanos clients. Calligraphy invitations were attached to a full bottle of his perfume and delivered by a chauffeured town car.  Other times I would send a charming  tussie mussie (a miniature real flower bouquet) in a tiny brass basket.  They dried beautifully and the ladies loved getting them and collected them.  We often did a champagne/caviar reception in a private condo.  A bit of a change up from doing something in the Store.

In days of old….I met each designer or their representation at O’Hare at their arrival gate. I always felt this set the tone for the personal appearance.  It gave me the unique opportunity to be able, in the ride from the airport to their hotel, to have in-depth conversations and make friends.  In addition, I also rode back with them and waited at their departure gate until they boarded their plane…those were definitely the days! I was also included in at least one dinner with the designer when they visited, again gaining personal experiences and information on a more intimate basis than working with them on the selling floor or with a formal fashion show.  I remember after several years of Mr. Galanos’ visits, I had picked him up at his hotel and we were waiting at the restaurant for the rest of the Saks team and much to my surprise he said to me, “Nena, why aren’t you calling me Jimmy?” After picking myself up off the floor, I responded, “You never said I could!” From that day forwarad it was Jimmy!  What an honor.  While preparing this posting, I wanted to include my photo with him and didn’t have sufficient time to do so.  When I find it I shall share it. home in Los Angelos photo in Architecture Digest

On one visit he decided he wanted to donate garments to the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum, he had been the first recipitant of their Designer of Excellence Award and was, as are most designers who visit the Collection, beyond impressed with it. I called our curator and asked if she would be interested, a really silly question, of course she was.  A carton arrived at the Store housing approximately 12 garments.  I had them sent to the the Museum for her to chose a couple of pieces which she did.  I called Mr. Galanos with her selections and he said, “Not just one or two they are all for the Collection!”  Seriously…and each was labeled with it’s name, the date of the collection, fabric, sketch…the whole works. When Andrew Gn (who is making a personal appearance with his Spring 2017 Collection in two weeks) was in Chicago a year and a half ago he visited the Costume Collection and asked to see only American designers, one he asked for was James Galanos.  The photo below is a piece from the Collection Mr. Galanos personally donated.  By the way, Mr. Gn is following that tradition and donating several pieces to our Collection when he visits.  I will be doing a profile on him, his Collection and what he has donated in an upcoming post.


James Galanos gown as it was prepped to be inspected by Andrew Gn in the Chicago History Museum Costume Collection.  Photo taken by Nena on my iPhone

Nancy Reagan 1981-1985 (White House photographs)

He is, of course, known for creating the stunning gowns that Nancy Reagan wore to the Inaugural Balls as well as many of her other evening gowns and day pieces (many of her day clothes and some evening gowns were from Adolfo, I will do a profile on him in the future). They formed a close friendship which lasted until her death.

I remember a conversation with him regarding his clients.  The discussion was when is too much too much!  He had said that in one of his California stores, probably his biggest account…they usually bought each Collection in its entirity, can you imagine…the following happened!  Well, it seemed one client, who could definitely  afford it, had ordered 20 garments, most were heavilty beaded and had had Judith Leiber bags ordered to match the beading on each garment.  Needless to say that was a huge bill.  His concern was that that was over kill.  My response was “Does this client do much for charity, do they employee staff for their properties, support the arts, etc. etc” the answer was yes, of course.  “Well, I said, then they are contributing to employeement, philanthophy, keeping businesses going and not just buying clothes (and, of course, this kept his staff employed).  His response he hadn’t thought of it like that.  Understand the prices of his garments ran into thousands of dollars each.

Walk of Style plaque with Betsey Bloomingdale and Nancy Reagan

He, of course,also has a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York.  I could only find a dreadful photo on line, I need to take photos of all those special recognition plaques next time I’m in New York.

To have had the opportunity to not only work with the genius of  James Galanos professionally, but also get to know a extremely private individual on a more intimate level is a memory I shall always treasure.  Rest in Peace Mr. Galanos.


Catalog available from third party sellers on Amazon:

A catalog to a retrospective exhibition of the work of couturier James Galanos held at the Western Reserve Historical Society, Chisholm Halle Costume Wing, in 1996, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1997. It consists primarily of illustrations of creations by Galanos between 1952 and 1993. Curator of the exhibition was Barry Bradley, curator of costume for the historical society.


Displaying collections can be challenging but more importantly, it can be inspiring, dramatic and decorate. Why not think creatively with items we use daily such as our place settings.  I’m sure most of us have more than one set of china…pieces we use every day, pieces we save (shame on us) for special company, breakfast dishes ( I grew up with Fiestaware as our breakfast dishes) and remember the upcoming Holiday pieces we only bring out once a year…think of all those Turkey platters on the top shelf of the closet! I love to combine high and low….such as my collection of Jadeite plates, bowls, etc. with my sterling flatware, which is quite ornate and perhaps Baccarat stemware using an antique paisley shawl for the cloth…you get the idea.

imageA very moody shot of some of my Jadeite collection on shelving in my minuscule kitchen, every bit of space is used.


Here is the ultimate way to know what you have….hang an example of each plate  on your wall….love it!  How practical and it becomes an art installation…creative and beautiful.

A portion of a friends place setting collection…more have been added since I took this photo. Stunning.

Or your collection can be in a breakfront, baker’s rack, kitchen shelves…why not have it on display so you can enjoy it even when not in use, and most importantly get to it right away. I have put my Chrismas plates away so carefully that I have no idea where they are and they are lovely red and green transferware!

I will be doing an extensive study on English Ironstone in the future…in the meantime here is a peek at one collection (one of many by the owner who collects vintage English Ironstone) on permanent display at a country estate.


Perfect for a Thanksgiving celebration but why not all year round.

Think how to incorporate your everyday items into your home’s decor, it looks wonderful and makes entertaining much more organized.  Just think of me when I’m trying to locate my Christmas place settings…I need to follow my own advice!

All phones are taken with my iPhone.


Several weeks ago I asked a friend of mine to accompany me on a photographic safari to begin capturing Chicago’s fascinating and varied Street and Lobby Art.  This will, of course, be an on going project since we have so much ground to cover (no pun intended!).  We began our journey at Roosevelt Road and South Michigan Avenue, actually wanting to capture the new wooden Buddha (which we couldn’t find) in the skating park…I’ll go back in the near future to find it.  Being a native Chicagoan I thought I knew most of our wonderful Street Art history, boy was I wrong! We had a perfect day, my goal was to go from Michigan Avenue to the Metra/South Shore train tracks and photograph all that we found and what a glorious variety it is!  I had projected we would stop at Congress but there were street crews working on sidewalks so a detour was in order, actually crossing Michigan Avenue for a couple of blocks and returning to the East side of the Avenue at Jackson.  We ended at the Art Institute and the North Garden which is filled with goodies.  The photograph below is one of my favorites so far and one I just happened to notice while taking multiple shots of the Henry Moore Large Interior Form, The Art Institute of Chicago gift of the artist 1982. I was looking East on the North East side of the Garden and it drew me toward it.  It is mounted on the wall of the building at the far East of the Garden.  It is simple, elegant and finely detailed.  To me, it is thought provoking and beautiful just what art should be.



Isn’t it beautiful and notice how the polished background of the wall of the buidling frames the raw stone which has been chiseled in a subtle graph pattern and it is sitting on dusty pink gravel…perfection!


A strange place to begin my Chicago art story but it actually ties in with my weekly recipe because of the color…you will see what I mean when you continue reading….I will be giving you recipes from my recipe box and will also be sharing some personal favorites from my friends who are kindly sharing them with me to pass on to you!  Enjoy….

Today’s recipe comes from my friend Elenor Hawley’s collection of yummy recipes.  She is a master at creating wonderful nibbles for events and is a superb baker as well.  Here is one of her favorite cocktail party recipes…Shrimp Pizza Appetizer…why does this fit my art piece, I think the gravel is actually the color of shrimp….too far a stretch, you be the judge.  You will definitely judge the dish as delicious….


From Elenor Hawley

16 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 heaping Tablespoons Mayonnaise

Small amount of grated onion (she uses dry onion)

Dash of garlic salt

Ingredients continued in text below

Beat above well, until smooth, with hand mixer and spread evenly on a 13″ round glass platter (Anchor Hocking works well – the sides help keep the pizza intact.)

Combine one bottle chili sauce and one bottle Hoffman House Shrimp Cocktail sauce and return to bottles.  Use 1/2 of one bottle and spread on cheese mixture.  Mark the remaining bottles “sauce for shrimp pizza” and refrigerate for later use.

At least an hour before using or the pizza will be wet… rinse and drain well 2 cans of tiny shrimp.  Crumble evenly over pizza. Sprinkle with dried parsley.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.  Elenor always makes the day before.  Refrigerate  leftovers (Nena’s note…no need for this step because there won’t be any, but just in case!) Elenor uses aluminum foil and then puts the platter in a large plastic bag, sealed tightly.

Serve with cocktail crackers or (her family’s favorite) Fritos Scoops Corn Chips, they hold more!!  Yum Yum….my comment!

Expect more from Elenor’s collection.

My suggested drink either a dry Martini or a chilled glass or two of champagne or a dry white wine.





I had planned a totally different book posting for today that was until I got a special package delivery on Saturday.  It was a book that I had ordered months ago having been intrigued by the subject and prospect of a great adventure (I subscribe to many book blogs and sites, to be discussed in future postings, and read about upcoming publications and if they strike my fancy I put them on my “want list”!) .  Well, I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, it is even more than I could possibly imagine!


This magnificent book by Andrew Ginger with forward by Cecil Beaton’s biographer, Hugo Vickers, is a must for anyone interested in art, interiors, gardens, photography and on and on just an in-depth, fascinating telling of a unique lifestyle lived by a true creator.  I can’t touch on everything I want to discuss in one article it would take me weeks to cover everything I like about this book and that is just by glancing at its captivating materials…everything from never before published photos, to sketches, and interiors that we have heard about but not seen before to all his intriguing friends.  It is not a small book in size and nor in its content.  Did I mention the photography…glorious! It tells of a genius, his extraordinary talent, his insecurities, and his many accomplishments.  Cecil Beaton lived a life we can only imagine.  As is usual with someone as talented, his life was filled with glamour but had its dark sides as well. This book tells it all. Always striving for perfection, and in my and many other opinions achieving it, he strove for more.

I have been an avid admirer since I first saw his costumes for the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady on my first trip to New York in 1957.  Seeing the original cast, Rex Harrison, and Julie Andrews, et al and hearing that wonderful Lerner and Loewe score for the first time at my very first Broadway show on Broadway you can’t get any better than that!

imageNena’s very worn LP cover

imageFrom Nena’s My Fair Lady program

I have gone to the theater since birth, well almost, and when I was young we either had  pre-Broadway shows open here or we had the original casts performing (Yul Brenner in The King and I, Ethel Merman in Gypsy, you get the idea).  This original production was magical, to say the least, not the least of which were the exquisite costumes. It was love at first sight for the whole package.  A love that carried me to one of my two top movies of all time, My Fair Lady, where Cecil Beaton not only did the costuming but all the set decorations, setting the mood for a total immersion in the period of the Shaw play…amazingThe Ascot Scene alone is worth the price of a movie ticket, no, own it and replay it often there is so much to absorb.


I guess that lead me to want to know more about this creator and I began collecting his many books, either written by him or about him and yes, there is a shelf devoted to  Cecil Beaton in my library…just a work in progress. There are many more to be added.  Up to now, my favorite is his Glass of Fashion (the dusty pink dust jacket at the top of the pile), now, of course, it is Cecil Beaton At Home…. Get it, read it, study it, you won’t be sorry!>book


I am most fortunate to have a fascinating group of friends and acquaintances, many I will profile on my Monday posts.  I always appreciate talent in any form whether it is a performer, a fantastic chef, an interior designer, an entrepreneur, obviously any fashion talent and, of course, artists.  As I briefly mentioned in an earlier post, my Father was an artist concentrating on watercolors (just one area of his talent…much more on Ivon in a later post). Today’s personality is a multi-talented artist, both as a watercolorist and a world-renowned creator of fiber art, Michael Olszewski.


Michael came to Columbia College Chicago in 2010 when we met and became instant friends.  His talent is limitless and his willingness to share his expertise and experiences with the students is admirable. As a Professor in the School of Fine and Performing Arts, his courses in the Fashion Studies discipline include Fabric Dying Techniques, Surface Embellishment and Fundamentals of Textiles. These courses cover a wide range of techniques such as Japanese Shibori, hand stitching, beading, applique and other Haute Couture embellishments. His mentoring of students is outstanding.

Michael has been an educator for 40 years and somehow balances his teaching and creative studio work. In a recent Columbia College Chicago article Michael is quoted as saying “My studio time is really critical to what I bring to the department at Columbia and to our students.  I’m a practicing artist and designer and this significantly informs what I bring to the classroom”.

imageRyegate 2016

Michael’s CV is extraordinary not only as an educator but as an exhibiting artist.   The Art Insitute of Chicago recently exhibited three of the four pieces which are now in their permanent collection.  It was his first exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.  His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Montgomery Museum of Art, Museum of Art and Design, Muskegon Museum of Art and Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland.  Another of his works was recently on display at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia!  These are only a few locations that have found Michael’s creativity exciting and worthy of permanence in their collections.  He continues to exhibit in group shows locally such as the Members Exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago, which is celebrating it’s Centennial this Fall.

image                            Fiber Piece                                                                     Watercolor

Michael is an extremely private man, who has a wonderful sense of humor, for example, he never misses a Max Raabe performance at Symphony Center, he introduced me to Mr. Raabe and his Palast Orchestra…amazing and very tongue in cheek!  I am honored that he has allowed me the opportunity to share a look inside his thought process along with answers to my questionnaire.

imageFiber piece with written thoughts

When was your first impression of your talent?

In grade school and pursued it in junior high school.

When did you know you had “made it”, explain.

I don’t think of “it” that way.  I’m always working toward new work, new outreach and what can help me move forward.  But, after grad school, I moved to Philadelphia and was accepted into a co-op gallery and I felt that things were underway.  Two years later I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts award and this helped me to realize that what I was creating did speak to others and was recognized for it’s merits as art.  Then the 3 Pa council awards, the Pew grant, etc….helped to confirm

How did your original passion bring you to where you are now?

Perseverance, focus, diligence, the moral support of close friends and the assistance of fellowships and grants.

Your favorite book/movie/theater…

All have changed over the years depending on my age and what I was going through at the time:

Books/Authors: In Cold Blood, A Christmas Memory…William Trevor, Patricia Highsmith, E.M. Forster, Henry James, John McGahern, Thomas Hardy, Annie Proulx, Willa Cather. Hermann Hesse.

Movies: A Single Man, Love is the Devil, The Long Day Closes, I Am Love, Brokeback Mountain, The Great Beauty, To Kill a Mockingbird, Never Let Me Go, Bill Cunningham NEW YORK

The Arts in Order: Dance both modern and ballet, Symphony, Legitimate Theater, Opera

Ballet/Choreographer: Pina Bauch, Martha Clark, Oscar Schlemmer, Pilobolus Dance

Type of Music, very eclectic: Everything from the Blues, Classical, Folk, World Beat, Portuguese Fado (a particular favorite)  Favorite artists: BB King, George Gershwin, The Rolling Stones, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, Cesaria Evora, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Gabrial Faure, Phillip Glass…..etc.!

What are your hobbies?

None!  My work, teaching, etc. occupies all the time.

imageWatercolor 4″ x 6″

What is your home like?

A mix of Mid-Century Modern, Chinese Antiques and the style of the Weiner Werkstatte.

What is your favorite vacation spot and where do you want to visit?

Ballycastle, Ireland, the area continues to be an enormous inspiration on my work;  Coastal Maine, the landscape; Kyoto, Japan, the culture, art, and design; Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland, the architecture, art and atmosphere; and London, England, culture.  On the list to visit: Scandinavia (I haven’t been there), back to Scotland, England and Japan.

How would you like to be remembered?

As an artist who was a kind and generous man who recognized life is a gift and sought to be loyal to family, friends. and students.


“Handwriting is like drawing.  It has a meditative quality that’s akin to the repetitive mark making that exists in stitching and embroidery.  Color, texture and stitching are all used to create an atmosphere and sensibility that is evocative of a particular situation.”

Michael Olszewski ( Columbia College Chicago Interview by Jan-Henry Gray, May 10, 2016)


For more on Michael go to his website:

And his YouTube video: Michael Olszewski Fiber Artist/Painter-YouTube


Yet another obsession…Fashion/Costume exhibitions, adore them.  I have had the privilege of seeing exhibitions all over the world from the exceptional presentations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum at FIT, to the V & A in London and the Fashion Museum in Bath, to the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum in Paris to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg as well as many museums in the States…love them and learn from each of them. The exhibitions we have had over the years at the Chicago History Museum, in many cases, have equaled those.  Let us now discuss the current Costume Collection exhibition at the Chicago History Museum Making Mainbocher The First American Couturier.


Is it the biggest exhibition, no…is it the most well-known designer….no.  What it is is an extraordinary example of examining a superbly curated show of work by a master craftsman who began his career as an illustrator and editor and, without formal training, became a master couturier in Paris and in New York and. in my opinion,  a marketing genius.

Let’s take a look at the way the exhibition has been laid out.  It is divided into sections highlighting the various phases of Main Bocher (the man) and Mainbocher’s (the brand) work. A native Chicagoan (born in 1890) he formed a work ethic in the Midwest and was not understood by his teachers…how many artistic talents are when they want to express themselves in an untraditional manner, thank heaven that we live today and artists are given space to be the creators they are meant to be!  After settling in Paris he did illustrations for Harper’s Bazaar in France and then became an editor at Vogue Paris rising to become editor in chief of the magazine. There are wonderful examples of his art in the exhibit…they have the look of Erte and Bakst but most certainly are all Main Bocher. A highlight is an oil on canvas painting he did of Thomas Rector and Hazel Allen and their “Hawaiian Waltz” in 1917.  You can see his stylized signature in the left-hand corner of the painting.  It is the first time it has been exhibited, quite a coup for the Museum.


He then turned his love for fashion to Haute Couture (1921-1939) and the rest, as they say, is history.  I am a firm believer that things happen in their proper time and Mainbocher, the designer, happened at the right time.  He came to New York and 57th Street in 1940-1971 where he continued his understated elegance for his best-dressed clientele.  When given editorial credit in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar he demanded facing pages, unheard of in the industry.  Having cut his teeth in publishing he knew how to maneuver the press to his advantage.

imageThe couture workrooms and the iconic image of the corset shot in the workrooms by the incredible Horst B. Horst as the Nazis were marching into Paris.

There are three pieces in the exhibition that the designer gave to the Collection the brown suit you see in the photo below is one of these garments.  Next to it the lovely peach gown with attached jeweled bib is my favorite of the Collection.


The three pieces you experience as you enter the exhibition, seen below, across from this grouping is a video that shows Mainbocher at work.


You will find a wall devoted to Mainbocher’s theater costuming which I discussed in the post I did on the catalog in my book review on Tuesday.

Next to that wall is the interaction area which leads us to the platform with the uniforms he did for the WAVES and the Girl Scouts of America and the Passavant school of nursing.


WAVES uniforms

imageGirl Scout uniforms

The day after the wonderful opening gala celebration at a sit-down dinner, silent auction and dancing, members of the Museum were treated to an amazing lecture by Arnaud de Lummen the Managing Director of LUVANIS S.A. the lead corporate sponsor of the exhibition.  Oh my, what an insightful and fascinating presentation.  His knowledge and expertise in resurrecting, in his words, “Sleeping Beauties”  the “lost” designer names that those of us who are interested in the history of fashion and the study of the fashion designer know but are not generally known to the public was remarkable.  His hour-long presentation featured an in-depth look at Main Bocher the man and Mainbocher the brand.  I am delighted to tell you that M. Lummen will return to us in the Spring of 2017 for yet another lecture…I will, of course, keep you updated.

imagePetra Slinkard, Curator of the Exhibition with M. Lummen

As you leave the exhibition you look down and find a medallion…it is a replica of the plaque placed in the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue in New York on the Fashion Walk of Fame in 2002 (much like the stars on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles).  A lasting tribute to an American genius who is now getting the long over due recognition in a superbly thought out exhibition and a one of a kind monograph.  Kudos to CHM, Petra Slinkard, Jessica Pushor, Rosemary Adams and the incredible CHM staff and volunteers who have given Mainbocher his place in the fashion sun!


In closing, I don’t plan on featuring photos of myself but thought you might enjoy a picture taken at the opening night party, you can see my pleasure in this wonderful accomplishment…that is the look of a thrilled long term member of the Costume Council! I hope you will have the same expression when you tour the presentation which you can enjoy through August 22, 2017!.


All photos with the exception of the one of me (I don’t do selfies!!!!) are from my handy iPhone.

For further information go to

Also go to


I adore collections of anything, books, objects, jewelry, art, friends….you name it.  Because I live in such a small space I have had to limit my collecting (not books, of course!) and started collecting Victorian jewelry, particularly earrings, several years ago.  This post is coming at exactly the right moment to discuss one of my favorite collecting places, The Randolph Street Market which happens to be this weekend, October 29th and 30th.  RSM has everything a collector is looking for whether it is one of a kind jewelry, vintage clothing (a must for those into recycling and fashionistas alike), accessories, linens, hand crafted food, around the world artifacts and so much more…anything your heart desires or didn’t know it wanted, it is there!  Open from 10 to 5 Saturday and Sunday, RSM is a monthly destination, located at 1340 West Randolph Street, Chicago. I do hope you will join me this weekend for your personal treasure hunt and the fully loaded Bloody Marys aren’t bad either! Street Market in action

I have been going to the market since it’s dynamo creator, Sally Schwartz,  started it and did, for a time, when I first retired, work with the vendors and clients.  Not a “job” at all just a fun weekend meeting wonderful people and doing a “bit” of shopping as well as shopping with clients!!!!   Sally is friends with everyone she meets and runs fantastic events.  She will be a subject on my Monday Personalities posting in the near future.  She has a fascinating story to tell…but more on that later.

Sally Schwartz at home

I often wonder why people collect what they collect…there is no answer to that and when you see the variety of objects available to us via antique and vintage markets, antique shops, auctions and on line the possibilities are endless…thank Heaven! I haunt library book sales, the wonderful annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest and, of course, The Newberry Library’s annual book sale.  I definitely “break” for a book sale or book booth in an antique mall.  I’ve found many a treasure rummaging the shelves, tables, and boxes.

imageA curated collection on an antique secretary on an upstair landing in a friend’s home,   photo taken with my iPhone

Many more collectibles in upcoming posts.


For more information and to purchase tickets go to

Printer’s Row Lit Fest

Newberry Library


I want Wednesday’s to be pretty free form…so today’s posting will be exactly that.  I have had lovely comments on last week’s recipe so will include one today as well as a very tasty cocktail.  I have really gone full out the last two days and will do so again this Friday so I won’t keep you too long today,

Chicago’s fall foliage is taking its time showing its face…I have hunted all around me and not much happening as yet…stay tuned!

Since I am a Fall Baby I do love the season but am not terribly fond of what follows, but no matter…we can hold off on the future no need to  dwell on what will come. As I write this our Cubbies are beginning their quest for the World Series title…amazing, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, what an exceptional time! Go Cubs….

Now let’s talk a little about Fall.  The image below is a wonderful fall table setting at  a friend’s home (actually in honor of my Birthday last year), I think it is beautiful and it is set in the atrium looking out into the garden and pool.

imageCustom-made tablecloth by the Master of the House photo taken by me on my iPhone

imageA closeup of the centerpiece, the last of the hydrangeas and zinnias, love it!  Casual but romantic and elegant picking up the color and theme of the cloth.  Move over Carolyne Roehm!  By the way, I think she is amazing and has the most exquisite taste…I had the honor of working with her on a fantastic fashion show, awesome clothes!  Also, I took this photo on my iPhone.

imageI am a major Anglophile….can’t help myself…guess it goes back to my heritage on my Mother’s side…English.  Love it.  I have no idea who to credit with this photo but do know I want to live there!  You are welcome to visit.

Now for the recipe and it’s background.  My Aunt Midge was a lovely cook but nothing fancy.  She excelled in classic basic food.  No one could beat her fudge (wish I had that recipe, but unfortunately don’t!)  What I do have is her Stew for a Crowd which I am sharing below.  I don’t have a crock pot, nor did she, so the recipe cooks the old fashion way, in the oven, what a concept,  I’m sure you can figure out how to cook in a slow cooker if you prefer that method. It is the best stew I have ever had and I thought a perfect way to celebrate the chill of the season.  I serve with as baguette to sop up the juice, a simple salad with a lovely vinaigrette and some yummy dessert. As Ina would say, what could be bad!!!!

Aunt Midge’s Stew for a Crowd

4 pounds beef stew

3 medium onions sliced

1 to 2 stalks celery cut diagonally

4-5 carrots in chunks

2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup tapioca

1 cup V-8 Juice

2 cans little potatoes


Place meat in the bottom of a Dutch oven, layer vegetables.  Mix salt, sugar, tapioca  and juice and spread over meat.  Cover TIGHTLY with foil and bake at 250 degrees for 5 hours. 1 hour before serving add cans of little potatoes, recover and cook for last hour.  Be sure the foil is tight and do not uncover until time for potatoes.  I occasionally add fresh whole small button mushrooms to the vegetable mix. Yum, Yum.  Serves 4 with leftovers…reheats and also freezes well.

Let’s have a cocktail  or two while waiting those 5 hours, this one is from Marshall Field’s in the Old Orchard Shopping Center when it first opened in the late 1950’s.  Delicious.  Nothing like a good cocktail!

Apricot Cobbler

1 1/2 ounce apricot brandy

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

3/4 ounce fresh orange juice

1 level teaspoon powdered sugar

Put in blender with ice, strain into coup,  makes one delicious cocktail

imageUntil tomorrow….


Today’s subject on my favorite topic, books, is the catalog/monograph of the current Costume exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, Making Mainboucher The First American Couturier by Petra Slinkard.


Cover of catalog

Visually it is stunning. The photography is done by Joseph Aaron Campell and Stephen Jensen.  It  depicts close-up details of the garments as well as full-length shots…beautifully done.  Of course, each garment has its donor’s name, and the date the garment was made and date it was given to the Museum, several pieces are from the designer’s own Collection. The Costume Collection at CHM is primarily devoted to garments worn by Chicago and Illinois residents. I’m sure given the stature of Mainbocher they would have accepted his garments but, fortunately, that decision didn’t have to be made…you see Main Rousseau Bocher was a native Chicagoan!  Perhaps more importantly, the Mainbocher story is told in a fascinating, exciting manner giving the reader insight into a designer who might be called and was called by the sponsor’s, LUVANIS.S.A., Managing Director, Arnaud de Lummen, a “Sleeping Beauty”…a designer waiting to be rediscovered!  After reading this wonderful in-depth volume he has been given long overdue recognition.  I am hopeful that everyone will see the exhibition in person, it will be up until August 20, 2017, but just in case this monograph is a must for your library!

imageShot on my iPhone opening day of exhibition

What will you learn, probably more than just how to pronounce his name Main Bocher, the man and Mainbocher, the brand.  You will find he started as a sketch artist, then a fashion editor for French Vogue in 1923, (M. Lumme told us that it was just revealed*, by Vogue Magazine, that Main Bocher was the artist that did the iconic Chanel black dress sketch) he became editor in chief of the magazine in 1927.

In 1929 he established his couture salon and continued until 1939, his cinched waist full skirted look foretold Dior’s New Look in 1947.

imageAnother Ivon iPhone photo

His New York salon, which opened in 1940 was on 57th Street where he dressed most of the names on the Best Dresses List. Known for understatement in his garments each collection produced over 100 pieces. No doubt best known for designing Wallis Simpson’s wedding dress in a color Mainbocher coined Wallis Blue.  He continued to design for her throughout his career. garment is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection, obviously, the color photo is enhanced but it gives an idea of what Wallis Blue looked like.

Mainbocher’s devoted client, Josephine Forrestal, the wife of Admiral James V. Forrestal was instrumental in having the designer create uniforms for the WAVES .  He also created new uniforms for the Girl Scouts and their leaders, I actually wore that uniform while a Girl Scout, who knew!  In addition, he did the uniforms for the student nurses at James Ward Thorne School of Nursing at Passivant Memorial Hospital (now Northwestern).

Another interesting twist to this intriguing journey was Mainbocher’s contribution to theatrical costuming.  He designed for several Broadway productions notably a Lunt and Fontaine play, The Great Sebastians, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award as well as for Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam and Mary Martin in The Sound of Music. Ms. Martin wore a Mainbocher gray tulle gown to accept her 1960 Tony Award.

You will also get to know this creative genius as being very controlling, extremely dedicated to his clients and them to him, always demanding perfection….in other words a true creative genius.

A must read if you have ANY interest in the history of fashion and why French Haute Couture and American made to order garments are the foundation and laboratory for all of fashion.  Bravo Petra and CHM staff for a perfect tribute to a one of a kind designer.  I give it 5 stars!!

You can obtain your copy at

*Vogue article on the Exhibition