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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


Givenchy Nouvelle Boutique Ensemble, 1970s , LOT 240
Sybil Connolly Black Dress, 1970s, Property from the Collection of Kay Krehbiel , LOT 113
Carolina Herrera Jacket Worn by Nena Ivon, c. 2007, LOT 91

I am having a fascinating adventure, I have a garment in the upcoming Hindman Fall Fashion auction on October 3rd! It’s my first auction…I’ve sold garments in the past with local resale stores and most of my special pieces are either in the Costume Collection of the Chicago History Museum or in the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago. I asked Tanner Branson, the newly appointed Specialist, Head of Sale, Luxury Handbags & Couture and this is his first auction… (more on him later in this post) to look at the piece I thought would be a good fit to see if there was any interest in putting it in the sale. I got an immediate yes!

From that moment on learned the procedures of an auction….terms of the sale, contracts to be read and signed, confirmations sent via email. I also reviewed the description of the garment along with my brief bio…all that was left was to see the online catalog which went “live” this week….now on to the bidding…fingers crossed!

Here is the Carolina Herrera garment I wore for Mrs. Herrera’s appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago in 2007. It is quite the stunner and I only wore it that one time. Why in the world, you might ask, did I make the decision to send my fabulous piece to auction, quite simple, I no longer lead the lifestyle of going to charity luncheons, glamorous cocktail events, opening nights…well you get the picture! Having it hang in my closet when someone else can enjoy it…why not. I’ll have to do a good rummage to see what else might be of interest!

Here I am with Mrs. Herrera when she was being honored by the Fashion Group International, Chicago, many years ago. Love her, I always found working with her to be a dream. Photo from my collection.

Here is the link and a description of the auction…

“Hindman’s Fall Fashion auction on October 3rd features over 250 lots of high fashion and luxury handbags from leading houses including Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton amongst others. Headlining the auction are three exceptional Hermès handbags, a Birkin 30 in ostrich, a Birkin 35 in Clemence calfskin, and a Kelly 28. The auction has a powerful collection of Hermès including a Snakes & Ladders game from 2013. Also featuring property from the personal wardrobe of Kay Krehbiel, the collection contains accessories by Judith Leiber and Hermès and a rare gown designed by Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly. In addition, the auction also features examples of Haute Couture garments by Christian Dior, Chanel, and Givenchy dating from the 1950-1980s.”

A Birkin Bag in the auction
Hermès Snakes and Ladders Game
Pucci garments in the auction.
. I had the privilege of working with Emilio Pucci on several occasions a unique creator and a true joy to work with!
Of course a fabulous Chanel bag!
Givenchy Ensemble, 1975, LOT 238
and yes, I worked with M. Givenchy!

Previews are by appointment only on September 28th and 29th and October 2nd. The sale is October 3rd….Contact:

A nenasnote I’ve known the founder, Leslie Hindman, for decades and could not be happier for her successes over the years…the company has grown into a Internationally respected auction house….here are further details…

“Hindman is a leading fine art auction house connecting cities nationwide to the global art market. With offices and salerooms throughout the country, Hindman conducts over 140 auctions annually in all major fine art and luxury collecting categories, while offering buyers and sellers an exceptional experience across multiple selling channels and price points.

Hindman’s team of experts is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the industry. Driven by this client-first approach, Hindman provides collectors, fiduciaries, and institutions with a comprehensive suite of services including auctions, appraisals, private sales, and art advisory.

Hindman was formed through the merger of two premier auction houses, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers (est. 1982) and Cowan’s Auctions (est. 1995). For over 40 years Hindman has built a reputation as a market leader by providing outstanding service and achieving record results. Hindman is headquartered in Chicago with 15 additional locations serving clients coast to coast.”

Now a bit about Tanner….I first met him as a student (one of mine!) when he attended Columbia College Chicago and during his time working in their Fashion Study Collection. We have become friends over the years. The history and preservation of clothing is, in my opinion, part of his DNA! I look forward to seeing what wonderful treasures he will find to bring to all of through Hindman!

Tanner Branson
Specialist , Head of Sale, Luxury Handbags & Couture

From Tanner’s promotion announcement….

“As the Head of Sale of the Luxury Handbag & Accessories Department at Hindman, he will oversee the department’s four-yearly auctions, liaise with clients nationwide in evaluating their couture, and assist with appraisals. He will support Hindman Chicago’s headquarters and their well-established regional offices around the country to further develop the firm’s commitment to luxury goods.

His journey in the luxury market has taken him to many places. he brings with him a decade of experience working with iconic brands such as The Row and Brunello Cuccinelli for Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. In curating his client’s personal and public wardrobes, he was given the opportunity to work with a rich collection of garments and expand his professional acumen. These experiences have honed his ability to understand the finer nuances of luxury and cater to the preferences of clients who appreciate the art of fashion.

Additionally, he am proud to be affiliated with various auxiliary boards, including the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum. His academic background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Business from Columbia College Chicago (with a personal focus on fashion and textile history), fuels his passion for preserving the stories held within each garment and accessory.

In keeping with Hindman’s commitment to exceptional service, he is excited to connect with clients across the country.”

As usual this is not a sponsored post…I don’t have sponsors…if interested in sponsorships contact me.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Hindman.


Chicago’s Most Beloved Treasure Hunt Continues this Summer with the Return of 200 Dealers from Across North America, Live Music, Food Vendors & More

The Official Press Release….Like great vintage pieces, the Randolph Street Market never goes out of style. 20 years strong and oh-so stylish, America’s largest and liveliest Urban Antiques Market is returning to the West Loop this July to continue their sun-soaked 2023 season from Saturday, July 29 through Sunday, July 30. Bringing together 200 of the top independent vendors, makers, dealers and designers from across North America to Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood (1341 W. Randolph St.) with a full lineup of shows through the end of the year, the festival will offer an ultra-curated, high-quality selection of antiques, vintage and modern goods ranging from fashion to art, jewelry, décor, retro home furnishings, global goods and more. Treasure hunters and entertainment-seekers alike will be thrilled by the continuous lineup of live musical acts, unique food vendors, refreshing cocktails and more to savor throughout the weekend. Tickets are on sale now with early bird pricing and a variety of packages and specials at

One of the nation’s most iconic names in vintage shopping festivals, the Randolph Street Market Festival has welcomed nearly 1.5 million treasure hunters to their nearly 200 events throughout the years since inception in 2003. The event has become a major source of livelihood for nearly 40,000 independent dealers, makers and designers throughout the years, accounting for approximately 12 million one-of-a-kind finds showcased on event grounds. Founded by events industry visionary Sally Schwartz, these market events have become a meaningful, long-standing tradition for Chicagoans and the top names in vintage dealing alike.

Attendees of all ages will have the chance to shop bespoke pieces, scout the perfect addition to their art collection, discover handmade fair-trade treasures from around the globe, score mint-condition albums from icons of centuries past and more all weekend long. A sampling of the 200 featured vendors this season include:

● Spotted Horse Collectibles – Knoxville, TN – Eclectic curated 1900s-1960s collectibles including vintage musical instruments, vintage cameras, vintage sewing and linens, pottery, modern furniture and more!

● Assassin Vintage – St Louis, MO – True vintage fashion for men and women, from Victorian through the 80s, lots of conversation piece clothing and accessories!

● Krava Galleries – Atlanta, GA – Classic, modern and contemporary paintings, emerging graffiti artists to mid century modern!

● Conservatory Vintage & Vinyl; Urbansalvage; World’s End Bazaar; Atlantic Posters; and Black Box Record Club – For lovers of old school spinning and collectors of vintage rock and music history, bringing tons of vinyl & rock n’ roll posters, memorabilia, & more!

● N Green & Sons – Real deal gems and watches from Antiques Roadshow appraiser Jeff Cohen!

The festival will feature a variety of savory and sweet treats as well as unique refreshing cocktails to enjoy, including everything from Lobster Rolls provided by The Happy Lobster to delectable varieties of pickles courtesy of Fisch Food’s Gourmet Pickles and a pop-up by Original Rainbow Cone. Attendees will also have the chance to indulge in favorites from Dinky’s Delights, J Spice Caribbean, Taco Factory and more. As is Randolph Street Market Festival tradition, the Market Bar will be buzzing with Candi’s Bloody Mary’s for shoppers to enjoy all weekend long.

Candi making her signature Bloody Mary’s…the best in town!!

A haven for entertainment lovers, the Randolph Street Market Festival will feature a range of top musical acts, from Jazz, Rockabilly, and Blues, to 80’s Hits, Country Western and the sweet sounds of everyone’s favorite tune spinners, DJ Crate Digga HasH and DJ Mike House all weekend long. The full musical lineup is as follows:

Saturday, July 29

● All Day: DJ Crate Digga Hash (Building Lower Hall)

● All Day: DJ Dave House (Building Ballroom)

● All Day: DJ TigsB (Outside Mainstage)

● 10:00 am – 11:30 am: Woodstreet Bloodhounds Bluegrass & Country Swing (Outside Mainstage)

● 11:30 am – 1:30 pm:Feel Good 80’s & Cover Band (Outside Mainstage)

● 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm: JP & Jenny James Rockabilly (Outside Mainstage)

● 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Maxwell Street Blues Band (Outside Mainstage)

Sunday, July 30

● All Day: Poems While You Wait

● All Day: DJ Dave House (Building Ballroom)

● All Day: DJ Crate Digga Hash (Building Lower Hall)

● All Day: DJ TigsB (Outside)

● 10 am – 12 pm: Tony Morrison Jazz Quintet (Outside Mainstage)

● 12 pm – 2 pm: Joe Wortell & Natural Good Country Western Band (Outside Mainstage)

● 2 pm – 3:30 pm: Contrabanda Latin Jazz Band (Outside Mainstage)

● 3:30 pm – 5 pm: Al Simon & The Saturn Kings Rockabilly Band (Outside Mainstage)

A rain or shine event, the festival will take place both out and indoors, offering visitors a chance to beat the heat and continue the fun with a massive air-conditioned indoor portion featuring market vendors, Andi’s Sunflower Café for delectable signature drinks including their Bananas Foster Latte and more. For added convenience, festival-goers will have access to a huge on-site parking garage.

The Randolph Street Market Festival will be open Saturday, July 29 from 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday, July 30 from 10 am – 5 pm. Tickets are on sale now at with an early bird pricing of $12 ($15 at the gate), plus a range of exclusive packages perfect for groups and families featuring merch, food and beverage offerings as well as special entry rates for seniors, military personnel, students and first responders. Children under the age of 12 are free. The Market will also be offering an “Early Buy” ticket this year for $25, which allows entry an hour before open at 9 am, with all proceeds benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. Parking for the festival is available with street parking around the festival or through a large onsite indoor parking garage on 1371 W Randolph St. with a $4 hourly rate. The festival will also be hosting a “West Loop Treasures” Giveaway this year for each market, including an exclusive package for two that features admission, Bloody Mary’s, Randolph Street Market Tote Bag, a stay at the Nobu Hotel, dinner at El Che, cocktails at Hide + Seek, sweet treats at BomboBar and gifts from Tribeca Boutique and The Fig. Winners will be announced on Instagram. For more information or 2023 season dates, please visit

About Randolph Street Market:

Now in its 20th year, the Randolph Street Market Festival is home to the world-renowned Chicago Antique Market, Indie Designer Market, RETROSPECT Chicago and the Holiday Market. Touted as a “mecca of cool,” “the best hotspot for antiquing” and “the Barneys of vintage” by magazines such as Travel & Leisure, The New York Times, Lucky, Architectural Digest, USA Today, Elle Décor, goop, plus numerous broadcast outlets, the Randolph Street Market Festival is Chicago’s most exciting shopping destination! Vendors from across the country showcase an unusual and stylishly-crafted mix of vintage and modern decorative objects, housewares, fashion for men/women/children, art, hostess gifts and more. Randolph Street Market is the spot to shop all year round while supporting Chicago charities such as Project Onward, PAWS, Chicago House, Chicago’s Children’s Charities, Chicago Lights Tutoring, I Grow Chicago and many others.

Media Contact: Heron Agency


Sally and Nena at one of Nena’s first Randolph Street Markets as Fashion Director, photo by the late great Steve Starr! I’m wearing a fabulous Bakelite pin from RSM one of many in my collection.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary year of The Randolph Street Market I wanted to tell you how I became involved with RSM many years ago. I was so pleased that Sally Schwartz agreed to answer my nenasnotes blog questionnaire in 2017. The following is how I began that two part post.

“Sally and I have known each other for many years and when I retired from Saks Fifth Avenue in November 2009 one of the many articles about me that appeared in the local press asked about my favorite things in Chicago…one was the Randolph Street Market. I had attended all of Sally’s endeavors through the years and never missed the RSM. Sally saw the article and asked if we could get together. Over breakfast at Ina’s (don’t we all miss that fantastic unique restaurant and Ina’s huge warm personality, at least we can follow her on Facebook, not quite the same!!!!) we discussed everything we could think of and I casually said, “if there is any way I can be of assistance to you, let me know”! Sally didn’t miss a beat and said come work with me!

Vintage compacts

My first RSM wearing my glorious vintage kimono accessorized with a spectacular beaded necklace from one of the many jewelry vendors always featured at RSM.

I became the Fashion Director for RSM in January 2010 for several years and assisted vendors in their presentations, did fashion lectures, fashion shows and, of course, brought in clients and helped them shop.”

I am no longer formally with the Market but am called upon to attend special preview nights and, of course, attend (and shop, naturally) the monthly Markets, how could I miss them! I love posting finds on my Instagram and Facebook sites as well as showing some of my RSM treasures in nenasnotes. What is more important is that Sally and I have become very close friends, a friendship I treasure! And now I write two monthly posts for the RSM Newsletter…one on fashion, one on collectibles….love doing them! Check the archives to see all the posts. Got to love our Sally!!!!!

Forever Friends…Sally and Nena!
Greeting you inside the vintage Plumber’s Hall where you will find three floors of treasures!











Each year it gives me great pleasure to let you know about the annual CHICAGO DANCERS UNITED event, DANCE FOR LIFE…it is a not to be missed event…get your tickets now…you won’t be disappointed!


Chicago Dancers United, which supports the health and wellness of Chicago’s professional dance community, announces the program for its 32nd annual fundraiser, Dance for Life, which takes place Saturday, August 19 at 6 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago, followed by an After Party at Venue SIX10, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

The complete lineup of artists includes BOOM CRACK! Dance Company, Chicago Tap Allstars, Giordano Dance Chicago and South Chicago Dance Theatre, Hiplet Ballerinas, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, freelance performers Joseph Massarelliand Riho Sakamoto, Moonwater Dance Project, Muntu Dance Theatre, and, for the finale, choreographer Randy Duncan.

Dance for Life 2023 Co-Chairs are Ted Grady, Ross Slotten MD, Victor Alexander, and Maray Gutierrez.

Dance for Life raises money for The Dancers’ Fund, which provides Chicago dance industry professionals with financial support for preventative health care and critical medical needs. The event showcases the city’s unique variety of dance traditions and styles by bringing together professional dance companies and dancers from throughout Chicago, who unite to support their peers by generously donating their time, energy, and artistry. Throughout its history, Dance for Life has presented more than 50 Chicago-based professional dance companies representing a variety of genres, sizes, and histories and numerous choreographers, artists, and designers. An additional beneficiary of Dance for Life is AIDS Foundation Chicago.

The Program (in alphabetical order)BOOM CRACK! Dance Company combines hip hop styles with curated choreography in Decibel, an excerpt from an evening-length production choreographed by Trae Turner with music by Paul Mond. The work explores frequency and emotions attached to sound, with an eclectic score of lo-fi sample-based production, harsh electronic instrumentals, and energetic music.Chicago Tap Allstars, which features tap dancers from throughout the Chicago area, performs Birdland, a joyous dance choreographed by Bril Barrett and Mark Yonally with improvography from the dancers, to the music of Weather Report. Chicago Tap Allstars aims to amplify the excellence of Chicago tap dance by creating an equitable, healing, and inclusive community. Giordano Dance Chicago and South Chicago Dance Theatre join forces for Luminescence., created by Kia Smith for Giordano’s 60th anniversary season earlier this year. With music by Coldplay and U2, the work was created with the spirit of community at heart and is a celebration of humanity. Hiplet Ballerinas, the professional company of the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, performs React, choreographed by Trevon Lawrence and Anthony Sampson to the music of The Pussycat Dolls. From classical ballet to hip hop, this piece fuses tradition with the energy of dance. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago offers the full company in excerpts from BUSK by Aszure Barton, set to music by Daniel Belanger, Ljova, Camille Saint-Saëns, and David Wikander, which WTTW called “wildly eccentric and stunningly original.” The Joffrey Ballet performs excerpts of Gerald Arpino’s Birthday Variations, which was commissioned by Becky D’Angelo as a birthday present to her husband Dino, who owned Chicago’s Civic Opera House and loved the music of Giuseppe Verdi. Set to Verdi’s infectious opera-ballet music, the work is a sparkling showcase of classical dancing.Freelance dancers Joseph Massarelli and Riho Sakamoto perform On the Nature of Daylight, a pas de deux choreographed and staged by David Dawson to music by Max Richter. This work explores the idea of love as the ordinary and the extra-ordinary—the many possibilities of finding pure love, a task that binds us as human beings, and a search that happens continually around the world on a daily basis. The piece fully encompasses the idea that love lost remains unforgettable.Moonwater Dance Project’s work Clarity, choreographed by Hanna Brictson to music by Murcof and Vanessa Wagner and Travis Lake, explores the challenge of finding transparency within oneself, taking the performers and viewers on a dynamic journey to discover purity and strength.Muntu Dance Theatre performs Djeliya, featuring Lamba, the dance of the djeli, or griots, who are highly respected among the Mandingue people for keeping the history and culture intact by playing special instruments and singing. Choreographed by Regina Perry-Carr to music by Idris Daniel and Sekou Conde, Djeliya includes a drum procession.For this year’s finale, Randy Duncan revives and expands his world-premiere finale from Dance for Life 2021, As One, with music by Ira Antelis and costumes by Richard Dayhoff. Created in honor of longtime Dance for Life supporter Harriet Ross, As One drew inspiration from the marches and protests during the pandemic and the hate, but also the love and healing necessary, to survive in this climate.

Chicago Dancers United presents Dance for Life 2023

Saturday, August 19 at 6 p.m.
at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.,
followed by an afterparty at Venue SIX10, 610 S. Michigan Ave.

Tickets—$500 for the performance and After Party,
$45–125 for the performance only—
are available at 312.341.2300, at,
and in person at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office.
Group tickets (10 or more) are available by calling 312.341.2300.
All programming is subject to change.
The mission of Chicago Dancers United is to foster the health and wellness of Chicago’s professional dance community by providing financial support through The Dancers’ Fundfor preventive health care and critical medical needs. Anyone working in or retired from a professional capacity within Chicago’s dance community—dancers, technical staff, administrators, choreographers, instructors, accompanists, and more—is eligible.

For information, visit

Photos top to bottom:
Arielle Israel, photo by Todd Rosenberg
BOOM CRACK! Dance Company, photo by Michael Mabbo
Chicago Tap Allstars, photo by David Harmantas
Giordano Dance Chicago and South Chicago Dance Theatre in Luminescence., photo by Anderson Photography
Hiplet Ballerinas, photo by Roshawn Lyles
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in BUSK, photo by Danica Paulos; courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow
The Joffrey Ballet’s Amanda Assucena and Alberto Velazquez in Birthday Variations, photo by
Cheryl Mann
Riho Sakamato and Joseph Massarelli, photo by Altin Kaftira
Moonwater Dance Project, photo by Ren Picco Freeman
Muntu Dance Theatre, photo by Marc Monaghan

Copyright © 2023 Chicago Dancers United, All rights reserved.


I’ve been MIA lately on my blog and I know you enjoy my book reviews…so here come two (actually three!) I recently featured, with the authors, on my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. And, in my opinion, are MUST reads and adds to your library.

First a memoir, one of the most impactful books I’ve had the pleasure to read and share with my TFBC attendees in recent memory! The added attraction was not only having the author, Christine Barker, joined me in conversation but she also read the first chapter of her extraordinary story giving it so much more depth! How do I get advance notice of the books I feature on TFBC, actually several ways, sometimes the publisher notifies me (think RIZZOLI for an example), sometimes the author, sometimes I reach out to authors or publishers, or sometimes one of my TFBC supporters such as Jeffrey Banks, he recommended Third Girl From The Left…here is his quote for Christine’s book…”Christine Barker has written a beautifully crafted book about a life in the theater and the world of fashion set in the vibrant, yet turbulent time of AIDS, that I simply could not put down. Filled with many people I also knew, and who will also be familiar to the reader, this is not only a wonderful piece of history, but also a heart-rending memoir that simply begs to be read.” — Jeffrey Banks, two-time Coty Award and CFDA Award winning designer and author of Perry Ellis: An American Original Another nenasnote….and who I am privileged to call a dear friend…I said I was doing two books….make that three, I’ll talk a bit about Jeffrey’s monograph on Perry Ellis!)

Christine Barker with her incredible book, Third Girl From The Left!

We learn of her career in the theater, most specifically in A CHORUS LINE, where she joined the London cast and later went to the Broadway production, along with the ups and downs of day to day life of a dancer in a blockbuster, landmark show. It is the story of a military family, a large close knit one, most specifically her brother, Laughlin Parker, partner to Perry Ellis in life and business….a quote from publisher Delphinium “…Laughlin, divorced, a father, ex-military and a corporate lawyer—also makes his way to New York City, where he meets, and begins to build a life, with rising fashion star Perry Ellis. The two men enjoy a partnership and a financial success that Christine both admires. and envies.” As we progress through the years we learn so many details of both Christine and Laughlin’s life…a nenasnotes aside….I asked Christine if she had a photographic memory there is SO much detail in the book…her answer “I keep journals!”…I must admit it is one of the few regrets I have of my career, I did not! Since we are talking about the 1980’s and the world of theater, art and fashion we find ourselves in a health “issue” that no one understood and one that was killing many…too many, almost overnight…one with a name filled with dread…AIDS! This hideous plaque took Laughlin’s life first at the young age of 37. Perry followed shortly after. At that time obituaries did not mention AIDS. We, of course, now know there are treatments and it isn’t the hateful plaque it was and we still must fight for a cure. She not only lost a cherished brother and Perry but so many more colleagues and close friends in the theater.

Perry Ellis and Laughlin Barker

The memoir is heartwarming, heartbreaking and most certainly heart wrenching. It is an honest telling of family both real and acquired and told in minute detail. I was in tears remembering all the people in my life that succumbed to AIDS who could be here today if there had been more understanding of the illness and more aggressive treatments…I thank God that we didn’t lose more…it devastated so much creativity in the Arts and Fashion. I really need you to read this book…you will not only be deeply touched but will learn so much from a person who lived the story and was destined to tell it! Thank you Christine, I applaud you and your brilliant writing!

At our June nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club we began our 6th year and it has become a tradition that Jeffrey Banks joins us to discuss one of his brilliant books…in 2018 it was NORELL: MASTER OF AMERICAN FASHION…this year it was PERRY ELLIS: AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL.

Here I am with Jeffrey Banks and the first book we discussed, NORELL: MASTER OF AMERICAN FASHION!

PERRY ELLIS: AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL isn’t a new publication but is, most certainly, the best book on this amazing creator written with first hand knowledge by another unique creative talent the book has an extraordinary collection of photographs and sketches, a MUST for your fashion library. Again, I quote from the publisher’s notes (RIZZOLI) the book “….providing an insightful look at each season of his career, from 1976 to 1986, offering readers unique access to editorial and ad campaign photographs from the archives of brilliant photographer Erica Lennard, with whom Ellis worked almost exclusively. Included here are ephemera, a treasure trove of drawings, and never-before-published photos from the personal collections of the designer’s friends and family, adding insight to Ellis’s unique aesthetic while solidifying his place as one of the key contemporary designers of American fashion.” Jeffrey is not only an original voice with his fashion publications but a fabulous raconteur…the stories he can tell are FABULOUS! Talk about a photographic memory…need I say more. Another nenasnote…I did not personally work with Perry Ellis, more the pity, but greatly admired his versatility, while maintaining his own perfect interpretation of the fashion of the 70’s and 80’s, I did wear his designs and we devoted a huge department to his collections in the Saks Fifth Avenue Oak Brook store when it opened in 1982.

I have read ALL of Renée Rosen’s books, I believe the first one I read was WINDY CITY BLUES, which I loved (I believe I have reviewed several of her historical fiction books), the last being THE SOCIAL GRACES. They just keep getting better.

Renée Rosen

Here is a good example of how I choose my TFBC titles…in the back of THE SOCIAL GRACES (2021) with Reneé’s raison d’être, her next book was mentioned and would be on Estée Lauder along with Renée’s email….I couldn’t write a note quickly enough inviting her to be a guest at my monthly TFBC….she explained it wouldn’t be published for two years…I said great and the confirmation was made…fast forward to May 2023 and there we were in conversation! I actually thought I knew everything there was to know about Mrs Lauder but boy oh boy was I wrong….so many details (that’s why I love historical fiction it blends the “real” with the imagined). Since the Lauder Company and Saks Fifth Avenue were so intertwined I was quite familiar with that connection (and yes, I did meet Mrs. Lauder and was in her divine office which, I understand is still in the Lauder headquarters and I also did many events and launches for Lauder and their brands while I was at SFA!) and the book does definitely uses that as a catalyst for this intriguing story of survival, gumption and an extraordinary entrepreneur who definitely wouldn’t take no for an answer. I loved the story of a budding cosmetic company, the retail scene at the time, and, of course, Renée’s writing. By the way Renée lives in Chicago and I have already invited her to join us in 2025 to be in conversation about her upcoming book on Barbie!!!!!!

I’m sure, by now, you know my Independent Bookseller of choice is in Winnetka, Illinois. All the titles featured in my reviews are available there.

You might also know, I don’t have sponsors, I’m definitely open to that…at the moment, my book reviews are sponsored by an avid reader who wishes to remain anonymous.


By now you know I’m obsessed with Dance…most especially with our very own The Joffrey Ballet! I did a pre-announcement about this once in a hundred years event…THE ARPINO CHICAGO CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION…now here are all the details of this extraordinary two day happening. It is especially meaningful to me since I had the great honor and pleasure of doing fund-raising events with Mr. Arpino on several occasions when I was Fashion/Special Director at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago. And, of course, I have been thrilled to witness the talent and growth of this fabulous company. The following is the official release on the event…mark your calendar for JUNE 5TH when tickets go on sale. Beyond exciting….I’m sure you agree!


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gerald Arpino, one of the 20th century’s most influential artists, The Gerald Arpino Foundation presents the Arpino Chicago Centennial Celebration as the culminating event of a multiyear salute to this extraordinary choreographer and co-founder/director of The Joffrey Ballet. Performances take place September 23 and 24, 2023 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago.

The two programs, which feature ballet companies from across the U.S. performing works that span Arpino’s lengthy and prolific career, include (in alphabetical order):

Saturday, September 23, 7:30 p.m.American Ballet Theatre (New York): Sea Shadow (1962), set to music by Maurice Ravel, is Arpino’s romantic ode to Ondine, a young man on the beach who is enamored with a shadow from the sea in the guise of a beautiful creature. Photo: Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert MigdollBallet West (Utah): RUTH, Ricordi per Due (2004) is an elegy to music by Tomasso Albinnoni and Arpino’s final work, commissioned and underwritten by Barbara Levy Kipper in honor of her mother, Ruth Doctoroff Levy. Former Ballet West artists Arolyn Williams (front) and Christopher Ruud, photo by Beau PearsonThe Joffrey Ballet (Illinois): Suite Saint-Saëns is Arpino’s 1978 masterwork, a showcase of classical movement in neoclassical style that epitomized the choreographer’s way of moving in the ’80s—with speed, energy and quality—set to Camille Saint-Saëns. José Pablo Castro Cuevas and Natalit Taht of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Cheryl MannOklahoma City Ballet (Oklahoma): Birthday Variations (1986) was commissioned by Becky D’Angelo as a birthday present to her husband, Dino, owner of Chicago’s Civic Opera House and a fan of Giuseppe Verdi’s music, featured in this work. Leah Reiter (L) and Flannery Werner of Oklahoma City Ballet, photo by Jana Carson San Francisco Ballet (California): L’Air D’Esprit (1978), set to music from Giselle by Adolphe Adam, is a romantic and classical work in the traditional pas de deux form and a tribute to the ballerina Olga Spessivtzeva, one of Nijinski’s partners before the fall of Czarist Russia. Tina LeBlanc of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert Migdoll

Sunday, September 24, 1 p.m. (NOTE UPDATED TIME)Ballet West (Utah): Light Rain (1981), which Arpino created for The Joffrey Ballet’s Silver Anniversary to showcase the company’s new young dancers and represent their youth and energy, is set to music by Douglas Adamz and Russ Gauthier and remains among Arpino’s most popular works. Ballet West Principal Artists Emily Adams and Hadriel Diniz, photo by Beau PearsonComplexions Contemporary Ballet (New York): Valentine (1971), set to music by Jacob Druckman, is a quirky and humorous look at the battle of the sexes using a boxing arena as the setting for staccato and contemporary movement. Julianne Spratlin and Fabrice Camels of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert MigdollEugene Ballet (Oregon): Reflections (1971) is a neoclassical, pure dance ballet and a perfect example of the Arpino style—high lifts, a flying pace and classic beauty. This fast-paced and physically challenging ballet is set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme for Violoncello and Orchestra.” Yumelia Garcia and Temur Suluashvili of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert MigdollThe Joffrey Ballet (Illinois): Round of Angels (1983) is an emotional ballet featuring a couple, destined to part, surrounded by five broken-winged angels. Set to the haunting Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, this work is dedicated to the memory of James R. Howell, a Joffrey member and Arpino’s lifelong friend and artistic associate. Victoria Jaiani, Sam Pergande and dancers of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert MigdollSan Francisco Ballet (California): L’Air D’Esprit (1978), set to music from Giselle by Adolphe Adam, is a romantic and classical work in the traditional pas de deux form and a tribute to the ballerina Olga Spessivtzeva, one of Nijinski’s partners before the fall of Czarist Russia. Tina LeBlanc and Glenn Edgerton of The Joffrey Ballet, photo by Herbert Migdoll.

Gerald Arpino (1923–2008) was a visionary choreographer who, along with Robert Joffrey, created a ballet company and a body of work that has made a singular and enduring impact on American ballet. Throughout his 50-year career, Arpino created nearly 50 ballets for The Joffrey Ballet. From landmark works like Trinity and Round of Angels to Suite Saint-Saëns and Light Rain, Arpino was a masterful artist and entertainer whose work brought audiences to their feet time and again.

The Gerald Arpino Foundation presents
the Arpino Chicago Centennial Celebration
Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m.,
Sunday, September 24 at 1 p.m.
at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago.
Tickets are $45–250; single tickets* go on sale June 5, available at,
312.341.2300 and the Auditorium Theatre Box Office.
* Tickets are currently available as part of an Auditorium subscription.

All programming is subject to change.
The Gerald Arpino Foundation is committed to preserving and promoting the choreographic works of Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey while maintaining the integrity of their works through the highest level of artistic excellence. The Foundation allows qualified organizations the right to license Arpino’s and Joffrey’s choreographic works and offers repertory workshops, lectures, and master classes to teach a new generation of dancers the choreography and style of Joffrey and Arpino.

For more information, visit Arpino by Herbert Migdoll