BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: THE CANDY IN MY POCKET

When I was asked by a dear friend to read and review a book by one of her close friends I, of course, said it would be my pleasure. It put me in an awkward situation…what if I didn’t like it! You, dear followers, know I don’t do negative reviews and I only read what I like…rarely non-fiction…unless the subject is fashion or lifestyle for all my nenasnotes research and events. For pleasure I prefer historical fiction. Well, guess what…I loved this book! And it fits into my lifestyle genre perfectly. You see the author is a renowned interior decorator…the stars were now aligned! There is SO much information included (I’ll get to that shortly!) that I read it twice, I don’t remember doing that before. Its a story about a creator…a lesson in self awareness and self preservation….a travelogue….anything but your usual memoir, it’s a very powerful story.

I want to share the joie de vivre John has for survival…for life! Sharing his incredible story is a journey more fiction than fact but guess what…it is the story of his life and one we can all learn from. It’s inspirational….it’s inspiring…it should be depressing it is anything but…it’s a MUST read!!!!

The author, John Robert Wiltgen

Okay let’s get to the unbelievable story John tells us. The song, “I’m Still Here” from Follies should be the subtitle of this amazing life. John begins at the beginning…his childhood, filled with adventure which continues to this day. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8 a fact he managed to keep hidden much of his life. As a child and a teenager he was quite rebellious, in a fun way, he started working while in high school at a paint company where he rose to an executive positions, still in his teens, he never told anyone his age…the writing was on the wall for his future career. Loved reading about his time at Ray Vogue College of Design, I worked with the students for many years and Mrs. Ray was a very unique personality! He lived in a Chicago suburb and, as an under age teen, loved disco dancing and would come to Chicago with his close friends to frequent the major discos such as FACES (I spent many an evening there!). He and his friends would practice for hours in his basement apartment in his parents home. They were so good they became the dance floor stars…in my minds eye I picture John Travolta!

Much later with friends and John Travolta!

The book doesn’t sugar coat (sorry, I shouldn’t mention sugar but it seemed appropriate!) when John describes his ongoing battle with the unbelievable complications of Type 1 Diabetes. He has had so many that it could read like a horror story, instead it is done in such a straightforward positive way that you know he hasn’t and won’t let anything stop him from living life fully! He presents his many, many, many challenges along side his interests, cars for an example, travel, the arts and his love for them, his philanthropic endeavors, his love for family and friends and, of course, his extraordinary interior design business. Here are a couple photos of his glorious designs…I could just do a post on photos from his extensive career. One of my favorite sections in the book and I do have many favorites is his time in Nigeria working with the King!

John’s worldwide interiors have been featured in many shelter magazines and numerous TV programs…awards were inevitable and more than well deserved.
He has always loved anything Egyptian…here the foyer from one of his own homes.
Known for his imaginative bathrooms and kitchens, this is one of my favorites.

Speaking of family…how many can say that all members of their family would be a match if you needed a kidney and your mother said, no, I’m donating mine…talk about a mother’s love! John’s support team through the years has sustained him along with his feeling of what’s next in life and always seeking a cure and an end to this life threatening disease. He not only takes his mother to Venice but also to The Academy Awards and many other special once in a lifetime events through the years.

John takes his Mother to one of the balls in Venice, one of his most favorite cities ….(John is in the gold mask)!

Along the way he has designed for celebrity clients, done show houses, model rooms….again the list goes on….and won zillions of awards not only for his designs but also for his philanthropy.

With Jane Seymour at a showing of her art which John hosted in Chicago..

In conclusion what are my take aways from this beautifully written story of a survivor…..so many things but let me narrow it down. John tackles each challenge in his fight against this dreadful disease…one day at a time, one horrific devastating outcome…one day at a time with grit, determination and, yes, humor. What should be a depressing book is anything but because of the author’s joie de vivre and positive attitude. You will learn so much about Type 1 Diabetes and be inspired to join the fight to find a cure as well as how to handle your own day to day issues. My last words….get the book, it will be published on June 22nd, you won’t be disappointed and by reading it you will be delighted to welcome John as a new fascinating multi-layered friend.

A quote from the book “Type 1 diabetes and I tackled one disaster after another. It can be a harsh lifestyle causing both physical and emotional devastation. Out of desperation, I embraced every new treatment hoping for even a shred of relief.”

From the book jacket.

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club Begins Year Five!

A portion of my fashion book collection in my Book Nook…forgive me if I’ve posted this on my blog before!

I can’t quite believe that we are already half way through 2022…Happy June! Nor can I believe that this month we begin year five of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. In many ways it has changed from its concept, yet it remains the same in purpose! Once a month a fashion or lifestyle book is featured. Usually a new publication and usually I’m in conversation with the author. Until March 2020….a month none of us will forget, you may recall the pandemic descended upon us….we met as a group at an elegant private club in Chicago for Bubbles and Bites. The first half hour was a get together and then an hour of conversation followed by discussion and a Q & A. I always had that evenings and the next month’s book available for purchase thanks to my Independent Bookseller of choice The Book Stall in Winnetka https://www.thebookstall.com Beginning in March 2020 we went virtual and have continued virtually via zoom. We began with local attendees and now have guests from all over the States! I must admit the group has changed as some of the attendees miss the in person socialization of the events, but many have been with me since the beginning!

Some of the original group

Rana Lee, a very dear friend and one of my regular supporters, suggested I begin year five by sharing the list of our books and guest authors with you. Along with that I thought it would be fun to share a few photos of some of in person programs, again my apologies for repeat photos along with some covers.

With my dear friend, Annette Findling holding the brilliant Adrian Monograph.

The list…….*indicates conversation with the author

*LOU LOU AND YVES MAY 2018 WITH AUTHOR CHRISTOPHER PETKANAS

UNMISTAKABLY MACKIE JUNE 2018 (OUT OF PRINT)

*NORELL AUGUST 2018 WITH AUTHOR JEFFREY BANKS

*BONNIE CASHIN SEPTEMBER 2018 WITH AUTHOR STEPHANIE LAKE

DIOR AND HIS DECORATORS OCTOBER 2018

CAROLYNE ROEHM NOVEMBER 2018

*PINK DECEMBER 2018 WITH AUTHOR VALERIE STEELE

*PROUST’S DUCHESS FEBRUARY 2019 WITH AUTHOR CAROLINE WEBER

*DAWNRIDGE MARCH 2019 WITH AUTHOR HUTTON WILKINSON

YVES SAINT LAURENT BIO APRIL 2019

TONNE (GOODMAN) MAY 2019

*DAWN (MELLO) JUNE 2019 WITH AUTHOR JOHN TIFFANY

THE LAST COLLECTION JULY 2019 (NOVEL)

CAMP AUGUST 2019 METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

*SKREBNESKI IN PERSON SEPTEMBER 2019 MOST SALES…AND MOST ATTENDEES A TRIBUTE TO THE BRILLIANT CREATOR AND DEAR FRIEND

*SUPREME MODELS MARCELLAS REYNOLDS IN PERSON OCTOBER 2019

With Marcellas with his first blockbuster book!

*SCRIPT FOR SCANDAL NOVEMBER 2019 WITH AUTHORS RENÉE PATRICK (NOVEL)

ADRIAN DECEMBER 2019

*RALPH LAUREN JANUARY 2020 ALAN FLUSSER ON PHONE

KAISER KARL FEBRUARY 2020

BALLERINA MARCH 2020 CANCELLED CORONA VIRUS

BILL CUNNINGHAM APRIL 2020 CANCELLED CORONA VIRUS RESCHEDULED

*THE WOMEN WHO REVOLUTIONIZED FASHION WITH PETRA SLINKARD MAY 2020 STARTED OUR VIRTUAL CONVERSATIONS

CHANEL’S RIVIERA JUNE 2020

BILL CUNNINGHAM BOOK AND DOC JULY 2020 WITH CO-HOST JEFFREY BANKS

ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY AUGUST 2020 WITH CO-HOST MARCELLAS REYNOLDS

ABOUT TIME ANDREW BOLTON MET PUBLICATION SEPTEMBER 2020

*HIGHJACKING THE RUNWAY WITH TERI AGINS OCTOBER 2020

*KENNETH WITH GUISEPPI LONGO NOVEMBER 2020

* THE WORLD OF FEDERICO FORQUET WITH HAMISH BOWLES DECEMBER 2020

LESAGE JANUARY 2021 THAMES & HUDSON RESCHEDULED DUE TO TECH ISSUES

CECIL BEATON BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS FEBRUARY 2021

*BES-BEN WITH ELIZABETH JACHIMOWICZ MARCH 2021 PARTNERING WITH THE COSTUME COUNCIL OF THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM

WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST RICHARD AVEDON BIO APRIL 2021

*FASHION LIVES: FASHION ICONS 1 WITH FERN MALLIS MAY 2021

*NAEEN KHAN EMBELLISHED WITH NAEEN KHAN JUNE 2021

*FILM NOIR STYLE WITH KIMBERLY TUMBLER JULY 2021

*DRESS CODES WITH RICHARD THOMPSON FORD AUGUST 2021

VIVIANNE WESTWOOD: RUNWAY SEPTEMBER 2021

LESAGE OCTOBER 2021

*SUPREME ACTRESSES WITH MARCELLAS REYNOLDS NOVEMBER 2021

MISS DIOR DECEMBER 7, 2021

*CHRISTIAN DIOR DESIGNER OF DREAMS WITH MAUREN FOOTER DECEMBER 14, 2021

*PATRICK KELLY RUNWAY OF LOVE WITH GUEST PETRA SLINKARD JANUARY 25, 2022 EXHIBITION NOW AT THE PEABODY MUSEUM IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS

*HER NAME WAS CARRIE WITH JERRIE MARCUS SMITH FEBRUARY 22, 2022

*CHANEL AT THE RITZ (NOVEL) WITH GIOIA DILBERTO MARCH 22, 2022

EMPRESS OF FASHION DIANA VREELAND BIO APRIL 26, 2022

*HALSTON BY LESLEY FROWICK AND HALSTON BY FRED ROTTMAN MAY 25, 2022

I’m very excited for our June selections….I’m featuring two books with their authors….first up the brand new biography ANNA by Amy Odell who will join me in conversation on Tuesday, June 14th. The book is beyond fabulous and Amy’s attention to detail in the interviews and research is very insightful! The book has been getting rave reviews. Our evening has been in the works for months and I couldn’t be more eager to share it with everyone.

Fabulous cover!!!!

Then on Tuesday, June 28th Jeffrey Banks who joined us year one with his extraordinary monograph on Norman Norell, returns to talk about another of his books and one of his passions, TARTAN: Romancing The Plaid! Jeffrey has become a HUGE supporter of nenasnotes The Fashion Book and The Fashion Film Clubs not only attending each month but instrumental in suggesting many of our books and inviting the authors to join us…I am forever in his debt! It is a not to be missed evening.

You definitely can judge a book by its cover!
Jeffrey Banks et Moi at a Service Club of Chicago brunch. In the background a photo of the cover of his Norell book!

The upcoming monthly schedule will continue to feature the newest, and, in some instances past books worth exploring, on fashion and lifestyle topics. Some novels, some monographs, some biographies some academic in scope, but I think always thought provoking. I constantly try to get the authors via zoom but even when they aren’t present our discussions become fascinating and, I hope, informative. I very briefly mentioned the nenasnotes The Fashion Film Club. That also meets monthly on the second Tuesday…I try to tie in the film or documentary with that month’s book choice. If you are interested in joining the group please email me at nenasnotes1@gmail.com. I like to keep our group small but there is always room for a few more!!!!

Looking very serious while listing to a call with the author!!

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: CELEBRATING INDEPENDENT BOOK SELLERS DAY!

A PEEK AT MY BOOK NOOK/OFFICE!

By now you know I’m obsessed with books! Here just a tiny sampling of my fashion books. I’ve been collecting them since high school. Since we are about to start year five of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club lots more have been added…many signed by the authors I’ve had in conversation. I know I’ve done other posts on my fashion books so won’t bore you again, I just wanted to call attention to todays bookseller celebration. It’s SO important to support our local businesses. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in the world that I have sought out a bookstore and I know I’ve never left with out a purchase or two or……My bookseller of choice, again not a surprise to you is The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois. They are THE best.

Keep reading and actual hold a book in your hands…it’s a good addition!

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: THE MAGNOLIA PALACE

By now you know my favorite books are historical fiction and you probably also know I am obsessed with anything New York City so when both things come together you can only imagine my delight!

I have been a huge fan of Fiona Davis since I read her first book The Dollhouse why you might ask, simply because she delves into the total story behind each NYC landmark building she features as the lead character and then, here comes the fun part, weaves a story around that building’s beginnings and characters (some historical others fictional) of that time and then brings us to modern times. I am not usually a fan of going back and forth in time but Davis does it with such transparently that it works to perfection.

I must admit I haven’t had much time recently to read for pleasure, my reading has been relegated to books I am featuring on my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. I did, however, want to dive into her new book THE MAGNOLIA PALACE, and I’m beyond delighted I did. Pure escapism! I’m not going to spoil the story for you but I do what to give you a brief overview of the landmark she has chosen this time….The Frick Collection! It happens to be one of my favorite places anywhere. At the moment it is being refreshed and renovated and the Collections are on display at The Frick Madison. One of the things that I looked forward to each week, during our COVID lockdown, and hung on every word, was their brilliant virtual series Cocktails With A Curator….You can see it on YouTube, you won’t be sorry.

But I digress, I always seem to do that, sorry! Back to the book, it follows two protagonists, one, Lillian Carter, in 1919 and the other, Veronica Weber, in 1966. Both happen to be models, Lillian an artists model and Veronica a fashion model (those story lines were, of course, right up my alley). But the main character, is The Frick itself! What I like most about Davis’ writing, as I mentioned before is, her deep dive into the history of each of her chosen landmarks, her detailed research is truly, in my opinion, her strength. Sure the characters stories are captivating, but the story of The Frick (or Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, etc.) is what fascinates me and makes me excited for her next story and makes me want to visit my second favorite city (Chicago will always come first!) as soon as possible.

Just a pretty fountain, in front of The Plaza in NYC, perhaps…read the book to find out more!
The Frick Collection in Spring

Setting the story in two totally different times gives us yet another dimension to consider…obviously everything changes from etiquette, to buildings, to fashion, to food…the list goes on. BUT what doesn’t change is how we appreciate and NEED art in our lives. Henry Clay Frick was a major collector of European art, sculpture, furniture and objects. His daughter, Helen Clay Frick, continued the collecting after her father’s death as well as made it her life’s work to continue his vision. The building, originally their family home, became the museum it is today. It is kept very much like a home, an ultra splendid home, with the art hung in various rooms and you indeed feel as if you are a guest in someone’s masterpiece…the home becoming yet another part of the story!

Henry Clay Frick and his daughter Helen Clay Frick
The Fragonard Room my favorite.
The mansion turned museum

I’m so eager to have you read this engaging story of the mansion and what is what like at its beginning with a man’s vision and his devoted daughter’s desire to keep his legacy alive for all of us to treasure. I can’t wait to see it when it reopens its splendor to us! I say a field trip is in order, perhaps Fiona will join us on our tour!!! Enjoy the fabulousness of The Frick Collection and what might have happened inside its walls…

MUSINGS: ALL ABOUT TULIPS!

From the creative floral genius, Mike Hines of epoch floral, Chicago!

I have been wanting to write this post for what seems like forever! I’d think about it and it would be fall or holidays or winter never spring….so I was determined not to have another year go by and not do the post! How perfect to post this just before Easter. Grab your drink of choice, this is going to be a long one with lots of photos, a bit of a history lesson, book suggestions and even some fashion!

A wonderfully enlightening book….yet another to add to your library!

Let’s first talk about the so called, Tulipmania. Some are comparing it to Bitcoin in 2018….others say it didn’t happen. Here is a brief overview of the “beginnings” of our love for all things tulip. Tulipmania began, as you might suspect, in Holland in the 17th century the so-bubble was from late 1636 to early 1637. The tulip’s journey did not, however, begin in Holland but rather in Turkey. In the 1600s, tulips cost 10 times more than a working man’s average salary in the Netherlands. A single bulb was the price of a house!

From The Smithsonian Magazine “Originally found growing wild in the valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains (at the border where China and Tibet meet Afghanistan and Russia), tulips were cultivated in Istanbul as early as 1055. By the 15th century, Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire had so many flowers in his 12 gardens that he required a staff of 920 gardeners. Tulips were among the most prized flowers, eventually becoming a symbol of the Ottomans, writes gardening correspondent for The Independent Anna Pavord in The Tulip.”

A table of compatible prices in the 1630’s, from the book Tulipomaniaby Mike Dash reprinted in the Blog Of An Art Admirer http://www.artistsandart.org

A game…
On Amazon Prime…
.

My Tulip Needlepoint Pillows…

  • SOME TULIP FACTS….
  • There are over 150 species of tulips with over 3 000 different varieties
  • Tulips belong to the same family as lilies and onions.
  • The Netherlands exports around three billion tulips each year.
  • Tulips have been cultivated in every colour except for classic blue (blue tulips exist, but they have a tint of purple).
  • Tulip bulbs are best planted in the autumn months and tend to start blooming early in spring carrying on into the late summertime.

And in fashion….



CHARLES WORTH, “THE FATHER OF HAUTE COUTURE”, GARMENT FROM THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART COSTUME COLLECTION

“Worth was constantly interested in supporting the textile industry as evidenced in this cape, which is designed to showcase its textile to the extreme. The textile itself has a repeat which is over three feet long making it stunning but also making it extremely difficult to weave. The dramatic fabric, “Tulipes Hollandaises,” was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris and won a grand prize. The tulips have an aggressive dynamic quality about them with the brilliant, vibrant colors against the deep black background consistent with the seductive femme fatale sensibility of the 1880s and 1890s.” From the Met’s website.

Tulip prints inspired by the designer’s mother, Nadia Saab – ELIE SAAB Haute Couture Spring Summer 2015
’To this day, I’m still enchanted by a clear vision: my mother in an evening gown. Curved at the waist. Flared like a corolla. Tulips printed on silk. A vision that fuelled my flare as a designer.’ Elie Saab
DIOR HAUTE COUTURE 2010
Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda
Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda 2021

In Art…

From Carolyne Roehm

In Photography

Irving Penn
From Mike Hines
More of Mike Hines creativity
And one more from Mike http://www.epochfloral.com/

“Tulipieres peaked during the 17th century era of tulip mania as they offered a way for precious tulip bulbs to be grown indoors and displayed without cutting the stems. They often came in a pair, towering upwards. Flower bricks were used for cut flowers. Far prettier than they sound, these are great fun to arrange flowers in and they’re very easy to use since you just fill them with water and then fill each hole with an individual stem. In both cases the Dutch Delftware originals fetch vast sums but later versions offer a good alternative.” Here are some from the wonderful The Enchanted Home who have given me permission to use their photos! By the way, they recently joined forces with Carolyne Roehm to create a stunning collection of items featuring Lily of the Valley. You will love everything they have on their site do check it out and follow both on Instagram.

https://enchantedhome.com/home.php/

From Bridgerton The meaning of tulips was first mentioned in Season 1 when Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) was sitting with Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) while embroidering the flower. “This is for Daphne,” Violet told her eldest son. “Tulips, they symbolize passion. A most appropriate hem for your sister when she decides to marry the Duke. Perhaps your bride would like the same.”
And for your Easter Bonnet

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: MORE TO CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH…BLACK AUTHORS ON FASHION…

With my friend and author of two extraordinarily books…SUPREME MODELS and SUPREME ACTRESSES, Marcellas Reynolds. We are pictured at the launch of SUPREME MODELS for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. We launched SUPREME ACTRESSES virtually last fall. We go way back to his modeling days…I’m so very proud of his successes. What’s next, Marcellas??!!

Two superb books on the inner workings of the fashion industry by TERI AGINS, another author I had the pleasure to host for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club with her book, HIJACKING THE RUNWAY.

No list would be complete without including the books by ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY….and I’ll bet there will be more on him by biographers…stay alert for those!

Lots more….here are the covers of a sampling of interesting fashion subjects, not in any particular order…

An amazing ground breaking woman to know….she was the first Black female millionaire and set the stage for others.
Josephine Baker, a major force in so many ways…an American who went to France where she became a huge star, was in the French Resistance, adopted 12 children…and for our fashion theme was the entertainer in the French segment of The Battle of Versailles fashion show…wore and loved Haute Couture! Her story is definitely worth knowing.

I’m doing one more post to celebrate Black History Month…it will feature a true Renaissance Man, JEFFREY BANKS, the talented award winning designer who has become a noted author of some of the most beautiful, informational monographs on fashion…that is what I will present to you. I did a nenasnotes post on Jeffrey in 2018. I am honored to call him a dear friend and look forward to sharing his oeuvre with you!

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: BLACK FASHION DESIGNER BOOKS PART 1

To celebrate Black History Month….in fact every month, I wanted to share some books by and about Black fashion designers and other Black fashion/beauty/lifestyle influencers. I’m very happy to say it is a long list and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. In today’s post I’m going to feature two of the fashion designers. This is a diverse group of creators and they span three centuries. At a time when we seem to be in a “cancel culture” mode I want to upset that notion….I am a FIRM believer that we must know history….the good, the bad, the ugly….to understand our world, how to not make the same mistakes, how to grow and improve…and how to maintain the positive! I can’t even comprehend the absurdity of banning books…talk about going backward, how can we learn without all opinions! Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox…my blog has and will continue to be a safe zone from the politics of the day.

Here we go….I’m going to begin with the first Black designer of note, Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln and Washington DC socialites. Her story is beyond fascinating, born into slavery she bought her freedom through her dressmaking…extraordinary. There are several books about her, an autobiography, a biography and several novels, I would suggest all of them. Here is a story that needs to be absorbed and, in my opinion is as important as the beginning of Haute Couture and Charles Worth. What makes that a comparison is the period of time when they were creating. Everyone knows about The House of Worth…in my humble opinion, now is the time, long over due, to shine the spotlight on Elizabeth Keckley! An amazing grouping of books, I’m sure you agree…all worthy of additions to your fashion library.

Next, let’s explore the relatively unknown creator of Jacqueline Bouvier’s gown when she married Jack Kennedy, Ann Cole Lowe! Lowe not only produced an extraordinary bridal gown (under the patronage of Joseph Kennedy!) but the gowns for the entire wedding party. Already a known designer for New York and Washington movers and shakers….Ann Lowe was not credited for these gowns! I am featuring two books, the only two I could find, keep you eyes out for a novel to be published on June 22, 2022, the last image

I featured a book by Petra Slinkard in my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club….both these designers are highlighted in this extraordinary book…another to add to your library

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Books…Books…Books: Black Fashion Designer Books posts next week. Lots more to explore.

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: A GIRL NAMED CARRIE

By now you know my obsession with books…I’ve had it since childhood, I wasn’t able to participate in gym activities in my elementary school and spent that time in my Evanston, Illinois, Oakton school, in the library…I was in Heaven. I had been exposed to books from infancy and lord knows I’m WAY beyond that now. Finding new books is a passion and those who know me well feed that interest. You also know I host a monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and have featured many exciting books on the intricacies of the genre. In addition, I never do negative reviews, what would be the point. I am, therefore, fascinated when a subject, or in this case, a personality comes to my attention that is totally new to me, my antenna goes up! When my dear friend, the Renaissance Man and member of TFBC, Jeffrey Banks, tells me I need to know about a book, I listen! Today’s review is such a book and when you give just a bit of thought you might think it ironic that I’m featuring it. I am, indeed, featuring it because it is a superbly written account of an amazing woman who at the beginning of the 20th Century truly set the standard for specialized service in retail. Let’s learn a bit about Carrie in the riveting story written by her grand niece, Jerrie Marcus Smith, whose father was Stanley Marcus!

Carrie Marcus Neiman, along with her husband and brother, had a dream, no, a vision, early in the 1900’s to create a specialty store devoted to service. Let’s turn our thoughts back to 1907 and visualize, if we can, what opportunities presented themselves to women…not many. This didn’t, for an instant, stop Carrie from creating a store that would cater to not only the new wealthy women but to any women who wanted style and individual attention.

Think about it very carefully, a women in her 20’s with no formal training, Jewish, married and divorced who would create the first specialty store and become its CEO…just imagine! Also envision Dallas, Texas in the early days of the new century…certainly not the Metropolis it is today….never mind, Carrie wanted to offer the high fashion of New York and Paris and offer it she did in what became the arbiter of style, Neiman Marcus!

She not only brought the fashion capitals to Dallas, she also brought her special clients to those capitals where she outfitted them head to toe. She had an eye and instinct that her clients trusted and depended upon for all their wardrobe needs. It wasn’t long before Carrie and Neiman Marcus became highly respected in the New York and Paris fashion salons which she regularly frequented. She produced fashion shows in the Store and was instrumental in creating their legendary Christmas Catalog, which we all eagerly look forward to each year. She along with Stanley Marcus started, in 1938, The Neiman Marcus Awards for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion Service which became known as the Oscars of the world of fashion!

She was quiet and unassuming but don’t let that fool you, she knew exactly what would be becoming to each individual. (A Nenas Note….those of you who know me know I’m not found of the term “Influencer” I’ll break that feeling by saying, I would consider Carrie one of our first Influencers!)

The book is truly a love letter exquisitely written by Carrie’s grandniece, Jerrie Marcus Smith, you will want to savor each and every word and let your eyes feast on the fabulous photographs which include an insight into Carrie’s home which was as enticing as her store. Do get the book, enjoy it and add it to your library. And, by the way, Jerrie and her daughter, Allison V. Smith, will join me in conversation about the book for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club on February 22nd…it will be a not to be missed event!

Jerrie Marcus Smith

Photos from the book which will be published on November 30th available now for pre-order….it would make a perfect Holiday gift, not only for the fashionista in your life but also for those, on your list, who are interested in family histories, it is a gem!

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: FALL OF ANGELS

This post is underwritten by an anonymous sponsor

D0CDC04F-EACC-496E-BD4A-8D630A1EA560Appropriate title for this week’s book review, why you might ask…..I’m doing a post later this week on angels!  I really didn’t plan this and it is only the title, a true coincidence….I’ll leave that up to you!

I have been an avid reader of Barbara Cleverly wonderful series of books (13 so far) featuring Joe Sandilands so needless to say when I read about the first in her series with Detective Inspector John Redfyre I had it on my to be read list.

As you know by now, I don’t review books I don’t like…in fact I don’t read books I don’t enjoy right from the get go….too many to enjoy, too little time to read all of them.  How do I choose, certainly an author I think might have something to say, who engages me emotionally, intellectually, stretches me, and once in awhile gives me a giggle (where are the Patrick Dennis’ with their Auntie Mames!!!!!). Authors I have read such as Louise Penny, Cara Black, Charles Finch, Rhys Bowen, etc. do just that and I am always looking forward to their next adventure.  And yes, a cozy fits into the mix, I think of them like a meal Intermezzo….a mind cleanser, if yout please.

Okay Nena, let’s get to the book. First off I liked our new protagonist Dectective Inspector John Redfyre, he is smart, kind, very good at what he does and, of course, good looking!  Set in Cambridge (a change from most English stories set in University towns…Oxford being the place of choice).  Perhaps not as highbrow (that is how it is depicted, not a criticism on my part), but, of course, still with the English standards of higher education and their rules and regulations. It is filled with mystery starting in the first chapter with a female trumpeter (unheard of then and I can’t think of many now!) who is in performance with a male organist.  She has an accident which brings our hero to her aid and so the story begins. We learn other females are murdered….none of them seem to be connected socially, but the method is the same. We, of course, learn about what the commonality is…I’m not going to spoil it for you. I will, however, say I didn’t guess the murderer until revealed, I liked that, it kept the mystery going, perhaps I missed the right clues!

Set in 1923, I found Cleverly has written a ode to the suffragists and those who followed them working toward more inclusion….not much different from today…equal pay, more opportunities in the hierarchy (hence the title), voting (although women had the right to vote in England they had to be 35!), and on and on. Well done Barbara. I also liked that she mentioned “brands” such as Liberty of London, fashion designers such Captain Edward Molyneux, adding a bit of panache especially when referenced by our sophisticated Redfyre.

Should you read it, yes, will there be another with our clever Detective Inspector John Redfyre, I would say definitely….at least I hope so.