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…
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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.