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.


I thought it appropriate to celebrate the beginning of Spring with some thoughts and a couple of recipes, I hope you agree!

I have always adored celebrating special Holidays and this April has two special ones…Passover and Easter. Tradition rules in both who doesn’t like to dye and decorate eggs, make a favorite ham or brisket or make a great kugel…and celebrate with food!

I’ve shared many of my family Easter traditions in past years but I don’t think I’ve talked about my “lambie” cake experiences…forgive me if I’m repeating myself!!!! Let me first state I abhor them….now don’t send gobs of comments criticizing my opinion….let me explain…it’s a journey into my childhood!

My grandparents were deceased before I was born but I was blessed with the most wonderful substitute for a Gran…my beloved Great Aunt Rose, Daddy’s Aunt. She lived in a bungalow on Chicago’s Southwest Side and visited us in Rogers Park and then in Evanston most Sundays. She would drive her Ford to us (we never had a car…so that was special!) and we often drove to a restaurant in the country for an early special spit roasted chicken dinner, came back home spend time together and then have a light supper before she drove home. She was always with us for special occasions as well…Easter was one of those days. Each year she would bring a lamb cake and each year I would hope she wouldn’t…why you ask, I can’t stand dried coconut! To me it tastes like sawdust…plus her chosen bakery cake was quite ugly. Mom, of course, had baked many goodies so the gifted cake was put on display and, thank heaven, never eaten! Now, there are many luscious Easter cakes to purchase or make yourself…here are some along with an Easter Bunny cake or two…you can find the molds on line

Rather cute but similar to my dreaded childhood memory!!
Vintage Mold
Aren’t these the cutest Deviled Eggs ever….found on Running in a Skirt blog…
My favorite Easter treat…Hot Cross Buns!
I want this brisket now!!!!!
A fabulous salmon presentation!
Borscht always a winner…have I shared my recipe?

Recipe…8 ounces wide egg noodles cooked in salted water

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup full fat sour cream

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/2 stick butter

2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

1/2 cup canned condensed milk

Beat eggs and add all ingredients except butter…melt butter in casserole add all ingredients bake at 350 for 35 minutes! Enjoy

Then, of course, the star of the Easter table….baked ham


INGREDIENTS (Serves 8-9)

Fully cooked spiral ham

1 cup pure Maple Syrup

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup good Bourbon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whole cloves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place ham in a large roasting pan. Fill pan with a depth of 1/2 inch with water. Cover pan and ham with aluminum foil. Bake in oven until internal temperature registers 120 degrees F.about two hours, basting ham every 30 minutes or so with accumulated juices.
Meanwhile stir together maple syrup, brown sugar, Bourbon, mustard and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan at medium high temperature and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened about 6 minutes. Keep warm and set aside.
Remove ham from oven and discard foil. With a very sharp knife score the fat of the ham every 1″1/2 diagonally in both directions.Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Insert cloves quickly in the intersections of squares.Using a pastry brush, glaze ham with ⅓ cup maple mixture; set aside remaining glaze. Return ham to oven, and bake at 400°F until top is lightly caramelized a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of meat registers 145°F, about 30 minutes, brushing with remaining glaze every 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer ham to a platter; let rest 15 minutes. Serve.

And, of course, don’t forget the traditional Ukrainian hand painted Pysanky Easter Eggs. Refer to my 2022 blog post on these beauty’s!
My most favorite tree…a weeping redbud in My Toms front yard in Blue Island, Illinois!

However you celebrate….enjoy the tradition with family and friends. Happy Spring!


A peek at a small sampling of my fashion books.

I have been collecting fashion books since high school so needless to say a very long time! I followed fashion magazines long before that…I come from a family of magazine lovers, as well as major bibliophiles! so no surprise. This is the first fashion book I got, I decided to go downtown after school, actually Michigan Avenue, to my favorite bookseller at the time, Main Street Book Store, mid-1950’s, to get the book. I talked Mom into joining me and we could then meet Daddy for supper at one of our favorite restaurants, A Bit Of Sweden….their smorgasbord was perfection….loved it.

Since that time, both establishments are long gone, my fashion library has grown to around 1000 tomes! I have most of them listed on the fabulous site, LibraryThing they also have an app. I still have many more to add. It’s truly a full time job! As you know I have hosted a monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club since 2018, you do the math as to how many I’ve added in 5 1/2 years! I do add those as I get them and have them all together. Just a note on how I house these books…I have them either by designer…think Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent…or by theme such as Hollywood Costumes, French Designers, American Designers, Monographs, Novels, Biographies, Autobiographies, Anthologies…you get the idea. I have many first editions, many signed and many personalized. One of my treasures is a Godey’s Lady’s Book given to me by a dear friend…I found it in a vintage bookstore in Stratford, Canada.

Everywhere I go I seek out bookstores or antique shops and have found lots of treasures. I have also found several at our own Randolph Street Market (it’s celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year at its season opening May 27th and 28th).

I’m hoping to house the collection at the Chicago History Museum in their research center. I want to leave it as a collection…if I find they aren’t interested I’ll seek another institution. Perhaps a fashion school. Need to do more research on that.

Now let’s look at what’s ahead for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club…as usual, for most months, I’ll be in conversation with the authors. All via zoom.

APRIL 2023

MAY 2023

JUNE 2023


Met Museum Exhibition Book


All the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club selections are available at my partner Independent Bookseller I’m always open to book suggestions and be sure to stay tuned for upcoming reviews on these selections….happy fashionable reading!!!!!


“Marylou Luther is the editor and founder of the International Fashion Syndicate and award-winning “Clotheslines” column and is the fashion editor emeritus of newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Cuban-born artist Ruben Toledo has had his work published in The New Yorker, Vogue, Town & Country, and The New York Times.” From Rizzoli.

Ruben Toledo self portrait!

I had the pleasure of working with Marylou when she was with the Chicago Tribune and have enjoyed her trend predictions through the years. Her talented perspective on fashion is enhanced by her relationships with the designers and fashion professionals. This book is a unique, personal journey, through the years, using wonderful quotes from the best of the best of the intriguing creators of the world of fashion. Who hasn’t she interviewed from Christian Dior, the Master himself, to the current Dior Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, everyone who is anyone is here. It is indeed a one of a kind book that will enhance your fashion library. The quotes are a fun insight into the minds of the arbiters of style from Marylou’s seventy years as a fashion journalist, newspaper columnist and trend forecaster. And the Ruben Toledo illustrations are pure magic and enhance the quotes perfectly! Once in awhile a book comes along to give me a totally new perspective on a subject that I know very well…this is such a book…I really love everything about it! I think you will too.

From Rizzoli…”In her early days as a journalist, Luther met with the true legends of fashion—she interviewed Christian Dior in 1957 for the Chicago Tribune and visited Coco Chanel at her Rue Cambon atelier; Chanel proclaimed to Luther that “Only those with no memory insist on their originality. Yves Saint Laurent has excellent taste. The more he copies me, the better taste he displays.” Flash forward to present day, and designer Demna Gvasalia told Luther, “Fashion needs to shut up and look at itself—it needs a minute of silence to adjust after the pandemic.”

Working with this incredible creator on fashion shows were some of my fondest memories…and this quote is one of my favorites in the book.
I met Jeffrey Banks, as did my nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club, in 2018, when we discussed his extraordinary monograph on NORELL, also a Rizzoli publication. To celebrate the beginning of year 5 of TFBC we were in conversation with another of his blockbuster books TARTAN: Romancing the Plaid, another stunning Rizzoli book. Jeffrey has become a dear friend and major supporter of the monthly The Fashion Book and The Fashion Film Clubs. I’m obsessed with this great Toledo interpretation of the talented Jeffrey Banks a true Renaissance Man!

Lucky me that I will be in a virtual conversation with Marylou for the February 28th nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. It will be a not to be missed event…contact me at if you need further details. In addition, The Book Stall, my Independent Bookseller of choice, has a supply of the books. I would be most appreciative if you support them for all your book purchases (This isn’t a sponsored post!!!! Just a gentle nudge!!!!).

BE-SPOKE: Revelations from the Worlds Most Important Fashion Designers by Marylou Luther © Rizzoli New York, 2023. Images, credited © RubenToledo.


Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Fall/Winter 2020/2021 ready to wear collections

Fashion Trend Report by Nena Ivon, nenasnotes, Originally published exclusively for Randolph Street Market. Updated and edited post republished with permission of Sally Schwartz.

During the confinement for our Pandemic I have been pondering, along with others in the industry, the future of fashion, retail and, in particular, fashion shows. How will the industry pivot to be not only relevant but how to present fashion…virtually…in person…both or….! ?Many of the “big” names will sit out this week’s New York Fashion Week as well as the upcoming London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks. I’ll be glued to all sites to see what our creative minds have up their sleeves. Time for change, time for reinvention, time for major creativity in a time like no other. I can’t wait to see how technology will play into the scheme of things. In a world, (fashion), of self expression individuality and newness….what a once in a lifetime opportunity to make things exciting! I, for one, can not wait to see our new world through the eyes of the creative fashion powers that be! Stay tuned for my impressions of Spring 2021.

Now let’s talk about the durability of plaid as a classic pattern…one that we see year in and year out and always says Fall to me.

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

I asked, Jeffrey Banks, a true Renaissance Man…designer, lecturer, fashion historian, and esteemed author of several books, most recently NORELL: MASTER OF AMERICAN FASHION, the first monograph on the iconic designer, to share a paragraph on the pattern. I encourage you to get his book TARTAN: Romancing the Plaid, to further explore its fashion story.

“TARTAN is one of two perennial patterns that seemingly never goes out of Fashion. The other perennial is animal prints. They are both all-time classics. And although some seasons they are more dominate a theme than others they are never more than a season or two out of the limelight. Because tartan is classic, romantic, subversive, and even sometimes ironic, its appeal never fails to fascinate. And it is the one pattern that even print shy men seem to always embrace!” Jeffrey Banks.

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Tartan is often misused for all plaid it is by definition, “A woolen cloth woven in one of several patterns of plaid, especially of a design associated with a particular Scottish clan.” There are over 4000 tartan plaids.

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Of course, the first brand we think of is Burberry, established in 1879 by Thomas Burberry. They trench coat “Its name derived from the trenches where military personnel were stationed in WW1, the original Burberry trench coat was designed in 1912 by Thomas Burberry to keep officers protected against wind and rain.”

“Initially developed for the military, each feature on a trench coat has been specifically designed for a reason. The epaulettes were added to display the rank of the officers while the storm shield, found on the upper back, enabled water to run off the coat and keep the wearer dry. A pleat was also featured on the back which allowed for ease of movement when running or on horseback.”

*The distinctive plaid lining was added in 1920.

I’m sure, just as Levi Strauss would be in awe at how his denim, originally for workman’s overalls, has evolved into classic fashion, Thomas Burberry could not have predicted the International success a military coat would have!

No plaid, to my mind’s eye, is more recognized. It hasn’t changed until recently….let’s look at the traditional and some newer versions.

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

The Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue…..who knew, plaid architecture, brilliant marketing and a stunning addition to what is arguably the most diverse architectural city, Chicago, where modern architecture was born!

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

A book, of course…

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

From Alexander McQueen

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Sarah Jessica Parker and Alexander McQueen wearing the official McQueen tartan at the Met’s Costume Institute gala for “Savage Beauty”.

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Vivianne Westwood

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Yves Saint Laurent Couture

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Jean Paul Gaultier

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

Want more…

Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New
Tartan + Plaid Always Classic Always New

To me plaid is always “in” as an accent, as an accessory, or as a complete outfit. It can be a traditional tartan or a new version of the classic Burberry plaid. It can be whimsical, think McQueen and Westwood, or line the classic trench coat that knows no gender. This season try it with a bit of leopard and what the heck a dash of a floral print, the point be confident in dressing and most of all have fun with your wardrobe styling!!!!

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.
*Burberry quote from a Harrods editorial.