As you know I recently did two posts on the incredible The Vintage Contessa….well guess what…she turned right around and did a post on me today…..Here it is….enjoy!! http://thevintagecontessa.net/
I find it beyond fascinating how many interesting people you can encounter on social media and also how lovely it is to make new friends who enjoy many of the same things that you do. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick aka The Vintage Contessa is exactly one of those people and I wanted to share her story with you! I asked her to do The nenasnotes Questionnaire and she immediately agreed. The following is Part 1 of her responses (she writes her fabulous blog, http://thevintagecontessa.net/ in ALL CAPS and has asked me to keep “ALL CAPS” that she has used for her answers!) I know you will be fascinated with her stories and be charmed and intrigued with her breathtakingly gorgeous photos….enjoy!
nenasnotes QUESTION….WHEN READING YOUR BLOG POSTS I NOTED THAT YOU HAVE HAD MANY INCARNATIONS….WHICH HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY
INCARNATIONS? That is an interesting observation, but I do believe you are correct! As a child I wanted to be a BALLERINA or a VET. That did not come to fruition. Then I worked in FASHION RETAIL Then Wholesale, The Gucci Accessory Collection. We sold to the Specialty stores and Department stores. That is how I met my husband of 36 years. We worked for a woman who had the distribution for the United States and Canada. Then married in Florence, Italy in 1986. Then I became a MOTHER to TWO BEAUTIFUL SONS. Then an Antique/Vintage Collector which became a store front. After they grew up a bit I opened a shop that sold antiques and vintage for 12 years. Last came the BLOG :THEVINTAGECONTESSA.NET. Then Instagram hit! I found people who had similar passions as myself. Plus I was OVER 50 so The ADVANCED STLE movement enticed me! I thought what ARI SETH COHEN https://www.advanced.style was doing was FANTASTIC. To answer your question about which one was my favorite I would say being a MOTHER and being married to THE ITALIAN in SAN MINIATO AL MONTE in Florence,Italy. Can I have TWO PLEASE? A Nena’s Note….yes, you can!
As time goes by I get MORE and More ECCENTRIC.For example when the Boys were younger I would wear long skirts with sweatshirts mind you the skirts I found in the consignment shops were usually TAFFETA!
The shoes were always running shoesAs a young woman and still today I get comments like “Where are you going all dressed up?”And I think to myself I am NOT DRESSED UP at all. I get stopped often in the Produce section of the grocery store a lot by older men saying thank you for dressing up……..you remind be of days gone by.
WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT? TALENT! I wouldn’t say I have talent, but I do have a good eye whether it be clothing, interiors or gardens. My “talent” for clothing was born from looking at VOQUE and HARPERS BAZAAR and TOWN & COUNTRY at a young age. I did DREAM of being a model or SHOWGIRL like a ROCKETTE as I loved the HEADWEAR. Feathers & Rhinestones were HEAVEN to me! I should have been in theater! I would have adored CECIL BEATON.I really have Never Changed from that young girl. Most of my DREAMS have been fulfilled.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT”EXPLAIN…I do not think “I HAVE MADE IT YET” I keep plugging along. Once my sons left I was a LOST SOUL.I have kept doing what I love. The garden the clothing and collecting stuff. I did make it in THE CLOSET DEPARTMENT however! As we had a very small closet we shared. I kept complaining about how I needed more space! My ITALIAN built an addition to the 1940’s house for all my clothes.
HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW…AND WHEN DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR UNIQUE STYLE
MY MOTHER! I have always LOVED antiques. I would shop with my MOTHER at a very young age. My first collections were OLD KEYS & BOTTLES. I still have an old milk bottle from those days and a set of old keys that have faces on them. If I remember correctly they were $12.00. I thought about INTERIOR DESIGN but the drawing scared me. I remember when TONY DUQUETTE lived down the street from us in San Francisco. Since then I have met many decorators at Book signings, Anita Campell, Timothy Corrigan, Charlotte Moss, Paul Wiseman Princess Michael of Kent and Hutton Wilkinson. I actually was invited to DAWNRIDGE for lunch with his wife as he was out of town. That was an experience I will never forget! I still love ballet, animals and clothing. I am still SHOPPING when most people are CLEANING out! I have found “MY PEOPLE” on BLOG’s and INSTAGRAM who rock MY WORLD. Who actually “GET ME!” Another Nena’s Note, I profiled Hutton, awhile ago, and also did a review on his book DAWNRIDGE!
TALK A BIT ABOUT YOUR “MENAGERIE” I LOVE ANIMALS. I always wanted a farm. My mother was from INDIANA and would tell me about the runt of the litter sleeping by the stove in the kitchen when she was growing up. By age ten I had a chicken that turned into a rooster! My Father was not an animal person, however somehow we always had a cat. No dogs. I had rabbits outside and was ALWAYS building a BARN. Today I have a dog and a cat who is missing at the moment and a TEA CUP pig that lives in THE HOUSE! He is THE BEST ANIMAL I have ever owned. They are very clean. They are very smart. He learned the doggie door in ONE DAY! He eats very little to be honest like 1/3 of a cup of piggy pellets with a fruit or vegetable! Twice a day. The vegetables MUST BE COOKED! I also save the old bread and soak it. Of course when he goes OUTSIDE it must be warm enough and NO RAIN he will graze in the garden! He learned the first year NOT TO EAT MAMMA’s ROSES! He understands” NO” very well! He has his second dinner with us at the table at night. A bite of salad or vegetable NO MEAT! He has his own FORK…SILVER ANTIQUE which is placed on a KINFE REST so we do not get it confused with OURS! He comes when I call! He also sprints around the house and has NEVER broken a thing!MY house is PACKED with STUFF! Sometimes the cat and the dog and the pig all dine with us at the table waiting their turn! Somehow he knows when dinner is over as he heads to bed or wants a TUMMY RUB!
As he heads to bed in the living room I ask for a kiss and he turns his head to oblige me! I get the NOSE as the mouth is un-reachable!
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!
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!
Victor’s Birthday Dinner Chez Ivon long ago. One of my favorite photos of us. My photo, published for the first time
Sweetheart, Baby, Angel, Dearest, Darling…..(each comma represents a pause!) how I will miss these words on my phone early on so many mornings….followed by “Its Victor”…my answer, always, who else would it be! And always notes for reasons or just a hello….he did those for many of his friends, I treasure mine.
This was our greeting for decades. Was each and every decade stress free, of course not, no relationship no matter how close you are doesn’t have bumps and, yes, we had bumps, but the “bumpless” times were so very special. I wanted to share all the good times…and there were many!
At a Fashion Group International Chicago gala honoring the Ferragamos Photo credit: Robert Carl.
My dear, special friend of so many, many years and so many, many memories, left us this year on April 4th to join his dear family and friends such as Hubert de Givenchy, Estée Lauder, Joan Weinstein, Jovanna Papadakis to name just a few to make Heaven even more glamorous…….you know he is busy organizing the angels into perfect photo shoots…on that you can be sure.
Shown with Estée Lauder, photo credit unknown.
In retrospect, I can’t remember when we first became friends nor why we were comfortable sharing confidences and champagne, but we were and we did!! Over many, many dinners at RL and La Scarola (the last time I saw him was at dinner there) or my home, we talked about anything and everything.
An afternoon benefit at the Chicago Hilton, photo credit unknown.
We often went to events together and he was sure to include me when he was receiving many of his special honors.
Back in the discotheque days….the 1960’s/1970’s we would meet, along with everyone else, on the weekends at the Disc de Maxim’s, I supplied the dresses for the DJ…it was the place to see and be seen. Or the evenings spent listening to Bobby Short or Shelley MacArthur at the Gold Sardine Bar. Great fun times.
Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris at the Astor Towers. Beyond gorgeous…here the staircase from the main floor into the restaurant and the dance floor.
Photos found on Pinterest credit unknown.
I had the honor of planning the special dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center after he received his Honorary Degree from Columbia College Chicago, one of the only times that a degree was bestowed outside of Graduation ceremonies making it even more special.
1995 Columbia College Chicago Honorary Degree evening. Photographer unknown. From my collection.
Lucky me that I became a friend of one of the major artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
When did this friendship begin…I can’t pin point the exact year, Victor was a well known photographer and Major Influencer when I started at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago. I think the first time I was invited into his Circle of Friends was at the Chicago premier of the 1969 film The Damed. I was invited to a private screening at the screening room at The Chicago Theater and to the reception after. It was a small group at the screening…the movie was eagerly anticipated and I was beyond thrilled to be included. Well, dear friends, I don’t shock easily but I must tell you, I was beyond shocked by the film, so much so I have never seen it again. Since it was such a small group I couldn’t get up and leave. I guess I should like it, I do admire Visconti’s work. Well there is more to this story…the reception was upstairs at Gene & Georgetti’s (I’m so pleased they are back with us after their fire and the “plague” closings). As you got to the top of the stairs you were immersed in the decadent “Cabaret Scene” from the film, I was beside myself. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so undone by the film I might have found it less distasteful and across the room was one of the stars, Helmut Berger who kept staring at me….gave me chills! If you haven’t seen the film do so and you will get what I’m talking about. I wonder if I’ll find it not as shocking now???!!!
Flash forward to 1984 when I received a telegraph (remember those) from Town and Country requesting that I report to the Skrebneski Studio on such and such a date at such and such a time to have my photo taken for an upcoming story in the magazine on The Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society (as the Museum was called then) . Victor did exquisite editorial spreads for T&C for years, some of my most favorite images are from those issues. Well, of course, I thought this was some kind of a joke. I immediately called Dennis Minkel, Victor’s Assistant and a long time dear friend of mine. I had been working with him on many shoots when they needed clothing and/or accessories. He assured me it wasn’t a joke and to wear a favorite dress, preferably a day garment since the other Executive Committee members would be in cocktail and evening gowns. They would supply the hair and makeup artists and the jewelry. I was stunned, excited, honored and perplexed being the only “non-socialite” in the group. I was, at the time serving as Acquisitions Chair. As I recall I was the last shoot of the day. I arrived as scheduled in my “uniform” a mock turtleneck black chemise by Adolfo. My hair was long at the time and it was fashioned into a classic French Twist. I am photographed in front of period gowns from the Costume Collection in a double page spread. Let’s talk a minute about how Victor worked, the set ups took time but he knew exactly what shot he wanted and where the fold of the magazine would happen, therefore the two pages always were seamless not so with other photographers nor magazine editors. Just one example of his brilliance. And it’s one shot and done. The photo looks quite simple, it was anything but….to get the angle he wanted, and by the way he loved profiles….so that is how you see me, I don’t love my profile but who am I to say…he had positioned my legs in an awkward position, so much so that I pulled a muscle. I don’t think I ever told him that!!!! My hair looks dark due to the dramatic Skrebneski lighting. Lighting was one of his signatures. And here is the finished photo
This framed copy was on my office wall from 1984 until I retired in 2009, it is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. All of us were taken to Les Nomades for an elegant dinner with the T&C editors and a bottle of Kristal was sent to each of us with a lovely note. What an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience…..I, of course, thought this was my one and only Skrebneski photo session…..wrong again…..
Stay tuned for Part 2 and probably Part 3 of this story.