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Nena's Notes: Chic is Where you Find It

December 13 2016 – Stephanie Lake

Nena's Notes: Chic is Where you Find It
Nena's Notes: Chic is Where you Find It



When I first read about Stephanie Lake’s association with Bonnie Cashin and that she was writing a book I was ecstatic!  I couldn’t believe that no one had written anything about this innovative creator other that very brief mentions in anthologies of designers.  I believe the article was in the New York Times several years ago.  I waited and waited for the announcement that the book was to be published by Rizzoli, finally, it was announced and I put my name in to have it delivered the day it was published.  I was so anxious to see the way Dr. Lake would handle the subject.  To say I wasn’t disappointed would be a major understatement!  And then to my great surprise, it was announced that Dr. Lake would be a guest speaker for a Chicago History Museum Costume Council http://www.chicagohistory.org event made it even more meaningful.  I contacted Dr. Lake to request an interview which she readily accepted (you read that profile yesterday!)  I want you to share some of my impressions of this extraordinary book on a designer that I had the extreme pleasure of working with over the years.


First of all the book is large in size and weight not only physically but more importantly in content.  It is filled with amazing photographs, sketches, and memorabilia. It is to be studied in depth but I will attempt to do an overview in this review.


Stephanie has divided the book into sections to highlight Bonnie’s unprecedented designing career.  Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with photographs, sketches, letters, and other personal Cashin mementos. They include photos of her homes, her lifestyle, her thoughts.  If you only look at all the exquisite photographs and renderings you are doing yourself a disservice.  Stephanie’s text is done in precise detail and with love for her dear friend…may I say her alter ego!

Beginning with Bonnie’s early years as a costume designer for chorus girls (she wanted to be a dancer) through her ten years as a Hollywood costume designer (her 60 screen credits while working for 20th Century Fox, include: Laura, Anna and the King of Siam and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).


Gene Tierney in Laura with Vincent Price.  Costume design by Bonnie Cashin.

Stephanie takes us to the forming of Bonnie’s own company, where she called the shots and remained an independent thinker and a “free lance” designer throughout her career.  She “invented” the term “layering” it hadn’t been done before Bonnie created it (how could we live without it today!). She combined color like no one had before as well as mixing texture and using interesting fastenings for her garments.  Bonnie was a world traveler and was inspired by our world and brought home many objects to inspire her creations and to live with.  Words were extremely important to her, so much so she had a graffiti wall as you entered her U. N. Plaza apartment, brightly colored painted patches were covered with her favorite thoughts or quotes of others written in Indigo Ink.


If nothing else Bonnie was a designer of practically..her turn lock hardware on her garments and handbags were inspired by the closings on her California convertible.  Pockets were made into handbags with brass closings…never done before nor since. She pioneered mohair, leather, and jersey as well as bold color combinations.

https://nenasnotes.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/fe4f8-bonniecashin_p226.jpg?w=994The Cashin hardware signature.

You will find numerous illustrations in the book that show, in precise detail, the genius of this creator.What you won’t find is any detail left out about the development, the independence, the creativity of a genius and a woman who believed in herself and devoted her life to her craft.  She was always mentoring others and created the Innovative Design Fund to help aspiring designers, with original ideas in all areas of design, to make their creations marketable (again, an innovator….think Shark Tank!).

Bonnie Cashin found the perfect person, Stephanie Lake, to not only become a confidant but also one who thoroughly understood the importance of documenting her major contributions to the world of fashion and her incredible legacy. One who will continue to be the guardian and promoter of an innovator who did it her way and her way was perfection!  Bravo Bonnie, Bravo Stephanie!!!

Stephanie Lake’s superb portrait of a design genius is a MUST have for your fashion/lifestyle library.  A perfect gift for yourself and all your fashionista friends this Holiday season.  I love it so much it is the first book to be discussed in the newly formed Costume Council Fashion Book Club!

This week will continue to be a behind the scenes look at life in the Lake Residence, including more of Dr. Stephanie Lake’s one of a kind jewelry designs (www.StephanieLakeDesign.com), parties hosted with her husband, Cory, and daughter, Odette, in their art-filled home outside Minneapolis, and more archival images featured in Dr. Lake’s highly acclaimed Rizzoli title “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It” (https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Cashin-Chic-Where-Find/dp/0847848051). On Friday, in my Fashion Flashback, I will discuss my experiences with Bonnie Cashin!

All photos with the exception of the Laura still, courtesy of Stephanie Lake.