Grace for Grace of Monaco

If you want to sacrifice

the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, 

go ahead, get married.

Katharine Hepburn


A film I’ve been looking forward to seeing has been thoroughly trashed by critics. When it was released at the Cannes Film Festival this month, the family whose story it’s supposed to tell declared it may not be labeled a biopic for failing to represent their version of reality “needlessly glamorized and historically inaccurate.” The director and the US film distributor want different finished versions of the film. The critics were extra harsh in their reviews of Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. Geoffrey MacNab of The Independent was already gentle in saying, “Kidman excels in a role in which she is called on to project glamour and suffering in equal measure – and is never allowed to be seen in the same outfit twice.” 

Why so much clamor over a movie?  Why miss out on a good story by insisting on accuracy and perfection? Goddess knows more pedestrian productions based on the good old formula of sex and violence have made billions in box office revenues. Why not appreciate this film for the relevance of its story line: the human portrait of a woman as a prisoner of her (royal) circumstances,  striving to find her own way in the world as she reconciles her needs with those of her family and her man like this Powerful Goddess?

Casting Nicole as Grace is perfect with her regal air and elegant restraint.  As a woman, I admire her for shining as her own person, delighting in her own talents, and breaking free from the shadow of her famous ex-husband. I applaud the creators and artists who put their best foot forward with their best intentions in making this film. While critics may have their place in helping us do better, no movie, no art, no life would ever be created or lived if we were to constantly consider their opinion.  We must do what we need to do just as critics must do what they do–if they didn’t, we would have to call them fans!  Like Grace, we can choose to be kind to ourselves, be our own best friend and supporter especially when venturing to distant lands and new adventures far from the approval of family and friends. And please do so in great style!  I personally relish the thought of never having to wear the same outfit twice.

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share how you silence your inner critic.








© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Beyond Fashion


You can never be overdressed

or overeducated.

Oscar Wilde


Iconic photograph by Cecil Beaton of 10 of Charles James’ designs

© Conde Nast


Charles James, the most influential couturier of the 1940’s and 50’s, is largely unknown to the general public though his revolutionary designs have graced the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country.  Recognized for his genius in the magical use of color and artistic drapery, he started out creating the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee’s breakaway striptease costumes and is best known for his gloriously sculpted ball gowns.  I share his great love for the theatrical, the grand and the magnificent!

This week, the Met’s Costume Institute launched an exhibit of his life and designs:  Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Curator Harold Koda describes James as “one of a handful of designers to have changed the métier of design. Christian Dior has credited James with inspiring his New Look. And Balenciaga said, ‘James is not America’s best couturier; he is simply the world’s best.’ When you have the two perhaps most important male designers of the mid-20th century endorsing you, you can understand that it’s something of a lack that the general public is not aware of this man’s work.” James invented the spiral-cut taxi dress, the figure eight shirt, the puffer jacket, the no cup bra, and a waistline that expanded with your meal. Koda told, “[He] was really radical. He treated the creation of clothing as an art”–combined with the exacting precision of structural engineering it seems.

Admire the genius of Charles James at the Met’s Beyond Fashion until August 10, 2014.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how your life is an art.


Elettra Wiedeman in Charles James four clover gown at NYC Met Costume Institute

Elettra Wiedemann in James’ Clover Leaf Gown at the exhibit’s opening night

(Photo by Hannah Thomson)


Charles James haute couture gowns



Charles James Tulip Gown

The Tulip Gown


Nancy James in one of her husband’s creations

 Charles James by Cecil Beaton 1943

Charles James pinning a model

photo by Cecil Beaton © Conde Nast



Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother



Valley of Amazement


If evolution really worked,

how come mothers only have two hands?

Milton Berle



For Mother’s Day, this Powerful Goddess honors her mother’s Asian heritage. With features that take more after her father’s, something about her eyes suggests barely a whisper of her Eastern roots.  We found an ancient screen and ceramic stool as a simple backdrop for her robe and chopstick.  I adore photographs that look like old paintings!  I also imagine Vivien, the heroine of mixed heritage in Amy Tan’s latest novel, Valley of Amazement, must have been as beautiful as this.

Valley of Amazement has mixed reviews for being long-winded and predictable. With its countless peaks and valleys, how many mother daughter relationships can really be told succinctly?  Fewer still are those relationships that don’t defy prediction. For who among us can see beyond the wisdom of our years, no matter whatever age?  

This Mother’s day, because I’m in the valley of feeling grossly outnumbered by three teens–each flexing his/her own wings of wanna-be-adult independence minus the responsibilities that come with it–I vow to laugh more knowing that every year that passes is one year closer to being amazed and possibly hearing them say, “OMG, mom was right after all!” A few other funnies on motherhood I wish I wrote:

My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it. –Buddy Hackett

Sweater, n. Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. –Ambrose Bierce

A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after. -Peter De Vries

Living with a teen is like living with the Taliban: a mom is not allowed to laugh, sing, dance or wear short skirts. –Kathy Lette

The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of the tires. -Dorothy Parker

I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them. –Phyllis Diller

Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them. My mother cleans them. –Rita Rudner

The phrase “working mother” is redundant. -Jane Sellman

When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. -Erma Bombeck

I was dating a transvestite, and my mother said, ‘Marry him. You’ll double your wardrobe. –Joan Rivers

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what’s amazing (or at least what makes you laugh) about motherhood.






© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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