The First Woman of Dior

Fashion is what you’re offered

four times a year by designers.

Style is what you choose.

Lauren Hutton


Photo courtesy of Vogue

Maria Grazia Chiuri is the first woman in the history of Dior to head the storied fashion house. Her runway inspirations bring together Flemish paintings, fencing, boyish girl themes with the talismans of house founder Christian Dior: stars, hearts, four-leaf clovers and tarot motifs. For someone who heads a trendsetting powerhouse, she wears no nonsense outfits possibly two days in a row, a testament to her pragmatism and tight focus on the work at hand.

In an industry where designers are notorious for last minute revisions, Chiuri is exceptionally calm in sticking to her original design from the first day it’s submitted to the pattern makers. She attributes single mindedness and zero drama in her work process to age and experience. Her runway dress rehearsals are organized and run ahead of schedule with few big pronouncements other than “Bellisimo!”

The staging of her runway is the opposite of theatrical, the minimalism calling attention to the details and nuances in her designs. She gave Dior a more female focus through the Instagram campaign “The Women Behind My Dress” which showcases the female employees and the warm family work atmosphere from its tailors to the PR team. Chiuri says, “I like women as they are. I don’t have an idealistic view of them. I want our merchants to dress a woman with a vision of what’s consistent with herself, not a brand.” And what’s her view on fashion’s cut throat competition? “You have to fight for what you really want in life. As in fencing, you don’t kill the other person—you touch the heart..” Evviva, Maria!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share the style that’s right for you.



Photo courtesy of Vogue


Photo courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar


Photo courtesy of Valentino


Photo courtesy of VS Magazine


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Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

The Art of Style

You can have

anything you want in life

if you dress for it.

Edith Head


JDR by Richard Alvedon

Who defines your sense of style when dressing for the holidays?  A celebrity, a designer, a brand? How do you filter through the noise of advertising and social media to choose what is right for you?

Jacqueline de Ribes, 86, French socialite and muse who reinvented herself as a designer, has graciously lent a few dozen evening  gowns from her wardrobe to the Met’s Costume Institute for inspiration. She is known in Parisian society for her elegance and style despite her strong belief growing up that she wasn’t beautiful. “I wasn’t brought up in a family that told me I was beautiful–quite the opposite. I had a problem with my nose. I thought it was too big and too pointed.” Her relationship with her mother was strained, assuring her for years that she could never learn to walk like a lady.

Encouraged by Diana Vreeland to embrace her adventurous spirit, Jacqueline’s insecurity was quelled by Diana’s advice “Jacqueline, don’t be afraid. Whatever you do, just remember: Follow your instincts and you’ll never be wrong.”

The dresses can’t tell her full story though. Jacqueline had an irreverent flair for extravagantly mixing and matching pieces, piling on accessories and even splicing together garments to reflect her mood. Because she dressed to please and express herself, Jacqueline’s wardrobe has a sense of individuality, consistency, and timelessness. Her ambition for this exhibit is to inspire people to embrace the freedom and confidence of self-expression through fashion, saying “You can be elegant and chic by being yourself.”

Harold Koda, curator-in-charge at the Costume Institute sums it up, “It requires a certain discipline to say: This is what’s good for me, this is who I am, and whatever trend is out there I am only going to buy to the extent I can use it to frame the best portrait of myself.”

Of course, a little money to spare for haute couture never hurts. 😉

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style is at the Metropolitan Museum until February 21, 2016.



How fun to be a fanciful belle of the ball!


Though I’m not a fan of black, I love the lace and feather detail of this velvet piece.


A sculptural one-shouldered gown from de Ribes’ inaugural collection as a designer.



Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

China at the Met

Be not afraid of growing slowly.

Be afraid only 

of standing still.

Chinese proverb


Couture inspired by Anna May Wong’s costumes in her Hollywood classics. Among my favorite pieces is this very easy to wear hot number with seductive tassels as shoulder straps and as a dramatic train sweeping the floor.

If you’re near Manhattan this weekend, get to the Metropolitan Museum early (or very late to avoid the crowds) and catch the end of their hit exhibit China: Through The Looking Glass.  Attracting more foot traffic that the Alexander McQueen exhibit a couple of years ago and even more than their King Tut exhibit in 1979, this latest feature of the Anna Wintour Costume Institute is a collection of haute couture influences flowing East to West and vice versa.

China as a collective fantasy began when it was still beyond the reach of most Western travelers. Chinoiserie by the best artisans, creatives and film makers have since perpetuated the myth of this land as one of wealth. elegance, mystery and romance. Sample the best of the best at the Met on its last weekend of display.  Museum hours extend until midnight this Friday and Saturday (September 4 and 5, 2015) and this exhibit closes on Monday, September 7th.

Dragon dress inspired by an imperial robe, John Galliano for the House of Dior


Intricate embroidery and silk are among my favorite things!


In the China Pavilion, a collection of John Galliano pieces for the House of Dior


Haute couture in a forest reminiscent of the bamboo scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


A lotus flower ballgown by a Chinese designer


Mao and Chinese calligraphy as design elements


The Weight of the Millennium artwork made of porcelain shards by Li Xiaofeng 2015


Glamour couture inspired by designs on Manchu robes


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what country captivates you best.


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

How To Kiss Proof Lips

Beauty to me is about being comfortable in your own skin.

That or a kick-ass red lipstick.

Gwyneth Paltrow


This is a good season as any to trade your Little Black Dress for red like this Powerful Goddess wearing her favorite!  If you insist on black, add chic confidence to your smile with a shade of scarlet. The better to be ready for the many hugs and kisses you’re giving and getting through the holidays!  

See which of these crimsons suit you:  Christian Dior’s 999, MAC’s Lady Danger, Obsessive Compulsive’s Stalker, NARS’ Cruella, Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Luminous Matte No. 38, YSL’s Rouge Pur Couture Mats No. 201.  And here’s how to kiss-proof those pouty red lips:

Start by gently exfoliating your lips with a wet cotton ball and applying olive oil (blot out excess) for a smooth, flakeless canvas.  Shade lips with a soft pencil that matches the natural color of your mouth or preferred lipstick.  Outline the rim or your lips to create a bumper that helps minimize color bleeding.  Apply a coat of lipstick from the center of your mouth outward (use a brush, your finger, or apply straight from the tube).  Use a cotton ball to dab face powder and seal in color.  Reapply a second coat of lipstick plus powder and voila!  

 Ready or not–here I come with my own mistletoe!  Ho-ho-ho!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your favorite red.





© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


Mask of Perfection


A serious Leica collector I love forwarded an article from their blog that makes you think.  It features these beautiful black and white portraits of young gorgeous women with pre-operative marks on their faces before procedures they’ve undergone in the pursuit of “perfection.”  They are subjects of a photo exhibit Mask of Perfection by Marc Erwin Babej, with Maria M. LoTempio, MD.  From the Artist’s Statement:

Mask of Perfection focuses on the complex and ambivalent relationship between the beauty we perceive subjectively on the one hand, and the plastic surgeon’s scientific, geometry- based standard of beauty on the other. 

The currently emerging ideal of beauty is unprecedented in that it is actionable, and that conformity to it has become widely available. Lips like Angelina Jolie; breasts like Scarlett Johansson; a butt like Kim Kardashian; less slanted eyes like a white woman; a wrinkle-free complexion like a cosmetics model? Available at a plastic surgeon near you. In other words, the emerging beauty ideal not only reflects changing taste, but represents a radical shift in the understanding of beauty itself. Conformity to an ideal of beauty used to be a daydream; now, it has become a line item on a shopping list. Whether this development is liberating or cheapens the concept of human beauty (or both at the same time) is a matter of individual judgment.

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share who decides what’s perfect for you.






Carnival of Animals at Bergdorf

Money, if it does not bring you happiness,

will at least help you be miserable in comfort.

Helen Gurley Brown

More than the Rockefeller Christmas tree (which is looking extra fabulous this year,) the spectacle I look forward to seeing when the holidays roll around are the windows of Bergdorf Goodman.

This year’s Carnival of Animals by David Hoey‘s team is a mind blowing flight of fancy with brass birds, animals made of intricately hand cut/folded paper, needlework and carved wood, fish made of gemstones and glass mosaics,  gowns with fur, fine beadwork, feathers, leather scales and diamond mesh by Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta, Pringle of Scotland, Valentino and Celine.   With five windows overflowing with animals created by artists such as Sergio Bustamante and Brett Windham, my eyes did not know where to start and stop looking.   Here are a few details to whet your appetite.  Catch a glimpse of this fantastic vision before January 3rd.

Thanks to the countless artisans and artists who contributed to this monument of creativity and wealth–reminding us of other realities, an oasis from the obsession of “this economy.”

What riches (that money can’t buy) embellish the fabric of your life already?

© Sharon Birke

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC

Pompadour’s Grace

Often laughing, visibly less calculating, liable to burst out with unpredictable enthusiasm, she was like a breath of fresh air.  

Susan Griffin on Madame de Pompadour

From her ebullience, generosity, humor, and courage, I am certain I would have been charmed by this woman famous for being Louis XV’s favorite.  Beyond the shallow gossip of her status as mistress, Susan Griffin’s describes the depth of a woman who inspired a monarchy and this series of photographs:

Madame de Pompadour was able to negotiate the transformation of herself from commoner to favorite with uncommon grace.  In bringing a more informal and open manner of expression to Versailles, she foreshadowed what was to be a transformation not only of the court but eventually all of society.  Her displays of emotion, her frankness, her loud “forthright” voice, her free laugh, and her familiar language were at odds with standard behavior at Versaiiles.  The ladies in court only giggled or smothered their laughter and everyone habitually hid or dampened their feelings, even when what was felt was joy.  No wonder there was so much intrigue.  The atmosphere of constant jockeying for position that surrounds monarchies and indeed every powerful leader was only made more acidic by by the fact that anger could not be expressed openly.  Hence snide remarks, subtle inferences, small praise, dismissive gestures, indeed every possible form of passive assault characterized the social life of the court.  No wonder that Pompadour’s manner appealed to the king.

The painter Francois Boucher captured her ebullience well.  The spirit that enlivens her rose-cheeked face spills out into the room.  Rendered with colors that are vibrant and soft at the same time, her dresses appear less to hang than to ripple, and the same vibrant energy seems to bless all that surrounds her.  There was a strong concordance between her way of being and his way of seeing.  Not only did they prefer the same bright pastel colors, they both liked flowers.  She was an avid gardener and he embellished canvasses, tapestries, and vases with flowery forms.

As frivolous as both the painter and the mistress may seem today, together they invented an ingenuous version of grace, one that allowed them to erase conflicts that otherwise might have erased them.

Leave a comment, rave, share this link on Facebook, tweets please!

© Sharon Birke

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC

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