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

Ala Anna Karenina

My mother never breastfed me–

she said she only

liked me as a friend.

Rodney Dangerfield


While I admire Anna Karenina’s fashion sense, I stand on the opposite side of the tracks in my belief that there is absolutely no man worth dying for. But for a daughter who is joy and beauty inside and out? Let’s talk…

This Powerful Goddess dedicates her portraits to her mom and best friend, the woman who chose 8 months of bed rest when doctors foretold that with her advanced age and history of miscarriage, she would never carry a baby to term. Certainly not the first (nor last) underestimation of a woman’s courage to choose life, yes?

In this Anna Karenina inspired concept to honor her Russian heritage, this Powerful Goddess proudly wears her mother’s green eyes and a touch of her Asian features.  With her mother’s elegant hands, she writes, “My mom taught me to be kind, honest, and caring, to value life and family above all. I never keep secrets from her knowing that she doesn’t judge and will always be supportive. She gave me the ability to see beauty wherever I go. I admire her tenderness and strength, her wisdom, and her naiveté in loving fully and giving generously. I owe her my life and so much more. I love, you, Mama!”

Sniff, sniff! May all our daughters be as appreciative of us…

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share what you love best about the woman who chose life for you.

Happiest Mother’s Day to all and the Happiest Birthday Ever to my gorgeous Anna Karenina!








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


War does not determine

who is right–

only who is left.

Bertrand Russell


I don’t like war movies, yet with Angelina Jolie blazing a brave new trail behind the camera as producer and director of  Unbroken, how can I resist?  The story revolves around the life of Olympic athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini and is based on the nonfiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  From this first venture in film making, Angelina is already poised to win Best Director by the Critics’ Choice Movie Award tomorrow.

Maybe I’m not going to see the film for the sake of story. While my daughter loves her movies for her good looks and heroic roles, I suspect I go as a fan of a woman who forges her own path doing what she loves and growing in whatever direction her soul beckons, personal demons be damned!  I’ll likely be imagining what went through her head behind each scene more than paying attention to what’s in it. From bad ass teen to awe inspiring woman and mother, Angelina embodies survival, resilience and redemption herself.

On this page is Angelina as photographed by one of my favorite photographers, Annie Leibowitz, another woman of quiet strength–but that’s another blog post.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you’re bad ass awesome!






 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Just Having a (Lucille) Ball

It’s a helluva start being able

to recognize what makes you happy.

Lucille Ball


Because I love comedy, Old Hollywood glamour, and a woman who laughs with the world even as she makes a fool of herself, I kiss the feet of a most memorable summer birthday girl, one of America’s most beloved comedians, Lucille Ball.

Born determined on August 6, 1911, Lucille signed up for drama school in her teens despite her shy nature.  She went on to try anything and everything from modeling, radio, vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood trying to make ends meet while keeping her family together.  She eventually produced her own iconic television show I Love Lucy, the first to be filmed in front of a live audience.  As a fearless pioneer, she was the first woman to be featured pregnant in television history and more people tuned in for the episode when she “delivered” her son than for presidential inauguration of Eisenhower.

Memorable quotes from this unforgettable funny woman:

How was I Love Lucy born? We decided that instead of divorce lawyers profiting from our mistakes, we’d profit from them.

I’m not funny. What I am is brave.

I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.

Luck to me is hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.

 Love yourself first and everything else falls into place.

And her consolation for parents who’ve lost their teens to friends and/or the computers?

You see much more of your children once they leave home.

Thank you, Lucy, for all the laughter and wisdom through the years!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what you love about Lucy.




Lucille Ball




lucille ball-1



Photographs courtesy of Google Images


Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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

‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business

Everything is funny as long as it happens

to somebody else.

Will Rogers

Flower on Hair by Sharon Birke

Billie Holiday’s signature gardenias in the hair inspired this Goddess’ portraits.  (I, too, had a thing for pretty flowers in my hair until the big hair chop.)  Lady Day’s classic tunes include “Good Morning Heartache,” “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”   While her love affairs were numerous and complicated, pain and loss inspired her song writing–plus strength of character grown from not being beholden to another:

There ain’t nothing I can’t do

or nothing I can say

that folks don’t criticize me.

But I’m going to do

just as I want to anyway

And don’t care just what people say.

If I should take a notion

to jump into the ocean

Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.

If I go to church on Sunday

then cabaret all day on Monday

Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.

Click on “Leave a Comment” above left to share how you know what’s right for you.  xoxox

Satin Gloves by Sharon Birke

Flower and Satin Gloves by Sharon Birke

Flower and Satin Gloves by Sharon Birke


© Sharon Birke

Text 201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Satin Gloves by Sharon Birke

Viva Diana Vreeland


A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. 

It is the life that you are leading in the dress.

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

“I will die young…,” Diana Vreeland foretold.  This unpretty woman completely charmed me in the film documentary “Diana Vreeland:  The Eye Has to Travel.”   She reigns as THE first and unrivaled fashion editor of history, always open to the new and curious of the “Why not?”  With joie de vivre and stoic determination, she lived large in red as a fearless oracle of style and reinvention.

Born in Paris during the Belle Epoque era and educated by the world–not academics–Diana grew up with her mother’s endearment “my ugly little monster.”  This likely fueled her daring to be different and her genius in showcasing the beauty of odd features via exaggeration.  If you’re tall, wear high heels.  If you’re shy about your freckles, bare them.  She made skin and bones fashionable with the model Twiggy, dared to be the first to feature the freaky sexy lips of an unknown Mick Jagger, and insisted on an editorial spread highlighting Barbara Streisand’s big nose.

Harper’s Bazaar readers were introduced to her signature style through her colorful “Why Don’t You?” column in the summer of 1936.   Among my favorite “Why don’t you . . .” lines:

… paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys’ nursery so they won’t grow up with a provincial point of view?

… tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child’s bed on Christmas Eve?

… cover a big cork bulletin board in bright pink felt, banded with bamboo, and pin with colored thumb-tacks all your various enthusiasms as your life varies from week to week?

Vreeland’s column was an illustration of her personal credo:  Don’t live (or tell) the boring truth, be ingenious and (re)invent yourself.  Beauty to her was not just in the clothes you wear, but in the life you lead.

Dismissed by Vogue soon after the death of her husband, Diana grappled with finances and sadness.  Little did anyone guess that at 69, she was yet to begin the most successful act of her career resurrecting the Met’s Costume Institute.  Jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane remembers: “She made me realize the importance of positive thinking. She would say, ‘Don’t look back. Just go ahead. Give ideas away. Under every idea there’s a new idea waiting to be born.”   Jacqueline de Ribes recalls how she learned self-confidence from Vreeland while posing for Avedon portraits, “She taught me something very important that day.  She said, ‘Whatever you decide for yourself is going to be the right thing.  Don’t get influenced.'”

This style arbiter and feisty lifestyle revolutionary swore she would die young… “Maybe I’ll die when I’m 70 or 80 or 90, but I’ll be very young.”   And a legend.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you celebrate your odd or ugly.


Diana at her Harper’s Bazaar office

Diana Vreeland at Harper's Bazaar

Diana painting by William Acton

Diana Vreeland painting by William Acton

Diana Vreeland

Diana’s orientalist style painting by Edward Murray, late 1930s

Diana Vreeland painting by Edward Murray

Diana by Richard Avedon

Diana Vreeland by Richard Avedon

Then a photograph of her living room appeared in a magazine.  Never had I seen such profusion, so much red! Red on the floor, red up the walls, and textures, textures, TEXTURES! Plaid on top of paisley, flowered chintz next to silk stripes, and silver, tortoise, ebony, conch, gilt – a magnificent explosion in the midst of a beige decade, a world in which the worst sin was to ‘clash.’ You knew the moment you looked at Mrs. Vreeland’s living room that you had seen the future. And indeed, it eventually became the great cliché of New York décor.  – Mary Louise Wilson, introduction to D.V. by Diana Vreeland.

Diana Vreeland Living Room

Diana by George Hoyningen Huene

Diana Vreeland by George Hoyningen Huene


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