Monica D. Murgia

Art, creativity, and fashion
January 29th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Landscape

“The mind is the only landscape that can change itself.” – Margaret A. Boden


January 28th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Frances Louise Ward

Glamour September 1944
Several months ago, I received an email from one of my readers named Susan.  Her mother, Frances Louise Ward, passed away several years ago.  Among the remaining estate was a bridesmaid dress made by Antonio Castillo while he was employed by Elizabeth Arden.  It had some damage to the white tulle, and she was curious about the materials he used so that she could properly clean and fix the dress.
Susan’s email details some of her mother’s history:
“The dress was a bridesmaid dress from my mother’s wedding 1948.  She was one of NYC’s top models and Hollywood starlet so she had a big wedding…plus she married someone from a very aristocratic family.  Also her wedding dress is in our storage unit and last time I say it a couple years ago , it was in perfect condition but in a box so it’s crinkled…it may be by Castillo also or maybe Dior since she modeled wedding dresses for Dior.”
Frana's wedding photo
“I attached photos of my mother ….one of her in her wedding dress!  She had thousands of clothes and we had a huge sale in NYC in 2009…her name was Frances Ward when she was a Power’s model in the 40’s and 50’s.  She started modeling at age 15.”
Some details surfaced about Ward’s wedding in a family scrapbook.   The advertisement, above, for the Woodbury Soap Company chronicles her marriage to piano-heir Charles Kohler White.  (It appeared in Life Magazine on March 7th, 1949.) It reads:
“Wedding Bells Chime – sweet harmony as Frances Louise Ward weds piano-heir Charles Kohler White in St. Aloysius Church, Great Neck, Long Island.  Charles beams with pride – Frances looks luscious.  Her cream-smooth complexion?  A, that’s Woodbury’s beauty trick.  ‘It’s been a daze’ chuckles Charles, ‘since Frances danced into my life!’  Courtship kept him hopping.  Yale!  New York!  Carolina plantation!”
Woodbury Soap Company  featured similar advertisement throughout the 1940s to sell their soap.  Each advertisement featured a newly wedded couple, telling the story of their romance and how Woodbury soap was a critical ingredient to their love story.  (You can see similar advertisements here.)
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 Ward was a beauty, and graced the cover of Glamour Magazine in 1944, below.  Dubbed “The Career Issue”, landing this cover must have been quite the honor.  The image was taken at the height of World War II, a time during which many women flooded the workforce.  Men were fighting the war, leaving many vacancies across various industries.  For the first time, women from every socioeconomic status could earn their own money in any industry of their choosing, without shame, discouragement, or contempt.  Prior to the war, women were not encouraged to work.   Gender roles were much more ridged.  There were only a few types of careers that a woman could pursue, such as teaching, nursing, or fashion-related work.  Other choices were frowned upon or impossible to obtain.  During the war, this perception began to shift.  Women were encouraged to join the workforce, primarily in male-dominated industries, as a form of patriotism.  The need to replace the workforce was critical to win the war and keep the economy intact.
Glamour September 1944

Many thanks go Susan for sharing these great images of her mother.  She is currently working on conserving the Castillo dress and will provide some photos when she is finished.  If you have any additional information on Frances Louise Ward, please leave a comment.

January 27th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Wings

Bird in Flight
“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.”  Victor Hugo
Bird in Flight


November 24th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Gratitude

“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.” Robert Braathe


November 18th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: The Stream

Autumn 2014

“The flow of life . . . you are going along with it whether you want to or not.  Like people in a stream, you can swim against it.  But you’ll still be moved along by it, and all you’ll do is wear yourself out in futility.  But if you swim with the stream, the whole strength of the stream is yours.  Of course, the difficulty so many of us have is finding out which way the stream is going.” – Alan Watts


Autumn 2014


November 10th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Paradise


And they asked, “How do you get to the paradise land?”  He said:  “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is ‘or ‘there it is’.  Rather, the paradise land is spread out upon the earth and you do not see it.  What you seek is inside of you as much as it is outside of you.”  Gospel of Thomas



November 7th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Impatience


“When you plant seeds in the
garden, you don’t dig them up
every day to see if they have
sprouted yet. You simply water
them and clear away the weeds;
you know that the seeds will grow
in time. Similarly, just do your daily
practice and cultivate a kind heart.
Abandon impatience and instead be
content creating the causes for
goodness; the results will come
when they’re ready.”

 – Thubten Chodron -


October 30th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass
“In a Wonderland they lie, dreaming as the days go by, dreaming as the summers die. Ever drifting down the stream- lingering in the golden gleam. Life, what is it but a dream?” ― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Through the Looking Glass



October 21st, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Broken


“Do not despair.  If your heart can be broken, that means that it still works.”



September 2nd, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Starting Over


“I don’t start over.  You see, I just go on from one thing to another.  They’re all really the same.” – Diana Vreeland 




August 20th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Mystery

new york 1

“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” – Gerard van der Leeuw


New York


August 19th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Fred Braun: A Family History


Today’s post is courtesy of my reader, KC.  My previous writing on Fred Braun has developed a coterie, commenting on their fond memories of the iconic footwear.  Everyone is mystified as to what happened to Fred Braun and why the brand disappeared.  Several readers are even interested in reviving the brand themselves, and don’t know where to start.  KC, a relative of Fred Braun, stumbled on my blog and shared the following information in the comment section:


I found this article looking for more information about Fred Braun the man and his history. There is very little online. I found a newspaper article about his and his shoe company from 1961 among my grandmother’s old pictures. Based on the information in the article and other pictures we have, I believe Fred Braun is an Americanized name and that he was originally Frederick Braunschweig, my grandfather’s brother. The family was all in the leather business (tanners, hide salesmen, shoe distributors) in Germany before fleeing the Nazis. I’d be happy to share the article and pictures I have of him and if you find any more information about him or the company, I’d be interested.

I contacted KC, eager to learn more of what happened to Fred Braun.  He shared this New York Times article from August 15th, 1961:

Part of the cult-like following was due to Braun’s process.  The entire shoe was made by hand, by one artisan.  After going bankrupt once, Braun decided to listen to the customers.  He opened a store in Greenwich Village, and looked to customers for the opportunity to test the market.  And learn he did!  He charmingly explained:
“I’ll never forget the woman who told me that a certain bag made her face look too square.  Up until then, being a mere man, I had thought that handbags were only for carrying things.”
KC has been researching his family tree, and share this additional information:
This is assuming we’re right that he really is Frederick Braunschweig.   He married a woman named Renate. We don’t know much else about her. The article claims his mother had 6 children.  We only know about the 3 brothers but there may have been sisters we don’t know about, possibly they didn’t survive or were from a previous marriage.  This photo is of Fred and Renate cutting their wedding cake (date unknown).
We do know that Fred’s brother Theo (my grandfather) was a chemist in a tannery and his father, Issac, owned shoe stores/distributors in Munich and was in business with his wife’s (Sophie Muhlhauser) family.  Another thing we know is that Issac was killed in Munich.  Most likely murdered in the street by Nazi SA.  His grave is in Munich.  Sophie later attempted to escape to France, possibly to meet Fred. The article says he went to Strasbourg, a city known for tanners, which is just across the border from Zweibrucken, where Theo’s wife was born.  Sophie failed to make it to France and was later deported from Munich to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and killed there.
Left to right: Theo, Ralph (KC’s father), Anna (Theo’s wife), Fred.  Photo was taken in Lille, France circa 1940.

Please feel free to comment below with any additional information that you may have.   Thank you, KC, for sharing this wonderful article and information!

Image and article courtesy of the New York Times.

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