The Shoe Guru Steps Up for the Costume Council







The sky-high heels of Chicago-born shoe designer Brian Atwood attracted members of the Chicago History Museum’s Costume Council, always au courant from head to toe, to a sold-out spring luncheon that raised $30,000 for the museum. Citing clients Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Chastain, Atwood, who also designed Lady Gaga’s 30th birthday shoes, has said, “Six-inch heels aren’t just for 20 year olds.” Unsurprisingly, a raffle of Brian Atwood shoes brought the audience to their feet.


“There was so much energy in the crowd,” commented  former Costume Council president Noren Ungaretti. “And, of course, as at every Costume Council event, everyone was beautifully dressed.  Best of all this was also a beautiful crowd.  Brian is terrifically handsome but his physical presence is eclipsed by his personal charm.   Even better, Brian has a very personable family, his mother and sister attended the event, and there is a clear family tendency to beauty, charm and excellent style. Especially in bags and shoes.
I did not know Brian worked with Gianni and Donatella Versace and became very close with both of them.  Brain told his story of being with Donatella the day Gianni was brutally murdered by Andrew Cunanan.  That event seems so long ago in some ways but Brian’s account was vivid and clearly still a very painful memory for him.”

Brian Atwood and Dusty Stemer, Brian’s mother and event co-chair.


A raffle of Brian Atwood Shoes.

The former fashion model and the first American designer to be hired by Gianni Versace was delighted that his mother, Dusty Stemer, co-chaired the event with Costume Council members Toni Canada and Melissa Skoog.


Table setting.


Event co-chairs Dusty Stemer, Melissa Skoog, and Toni Canada.


Guests enjoy the luncheon.

Current President Courtney Hopkins joins the long line of discerning and dedicated Costume Council presidents, including Abra Wilkin, Lawrie Weed, Alison de Frise, Cynthia Hedlund, April Schink, Laura Barnett, Bonnie Deutsch, Noren Ungaretti, Nena Ivon, and Kristin Smith.


Courtney Hopkins, Costume Council President; Cathy Smith; and Cheryl Hyman, trustee of the Chicago History Museum.

Through the support of the Costume Council, the Chicago History Museum has maintained a thriving costume collection and operated a conservation lab that manages and sustains this critical aspect of its holdings considered one of the finest and most extensive in the country. 

Chicago dressmakers, milliners, and manufacturers have created many of the Museum’s artifacts. The costume holdings encompass a number of items worn by prominent Chicagoans and Americans, including personal items belonging to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Michael Jordan’s basketball uniform, and Mahalia Jackson’s choir robe. The earliest pieces include suits worn by George Washington and John Adams. The Museum’s extensive couture collection ranges from Charles Worth gowns to the innovative designs of Yohji Yamamoto.


Toni Canada and Peggy Martay.


Michael Iacono and Sherry Holson.


Felicia Lawrence and Lacretia Capista.


Toni Canada, Brian Atwood, and Megan Chody.


Melissa Skoog and Mary Jeanne Kneen.


David Sanchez and Zak Stemer.


Bridget Brennen and Karen Zupko.


Peggy Martay, Irene Michaels, Karen Peters, and Simona Garcia.


Nina Mariano and Toni Canada.


Myra Reilly and Marit Bohbot.

For more about the Chicago History Museum and its magnificent costume collection, visit

Photo credit: Mila Samokhina