The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.

Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.


Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.

A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

the wes anderson style: an interview with milena canonero

A deserving winner of countless awards this season, The Grand Budapest Hotel has been recognised for their outstanding costumes by the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAG Awards and Costume Designers Guild to name but a few.

Ahead of the Academy Awards we are sharing an exclusive interview with Costume Designer Milena Canonero from the pages of The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel on the work that goes into creating a whimsical, Wes Anderson wardrobe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel published by Abrams Books
The Grand Budapest Hotel published by Abrams Books

Milena Canonero grew up in Genoa, Italy, before moving to England to finish her studies.  Canonero’s film career started with Stanley Kubrick when she designed the costumes for three of his films: A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975, for which she won the first of her three Academy Awards), and The Shining (1980). She has worked with Alan Parker (Midnight Express, 1978), Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire, 1981, for which she won her second Oscar), Francis Ford Coppola (The Cotton Club, 1984; The Godfather: Part III, 1990), Sydney Pollock (Out of Africa, 1985), Louis Malle (Damage, 1992), Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy, 1990; Bulworth, 1998), Julie Taymor (Titus, 1999), Roman Polanski (Carnage, 2011), and Manoel de Oliveira (Belle toujours, 2006). Her work with Sofia Coppola on Marie Antoinette (2006) brought Canonero her third Oscar. She has collaborated with Wes Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).


Matt Zoller Seitz: Were you familiar with Wes Anderson’s films before you started work on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? What did you think of his movies as visual statements? 

Milena Canonero: I had seen his movies and how his work had evolved into a sophisticated, highly personal cinematic style. Wes is not only a film director, but an author. Like a great painter’s, his work is very identifiable, and unique to him. His visionary world is very inspiring; I completely submerge myself into it.

What is it like to work with him on a day-to-day level?

Wes is particular about details, and so am I. He is very specific, and yet he also leaves you a lot of space. He wants input and ideas. The “look” of the characters, when not specified in the script, evolved over the course of much discussion. I have continuous exchanges with Wes via e-mail, his favourite medium lately, but he is also very available in person, even when he’s under the pressure of a film shoot. I work closely with the production designer and the cinematography, so that everything comes together as a whole—especially in the overall colour palette of the movie. Colours have their own music, and Wes cares a lot that they are the right notes.

How did Wes describe the world of this film to you? Did he have any specific or general suggestions for how he wanted the clothes to look?

He told me he wanted to set the movie in an invented northern European Teutonic country, sometime in the 1930s, and for the opening sequence in the 1960s, he wanted Eastern European tones. Most of the story would take place in a luxurious mountain hotel resort and the surrounding area. Of course, this being a Wes Anderson movie, the title had nothing to do with the city of Budapest. Therefore, the look could be inventive, with historical innuendos, but at the same time accurate. This story is told through memories and therefore we could develop the look that was able to freeze the image in your mind. Wes’s references of Austrian and German writers, artists of the pre–Second World War period, were a good guideline, but also I looked at the work of August Sander, a great German photographer of the thirties, as well as at old movies and other sources. Of course, during the creative process, the final look of each character evolved. For instance, at the beginning, Ralph Fiennes’s character, M. Gustave, was supposed to be quite blond, with hair like the dyed blond hair of the very old ladies he goes to bed with. But then it seemed more suitable that he would have more realistic auburn hair, with golden highlights.

Production sketches by The Grand Budapest Hotel costume department. Early treatment of Dmitri.
























Were the clothes entirely original, or did you use some vintage items?

We made most of the clothes in our workshop in Görlitz. Some were made at Theaterkunst in Berlin, and all of the uniforms were made at Krzysztof’s costume workshop, Hero Collection, in Poland. I also rented and bought vintage clothes for the extras in the crowd scenes. One of the vintage shops we used in Berlin is called Mimi. Great shop.

How do you work out ideas for costumes before they’re sewn? Do you draw rough versions of them in a sketchbook and then have somebody do more elaborate illustrations when the ideas have settled a bit?

On the other two movies I did with Wes, The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited, I applied traditional sketching methods to design the look of the characters. On this one, our illustrators used both Photoshop and traditional sketching to incorporate Wes’s and my own ideas. With Photoshop we could get very close to the actors’ likenesses, and then easily do variations and send them to Wes via e-mail. The actors were very pleased because they could relate easily to how their character would look. Having worked on two of Wes’s other movies, I had already worked with some of his “ensemble” actors and it was interesting to change them again to these other characters. Wes had decided that all the men in the movie would have moustaches or beards, save for Jopling and the nasty sergeant in the train. I loved this idea, and it is curious that hardly anyone notices this detail—but it gives a style to the men’s looks.

Production sketches by The Grand Budapest Hotel costume department

What are some of the materials that you used most often when designing the costumes for this film? Were there particular materials that you considered “workhorse” materials—ones that you perhaps used more often than others?

The purple and mauve facecloth, which is a very densely woven wool used for military uniforms. I wanted to avoid being too classical and using typical subdued colours for the hotel uniforms. I showed Wes the purple and mauve facecloth from an old swatch book from a company called Hainsworth in London. Wes was immediately taken by those colours, which worked beautifully with the set. Then the nightmare began, because I could not find the volume of fabric in that shade anymore, and time wasn’t on our side! But just in the nick of time, we discovered a German company, Mehler, who came to our rescue with an identical fabric, as well as so many of the other great colours that I needed for the movie.

What influences did you bring to bear on the hotel staff’s uniforms?

I used the cut and style of real uniforms of that period, and also many photos of high-end luxury hotel staff.

Can you describe the look of Ralph Fiennes’s character, M. Gustave? What did you hope to convey about the character based on his clothing?

M. Gustave, from the top of his hair to the tip of his shoes, had to give us a sense of perfection and control. He had to be able to move with elegance and freedom. Even when the world he knows collapses, he still maintains his sense of style. This is not at all difficult when you’re working with an accomplished actor like Ralph. It was delicious to watch him perform, and he is a great person to work with.

Production sketches by The Grand Budapest Hotel’s costume department, a mix of illustration and Photoshop
Production sketches by The Grand Budapest Hotel costume department

What are Tilda Swinton’s clothes made of?

Silk velvet, for both the dress and the coat. Then I had it hand-painted with design patterns inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt. Tilda’s character, Madame D., is eighty-four years old. We had to age her, and a great team from London did that beautifully. Wes described her as a great eccentric beauty and an art collector, belonging outside the fashion of her present time. Therefore I designed the clothes in a retro style, like that of the early twenties. Wes liked that. She just went for this look with incredible ease and so much humour. Fendi, with whom we had a relationship, contributed by making Madame D.’s muff for us, as well as the black diamond mink fur trimmings on her cape and hat. Fendi also made the gray Astrakhan fur overcoat I designed for Edward Norton, and they gave us all the furs I wanted for the movie. Nowadays, movies need the generous input of patrons from the fashion world to help with our costume budgets.

Production sketches by The Grand Budapest Hotel Costume Department Production sketch of Madame D.


Can you tell me a little bit about the look of Willem Dafoe’s character, the assassin Jopling?

The design of Jopling’s leather coat was based on the coats of 1930s military dispatch riders. Our tailor made the toile, and we sent it to Prada, who generously manufactured the coat for us. When we got it back from them, we lined it with a red super-fine wool, and constructed the inside of the front lapel to contain the weapons arsenal as Wes had described it in his script. We made gauntlets gloves, but these were never used, as Wes liked to see the beautiful knuckle-dusters that Waris Ahluwalia had designed and made especially for us, with a skeleton head for each finger. Waris, an actor who has appeared in several of Wes’s movies and here plays one of the concierges, is also a terrific jeweller.

How would you describe the director’s own sense of style, as he appears in daily life?

The Wes Anderson style.

Images and Text from The Grand Budapest Hotel © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Barbra Streisand: In the Camera Eye

James Spada On His New Book “Streisand: In the Camera Eye”

This is my fourth book about Barbra Streisand—I plead guilty to being a fan! Two of those earlier books were more than 50% photographs (the other was an in-depth biography. My challenge with this one, then, was finding as many previously unseen or rare photos as possible. I feel pride in the fact that I was able to do that to a very great extent with this new book.

My favourite photo in the book is the never-before-published cover shot by Cecil Beaton of Barbra as Melinda Tentrees in the 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Barbra was at her most beautiful, and the photo itself illustrates Beaton’s comment that Barbra’s face “is a painting from several historical eras.” There are four other unpublished Beaton portraits from the film in the book.


I was also very pleased to be able to use four unseen shots from Barbra’s very first studio photo shoot in 1960, when she was still singing in  small clubs in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. They were taken by a friend of a friend, Craig Simpson, who was a photographer’s assistant. The negatives were buried in Mr. Simpson’s basement in Northern California for more than fifty years. Despite being terminally ill with cancer, he was kind enough to dig them out for me. He passed away last year, and I’m so pleased that his photos will finally be seen in my book.

There are many other previously unpublished photos in “Streisand: In the Camera Eye”—gorgeous high-fashion shots by Philippe Halsman from 1965; photos taken in 1963 for a Look magazine story that were never used; unseen images from all her films; gorgeous, sexy shots by Mario Casilli taken in 1979 and 1982; photos from A Star is Born and The Main Event by Francesco Scavullo, and lovely onstage shots from Barbra’s most recent concert tour in 2012-13.

All told, I believe that even the most devoted Streisand fans will find much to delight and amaze them in this book.

Streisand: In the Camera Eye is available now!