A Daily Conversation About Dallas


How Dallas Saved Fashion History

| 2 days ago

One of the most valuable fashion collections in the nation is housed inside a dusty orange building in Denton, next to the counseling office at the University of North Texas. The structure is little more than 4,500 square feet of concrete and cold air, but its cultural cachet is irreplaceable. The Texas Fashion Collection contains everything from 18th-century coats to modern-day Alexander McQueen dresses, maternity gear to streetwear, couture treasures to home-ec experiments. There are bridal gowns, lingerie, and ceremonial ensembles from indigenous cultures. Accessories include nearly 1,400 pairs of shoes, 2,500 hats, and 750 handbags. Altogether, there are almost 20,000 pieces.

The trove of designer labels includes 387 designs by Hubert Givenchy, 301 by Oscar de la Renta, 151 from the House of Dior, and an impressive 340 by Cristobal Balenciaga. It is believed to be the largest holding of the designer’s work in the world aside from Balenciaga’s own archive.

The seeds of the collection were planted by the Marcus brothers—Stanley, Edward, Lawrence, and Herbert Jr.—who began gathering 20th-century styles, some say, in the late 1930s. They named it in honor of their aunt, Carrie Marcus Neiman, upon her death in 1953. She co-founded Neiman Marcus with their father and had donated pieces from her wardrobe. The brothers made a point of keeping the collection in Dallas, though offers came to take it east. It eventually was put in the care of the Dallas Fashion Group, which bestowed what was then a few thousand garments to UNT’s fashion design program in 1972 to serve as a resource for its students. It has since become a resource for artists, authors, and curators near and far.

Vogue’s Hamish Bowles has visited. So has Akiko Fukai, curator of Japan’s famed Kyoto Costume Institute. André Leon Talley borrowed pieces when he was putting together the posthumous Oscar de la Renta exhibition, as did the Kimbell Art Museum for last year’s blockbuster “Balenciaga in Black.” The Dallas Embroidery Guild recently took a tour, and designers from Dickies stopped by to study denim styles over the decades. Last year, about 3,500 people accessed the collection for one reason or another.

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How To Miss a Bull Market

| 6 days ago

This is all terribly personal and embarrassing, so let me tell you what I can share about our main character, that hapless soul, without violating his trust. He is approaching his 50th birthday, which seems impossible to him. He has been married for 23 years to an industrious woman who has borne two beautiful children. One attends a state university with a porcine mascot, and the other is an eighth-grader at a Dallas private school. His wife owns a thriving small business. He is the editor of a respected magazine whose subscribers have an audit-verified median household income of $340,000.

When they got married, he and his wife were directed to a financial planner whom they implicitly trusted because the planner had worked for a family member. One bit of advice he remembers receiving early on was that fretting over his 401(k) statements and the like would be a waste of time, because growing one’s net worth takes time, and he had lots of it. There would be fluctuations. No matter. He and his industrious wife should just keep plugging away, spending less than they earned, putting aside what they could. That is what they did.

2008 came and went without destroying the couple, mainly because they didn’t have all that much to destroy. The planner performed valuable services, to be sure, buying life insurance policies, establishing 529 plans for the kids’ educations. All along, the planner reminded his clients that his was a conservative approach. There would be no outsize returns, but neither would there be catastrophic losses.

Then one day earlier this year, our main character and his wife went to visit their planner for their annual check-in. By that point, the planner had hired a junior associate at the firm who had assumed the advisory role once played by the planner, presumably because our main character’s meager accounts no longer merited the attention of the man whose name was etched on the firm’s glass door. But, hey, our main character knew that journalism, in most cases, wasn’t a path to riches. The junior associate reviewed the numbers, which he projected onto an impressively large screen in a conference room. “If we assume a 9 percent annual return,” said the junior associate, “here’s what you can expect when you retire. You’re on track.”

This was how the check-ins always went. Everything always looked on track. Our main character, painfully aware of his own financial ignorance, would mostly just nod and agree that, yes, it would be nice if he could put more money aside, but the house needed a new roof and so on and so forth. And wasn’t that why he was annually paying 1.5 percent of assets under management? To have the planner or at least the planner’s junior associate worry about his money and tell him if things weren’t on track?

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The Short, Wild Run of Dallas’ First Professional Women’s Basketball Team

| 1 week ago

Fake diamonds, fresh hairdos, and Martina Navratilova. That’s what Dallas Diamonds owner Jud Phillips was banking on to draw the crowds to the Dallas Convention Center Arena for the first home game of the city’s first professional women’s basketball team on November 27, 1979. To be more precise, it was the city’s only professional basketball team. The NBA wouldn’t bring the Mavericks to town for another year. So the 28-year-old Phillips was breaking all-new ground.

He had managed to sign a sponsorship deal with Zales that would put all 36 of the season’s games on the radio. And for the opening-night promotion, everyone who bought a ticket would receive a diamond, one of which would be real. Of course, the only way to find out if you were the lucky winner was to visit a Zales store.

To add some sex appeal, the team’s official stylists, J.D. & We, held a marathon hair-styling session a few days prior to the game. According to the Dallas Times Herald, though, it was more about strategy than sex. The paper reported that all of the players received “new hairdos so they won’t be bothered by hair in the face at the free throw line.”

In a last-minute coup, the team’s PR manager had convinced Martina Navratilova, a Dallas resident who had just won her second Wimbledon title, to toss up the ceremonial jump ball.

At the end of that Tuesday night, Phillips heaved a sigh of relief. The young team owner was pleased with the turnout of 2,477 and the 116–100 victory over the California Dreams. The future shone bright like a diamond. The only question was, was it real or fake?

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Health & Medicine

A Medical Mystery, Unfolding on Facebook

| 1 month ago

When I was 3 years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The chronic disease has never been a big deal for me. It’s obnoxious, sure, but manageable. Over the course of my 34 years, I estimate I’ve given myself some 55,000 injections. I’ve worked hard to stay healthy. I have run a few half-marathons and completed a full. I’m not a fast runner, and I never particularly enjoyed it, but I knew my diabetes would catch up to me at some point, so I ran because I could.

About three and a half years ago, everything changed. I was part of a group of women called Leadership Texas. It was a yearlong program with which we traveled to different cities and learned about the people making a difference. One of our sessions was in Amarillo. The second day of the trip, on a Saturday, I woke up in my hotel room soaked in sweat. Every part of my body was swollen. I couldn’t bend my fingers, my toes, my elbows, or my knees. I was exhausted beyond description.

I had joined a study a year and a half prior to see if a medicine that is used on Type 2 diabetics could work for Type 1s. It had been a great 18 months, with lower blood sugars and weight loss. But then I changed jobs and, thus, insurance companies. The new company didn’t like the name-brand drug. They made me switch to a generic.

That morning in Amarillo, I figured I was having a reaction to this new drug. I was convinced that things would go back to normal in a few weeks. I was certain it was just a small bump in the road.

I was wrong.

What follows are my Facebook posts over the years, lightly edited, as I saw nearly a dozen doctors in an effort to figure out what was wrong with me.

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Killer Instinct

| 1 month ago

A rich old man moved from South Dakota to Texas to be closer to his prison pen pal, a woman serving 50 years for conspiracy to commit murder. Then he died mysteriously.

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Health & Medicine

The Doctor You See When Nothing Else Works

| 1 month ago

Juan Gutierrez didn’t notice it at first. It started slowly. He thought, I’m probably just tired or sore from sleeping wrong. But eventually his friends saw that he was having a hard time walking. Over the course of three years, his gait became more unsteady with each passing day. When simple motor functions go awry, the diagnosis often involves a brain problem, and Gutierrez did his best to avoid getting bad news. But he finally went to a doctor and was told he had a brain tumor. An MRI eliminated any doubt.

The only treatment, Gutierrez was informed, was a risky surgery on his brain stem. Before he went forward with the surgery, though, he decided to get a second opinion. That’s how Gutierrez found his way to UT Southwestern and Dr. Juan Pascual’s Rare Brain Disorder Program at the O’Donnell Brain Institute.

The son of a philosophy professor and a literature professor at the University of Málaga, in Spain, Pascual grew up surrounded by books. As a young man, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and study philosophy, but his father warned him away from that path. It would be too difficult to make a living as a philosopher, he told his son. He suggested that Pascual study medicine instead and apply philosophy to his practice. So that’s what he did.

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Arts District

Assessing the Dallas Arts District, 10 Years Later

| 1 month ago

Ten years ago this month, I stood on the 46th floor of the Chase Bank building on Ross Avenue, in downtown Dallas, looking out over the Arts District’s latest two major cultural facilities in their final stages of construction: the ruby-husked Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and the metal cube of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. The new facilities promised to transform the half-mile of Flora Street from the Dallas Museum of Art to One Arts Plaza into the largest contiguous arts district in the world. But that day a decade ago, I didn’t see a completed vision—only snippets of an elusive dream.

When the idea of the Arts District first surfaced, in the 1970s, the hope was to transform the northeast corner of downtown into a vibrant neighborhood. But walking Flora—then and now—feels more like trekking through a quiet corporate campus, albeit one flanked with impressive buildings designed by famous architects. When I wrote for D Magazine in 2009 about what 30-plus years of planning, investment, and civic ambition had failed to create in the Arts District, I turned to urban planner Kevin Lynch, who wrote about vibrant neighborhoods requiring “place legibility.” They must offer a physical—and, by extension, mental—network of paths, edges, nodes, and landmarks. I argued that the Arts District hadn’t yet developed place legibility. Less generously, one architecture critic simply called the area an “architectural zoo.”

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Dallas History

The Long, Troubled, and Often Bizarre History of the State Fair of Texas

| 2 months ago

Author and Dallas Times Herald columnist John Rogers once told a story that, during the 1890s, a woman went to the powerful Dallas business leader John Armstrong looking for a $5,000 loan to pay for additional labor at her business. It didn’t take long for Armstrong to surmise what the woman did. She was a madam of a brothel in downtown Dallas.

Prostitution was legal at the time, but the oldest profession was still frowned upon by the polite and ardently religious social circles of upper crust, of which Armstrong belonged. The banker and real estate developer asked the woman when she planned to pay the money back. After the State Fair, she said. Armstrong promptly signed off on the note. The State Fair, he knew, was good business for Dallas and he would likely see a return on his investment. Sure enough, after the run of the fair, the woman returned Armstrong’s money with interest.

The State Fair of Texas has long embodied many of the civic and social paradoxes that define Dallas. The State Fair is the ultimate celebration of Texas culture, tradition, food, and kitsch—the place where all the iconic stuff of Texas life, from football to cattle to music to truck sales, come together. But over the years it has also been the setting of protest, confrontation, shrewd haggling, political struggle, and social progress. As we settle into the 133rd edition of the fair, we look back at the long, strange trip of the State Fair of Texas.

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The Risky Mission to Move a Giant Bald Eagle Nest Out of an Oncor Tower

| 2 months ago

As far as two American bald eagles were concerned, it was the perfect place to build their nest. It was sturdy, with an arm of crisscrossed steel beams just waiting to support a patchwork of branches and carcasses. And it was about 80 feet off the ground, a detail important to birds practically synonymous with the freedom of an open sky. It must have seemed a glorious piece of real estate, dwarfing the scraggly trees that grow near the wetlands over which it loomed, an ideal aerie to lay eggs, to raise eaglets. 

But there was a problem. The eagles’ carefully selected new home sat on the arm of an Oncor transmission tower. Stick by stick, they were constructing their king-bed-size nest on 350,000 volts of electricity. 

John DeFillipo has served since 2010 as director of John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, located 30 minutes southeast of Dallas and about a mile from the Oncor transmission tower. He has been there since the doors first opened, and in 2012, he watched the eagles construct their nest. He was excited to be so close to the majestic birds, but he worried about the dangers of the electricity tower. One wrong move and the birds might fry. Laws prohibit tampering with eagle nests, though, so there wasn’t much the young director could do but watch and wait. 

He watched as the laid-back male eagle hunted for perfect sticks to bring to the female. If they didn’t meet her standards, she threw them out. Despite her fussiness, the two completed the nest and were soon taking turns incubating their eggs. Not long after that, they were taking turns doling out pieces of fish to their two new eaglets.

In the spring of 2013, DeFillipo hosted a meeting at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center with representatives from Oncor, the utility company, and Falcon Steel, the company that had erected the transmission tower. Ten people congregated near the quiet wetland to discuss how they could help the eagles avoid electrocution. 

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50(-ish) Small Town Festivals to Make Your Fall in North Texas More Fun

| 2 months ago

You may have eaten klobasniky and danced the Polka at Westfest. But have you celebrated the invention of the hamburger in Athens or the filming of Bonnie and Clyde in Pilot Point? North Texas is swimming in small town festivals. This fall, allow us to guide you along a farm-to-market road less traveled.

(While you’re at it, print out the Small Town Festivals 2019 Calendar here.)

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