Versatile, dependable, and affordable, the Little Black Dress, or “LBD,” has become the fashion equivalent of a Model T Ford. In this illustrated lecture, historian Leslie Goddard, Ph.D., explores the history of this fashion icon. Learn how Chanel helped dissociate black from mourning, how Audrey Hepburn helped establish the LBD; and how it has been reinvented by everyone from Betty Boop to Versace.

Also Available:

Christmas at Marshall Field's
The Colorful History of The Little Black Dress

Holiday Themed Programs

Chicago's Bygone Department Stores
Chicago's Sweet Candy History
  • Screen or white wall on which to project slides
  • Projector and laptop, unless arrangements have been made for me to bring mine
  • Table for approx. 20-25 artifacts
  • Microphone (lapel preferred), if needed or desired by presenting organization

For decades, Chicago was home to some of the nation’s grandest department stores. Clustered mostly on State Street, stores like Marshall Field’s, Carson Pirie Scott, Sears, Wieboldt’s and Goldblatt’s set new standards for retail innovation, customer services and visual display. Generations of Chicagoans trekked to these stores for holiday shopping, celebrations, and fun. This nostalgic illustrated lecture revisits Chicago’s fabulous retail emporiums and explores their rise and fall.

This beautifully illustrated lecture explores the history and elegant artistry of afternoon tea. How and when did the custom of enjoying tea in the late afternoon begin? Why was it so important to the Edwardians in particular? And do you really have to hold your "pinkies up"? Learn correct tea etiquette, what a proper menu included, and why the custom of afternoon tea remains so enduringly appealing.

Did you know Cary Grant was supposed to star in It's a Wonderful Life? That the gym-floor-turned-swimming-pool was real? That the movie bombed at the box office? Even if you've seen the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life 150 times, you'll have fun exploring the movie's creation including how the script evolved, how the cast was chosen, and the technical challenges that were overcome. Enjoy rare photographs taken behind-the-scenes and find out what happened to the cast.

Requirements for most lectures:

America's First Ladies:
The Best, the Worst, and the Strangely Forgotten

For more than 150 years, Marshall Field and Co. reigned as Chicago's leading department store. This talk traces the store's history from 1852 to its demise in 2006. Photos, ads, postcards, and memorabilia trace the store's cherished traditions - the Walnut Room, the legendary window displays, and, of course, Frango Mints. [Based on Goddard's book, Remembering Marshall Field's, Arcadia, 2011.] (PLEASE NOTE: This is not the same program as Christmas at Marshall Field's. Scroll down for info on that.]

Gone With the Wind:

The Making of a Hollywood Classic

Go behind-the scenes of the one of the greatest movies ever made in this illustrated lecture.

Votes for Women

The 72-Year Struggle for Women's Suffrage

Explore the struggle from 1848 -- when the first call for women's votes was issued at Seneca Falls -- to 1920 when the 19th amendment gave all American women the vote.

Christmas in the Movies

The role of First Lady comes with no job description and no pay. Yet America's presidential spouses have wielded great influence and endured intense public scrutiny. In this fascinating lecture, we'll explore which First Ladies have ranked highest and lowest (or most in-between) with historians and why. Who do you think was best or worst? Why were some so vilified? And what might the future hold for the role of American First Lady?

For most its history, Chicago  produced one-third of the nation's candy.  You probably know some of them -- Brach's caramels, Mars Snickers bars, Wrigley's gum, Cracker Jack, Curtiss Baby Ruth bars, Tootsie Rolls, Frango Mints, Dove chocolates. Learn some of the history behind these tasty treats and explore what made Chicago such a powerful location for candymakers. Delicious! [Based on Goddard's book, Chicago's Sweet Candy History, published by Arcadia in 2012.]

This illustrated lecture and book review details the breathtaking rise and shocking fall of Theranos, chronicled in John Carreyrou’s acclaimed 2018 book Bad Blood. Theranos, the blood-testing company founded by Elizabeth Holmes. promised to revolutionize bloodtesting with a machine that could run dozens of tests off a single drop of blood. Backed by powerful investors, Theranos grew into a company valued at more than $9 billion. The only problem was that the technology didn’t work.​

Leslie Goddard

Bad Blood:
The Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes
Remembering Marshall Field's
The History and Rituals of Afternoon Tea

Nothing brings the holidays alive quite like a great holiday movie. What are the best and most beloved holiday films of all time? Join historian Leslie Goddard for an illustrated lecture and review of the book Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold. We’ll look back at some Hollywood classics --  including Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th St., A Christmas Story, Elf, White Christmas, and others -- to explore what makes each one a “Christmas movie”. Learn behind-the-scenes stories about each movie’s production, reception and legacy. It’s a glorious salute to why we love it when Hollywood does the holidays.

For many Chicagoans, no Christmas season was complete without a visit to Marshall Field and Co. We'll trace the store's holiday traditions, including the Walnut Room Christmas tree, the window displays, the toy department, and the catalogs. Ever have your photo taken with Santa in Cozy Cloud Cottage? Remember Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly? A fun and fascinating look at one of Chicago's most beloved holiday traditions. (NOTE: This is not the same program as Remembering Marshall Field's. Scroll up for info on that.) 


available for 2020

It's a Wonderful Life:
The Making of a Holiday Classic