Tag Archives: New York City

The Rest of New York

I was sorting through photo files this afternoon and realized I’d not made a general post about my recent trip to New York City.  My visit this time was a bit different, as my good friend Jill and I went with her twenty-four year old son Austin, who met up with two of his friends in the city.  Much of the time was spent showing her son and his one friend the sights they wanted to see.  It was really a treat, as I taught Austin in fifth grade.  Every teacher ought to be able to spend some time with former students after they become adults!

Actually much of the itinerary was set by Austin, who enjoys history (I wonder how that happened?)  He was in fourth grade when the attacks of 9/11 happened, and top on his list was the 9/11 Memorial and museum.  The last time I was in that area was before the museum opened, so it was a first-time visit for me as well.

There is simply no way to explain the impact of this museum.  Thankfully, there was a section of art, which helped me process it all.

When the above quote from the Aeneid was revealed at the museum, there was a bit of controversy about it having being taken out of context.  Regardless, it was a very moving wall, with the blue tiles that symbolized the way so many have described the blue of that September morning.

There was an entire gallery of art, and I especially loved these two quilted banners.  Reflections by Martha Kotter, and Cutting Off by Noriko Misawa.

We walked part of the way across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was just too hot to go the entire way, and besides, we were getting hungry.

I never get tired of Chinatown:  the colors and the smells and the people.

We don’t have a train station in our little town, so Grand Central was quite the experience.

And even though visitors generally can only see the ground floor, the Chrysler Building always amazes with the stunning Art Deco details and murals.

The New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died the week before we visited the city, and already he was remembered as the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue was named in his honor.

Across the street, Bergdorf Goodman decorated a window in his memory.

The next day was devoted to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Again, this was new to me.  The last few times I’ve been to the city, the islands were closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

I really enjoyed Ellis Island.  It is a site that all Americans need to visit, if for no other reason than to remind us that we are all immigrants.  The only building visitors see is this one, which was the big processing center.

“Immigrant luggage brought through Ellis Island…  One baggage handler said he could recognize the nationality of an immigrant by the style of baggage. ‘I take one look at the baggage,” he said, ‘and I can tell by the way the knots are tied around the bundles…'”

If there are clothes and textiles to be found, you know I’ll find them.  One section of the museum was devoted to some of the belongings brought to America by the newcomers.

In remembrance of John Lennon, in Central Park.

The settings on my camera somehow got messed up, and it produced the filtered photo above.  Taken on the top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the structure is Psycho Barn, by Cornelia Parker.

And I’ll leave you with this world class view.


Filed under Vintage Travel

Manus X Machina, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the best things about New York in the summer is that one gets to take in the costume exhibition at the Met.  I’ve been a bit critical of shows at the Met, as I  often feel like I’ve been bludgeoned over the head by the concept of the show, and in some ways, this one is no different.  But it really does not matter, because this exhibition is a delight to behold, concept or no concept.

And the concept is not so much handmade against machine made as it is the use of both in haute couture and in ready-to-wear.  In many of the examples, it was interesting to see how hand and machine are both crucial to the making of the garment.  Still, when all was said and experienced, the hand techniques of traditional couture come out looking ever so fine.

But let’s see what you think.  Because of the over-abundance of photos, I’m dividing this review into three posts.

The show is organized around six traditional garment maker’s crafts: embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, and leatherwork.  There is also an area that goes into the two types of haute couture workrooms, the tailleur (tailoring) and the flou (dressmaking).  Visitors are also treated to a selection of toiles, or muslins, the couturier’s pattern.

In the center of the exhibition is the dress seen in both photos above.  It’s by Chanel, and was chosen to show the confluence of hand and machine work.  The fabric of the dress is scuba fabric, and the train is silk that is printed,  and is both machine and hand embroidered.  You can barely see it in my photos, but on the dome there was a swirling projecting of the design of the train.  These projections of details were used in various places in the exhibition.


This 1957 dress was part of Yves Saint Laurent’s debut collection at Dior.  The dress is actually white, and though it looks like a free flowing trapeze design, it is actually quite structured as one would expect in a couture dress from the 1950s.

These two gowns are from Christian Dior’s 1949 fall collection, and it seems like the two are always displayed and photographed together.  On the left is “Junon” and on the right, “Venus.”  They were positioned next to an Alexander McQueen dress that I somehow neglected to photograph.  A note, these two gowns along with at least ten others were on display in 1996 in the Met’s Haute Couture exhibition.  I was surprised (and delighted) to see them.

Two designers, fifty years apart, hand embroidered coral on gowns.  On the left is a couture dress by Givenchy, 1963.  The ready-to-wear dress on the right is from Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

You can see that the Givenchy dress is almost all coral, while the McQueen one also has pearl beads and pieces of shell.

I cannot tell a lie – I adore this dress from Yves Saint Laurent, 1983.  The dress without the sequins was made in the Saint Laurent atelier, and then was sent to Maison Lesage for the application of the sequins so that it looks as if there are no seams at all.  It took 1500 hours to embroider this dress.

The sequins are actually silver instead of the gold in which they appear under the light, and can you tell how tiny they are?  It is an amazing dress.

Here are two of Norman Norell’s famous sequined gowns.  They almost look as if they could have come from the same collection, but this was a Norell standard.  The dress on the left is from 1965, and the one on the right dates to 1953.  Both are a combination of machine and hand work, as is much of upper level ready-to-wear.

In the background you can see three shiny dresses from Louis Vuitton, designed by Nicolas Ghesquiere.  The surface of each is decorated with tiny applied strips of metal.

This set of three dresses really gets to the heart of the concept.  The dress on the left is from Chanel, 1935.  It is hand embroidered with sequins on silk.  The middle dress is from Maison Margiela, 1996.  It is not sequined at all.  The “sequins” are actually printed onto the synthetic fabric.  And the dress on the right is a sort of combination of the two, being embroidered on machine sewn silk, but then over-printed to get the design.


This 1966 dress is from Givenchy.  The dress is machine sewn and hand finished, but what I thought was really interesting is that the feathers are glued onto the silk fabric.

How similar, but oh, so different are these two dresses! On the left, is a dress from Yves Saint Laurent, 1969.  I really should have gotten a closeup of the feathers, as the work was exquisite.  On the right, a 2013 dress from Iris van Herpen.  The “feathers” are made from silicone and the three gull skulls are covered with silicone.

Okay, I know the the Van Herpen is not for everyone, and this is where the contrast between hand and machine widens into a deep divide.  You can look at the previous comparisons and think, “I get it.”  But here you might be tempted to think, “This is cool, but is it where we are in fashion right now?”

I think it is super that the Van Herpens and Gareth Pughs of the world are looking beyond conventional materials in fashion, but I think the point of the exhibition could be better made with things that are more in line with fashion.  A good example is the Maison Margiela printed sequin dress above.  We look back in time to Paco Rabanne.  His metal and plastic clothes were creative and interesting, but they were also uncomfortable (according to Audrey Hepburn, at least) and we all did not end up wearing clothing made of metal and plastic bits.

I hate that my photos are so poor, but I had to include the dress on the left anyway.  It’s Raf Simons for Dior, and the surface of the dress is completely covered in rooster feathers, glued to the silk organza base.  On the right is an ensemble from Sarah Burton for McQueen, and is a cape and dress covered in ostrich and goose feathers, hand sewn onto silk.  The design was based on that of a moth’s wing.

This dress is by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.  It is haute couture, 2014.  The decoration is an interesting mix of cut cellophane, plastic sequins, and black duck feathers.  Machine sewn, hand embroidered, glued, and hand finished.  Manus X Machina.

Next up, artificial flowers and pleating.


Filed under Museums, Viewpoint

New York Styles, Spring & Summer, 1912

This 1912 catalog is a bit early to be a reference for most of the things in my clothing collection, but after spotting it at a market recently I decided to buy it anyway.  First of all, it was quite cheap.  But more importantly, it is on the cusp of where my collecting starts, around 1915.  It never hurts to know about what came before the eras that interest one most.

I’m unfamiliar with the Greenhut – Siegel Cooper Company of New York, but just from looking at the catalog it appears that they sold nice mid-range clothing, primarily for women, but with a smaller selection for children and men.  A quick internet search was very enlightening.

I learned that Siegel-Cooper was a huge New York City department store, opening in 1896 on Sixth Avenue as part of the famous Ladies Mile shopping area.  In 1904 the business was sold to Joseph Greenhut, but the shopping district was moving uptown, and  Greenhut – Siegel Cooper was never really successful.  The business folded in 1918.  The large building was then appropriated for use as a military hospital.  Over the years the building was converted to loft space, but today it still stands and is again home to retail establishments.

The fashions of 1912 are very different from the WWI era clothing of just a few years later.  It was the era of the narrow-hemmed “hobble skirts”, a fashion hoisted upon the world by Paris designer Paul Poiret.  While the skirts above are not very extreme in the style, you can see how an almost floor-length skirt might need to be a bit fuller in order to actually walk in it.

The dresses on this page are for teen girls and very young women, and so the hems are a bit shorter.

To me, the most striking aspect of these fashions are the hats worn with them.  The “Most Stylish and Becoming Dress Hat” seen above is large enough to do double duty a a bed for a small dog.  I’ve not pictured them, but there were several pages of  “hair goods” which were designed to beef up the wearer’s own hair so the hats would not flop over.  The buyer had to send in a sample of her hair to ensure a proper match.

This was also the era of the lingerie dress.  Dresses offered ranged from $1.98 ($46.94 today) to $12.98 ($307.75).  The more elaborate the dress, the greater the cost.  The third dress from the left was made of embroidered net and was the most expensive lingerie dress in this catalog.

There was a page of bathing suits, some of wool, and others of cotton.  Not seen are the bloomers that were included with each dress.

While there was no mention of sports dresses or skirts, there were illustrations that suggested that certain styles were suitable for tennis and golf.

This great weskit or vest was not offered for sale at all.

There was a page of sweaters for sale.  Note the golf clubs and the tennis racquet.  These sweaters were considered to be a very casual style, suitable for sports and outings.  Today it is nearly impossible to find knitwear from this era.


Filed under Proper Clothing

New York City Miscellany

I found just a few more photos of New York City that I wanted to share.  This is the side of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, which is unfinished and is massive.  We stayed in this neighborhood, which is near Columbia University where my friend was attending a special class.

Also nearby was this pretty corner of Central Park.  Much of the park was closed due to the pathways being icy, but I enjoyed walking alongside it anyway.

I’m always amazed by the selection available in the Garment Center stores.  This is just a small section of the button room at M & J Trimmings.  It helps to go in with a list of things you have been looking for, otherwise the selection is overwhelming.  Side note:  the customer next to me was a costumer working on Finding Neverland, which was getting ready to open on Broadway.  Only in New York!

I know that looking up brands one as an out-of-towner, but I really couldn’t help myself.

I’ve been really, really wanting this tiny little Louis Vuitton trunk-inspired bag ever since it debuted on the runway last year.  Since it was featured in every magazine and blog I was a bit surprised to see it still available in such large numbers.  It might have something to do with the $5500 price tag.  That, for a bag that is so tiny it would hold a credit card, a lipstick and not much else.

Lovely Washington Square is always good for a bit of people-watching.

And finally, what I probably should have bought, but didn’t – Andy Warhol Converse Chuck Taylors.  I have a thing for art and fashion mash-ups, and these were right up my alley.  I know I can order them, but the moment has passed.



Filed under Viewpoint

The Brown Building, Location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

New York is so full of large, overwhelming buildings that it is easy to pass right by one without realizing its historic significance.  Such is the case with the Brown Building, which is part of the New York University campus and is located near the eastern edge of Greenwich Village.  Had I been there 104 years ago today, I would have been at the site of a tragedy, that of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

It’s hard to imagine the scene where 146 died needlessly because there were few laws to ensure the safety of workers, and those that were in place were often ignored.  But all that changed as the fire raised awareness of the poor working conditions in the city’s many factories and sweatshops.  A public that had formerly been apathetic toward poor workers, and in many cases even antagonistic toward them, now clearly saw that changes had to be made.

It probably helped that the factory was located only a block from the affluent Washington Square neighborhood.  Many people were out and about on that Saturday afternoon and witnessed the tragedy firsthand.

I’m not going to retell the story of what happened that day, but I strongly recommend watching the American Experience  episode that not only tells the story, but also explains the significance of the aftermath.

I think it is interesting that the Brown Building is still in existence.  The fire gutted much of the factory which was located on the top three floors, but much of the structure was left unharmed.  At any rate, I can imagine that if this happened today the building would be razed.


Filed under Fashion Issues, Textiles, Travel

Lombardy Frocks Sign

I know that looking up while visiting a big city labels one as a country bumpkin, but when looking for traces of the past, it pays to risk one’s sophisticated image.  The Lombardy Frocks building was located in the heart of New York City’s Garment District, on West 37th Street.  Lombardy was the maker of both Suzy Perette and Gigi Young dresses.  The sign is a reminder of the important activity that was taking place all over this area of Manhattan.

The garment-making industry in New York goes back to the 19th century, but the Garment District as we know it today was built primarily in the first three decades of the 20th century.  The area had been a poor residential area, but in the early years of the 20th century garment makers  began buying up the old apartments, tearing them down, and replacing them with high-rise factory buildings.

The building that came to house Lombardy Frocks in 1949 was originally the Noxall Waist & Dress Company.  You can see what is left of that sign below the Lombardy Dresses one.

It’s a bit hard to imagine this building housing workers at cutting tables and sewing machines, but the large windows that let in the natural light must have seemed very modern to workers, many of whom had worked in sweatshop conditions in older buildings downtown.

Lombardy Dresses and Suzy Perette were owned by the  Blauner family.  The “Perette Silhoutte” was based on the New Look of Christian Dior.  The Blauners would travel to Paris to buy the right to reproduce Dior models each season.

The Suzy Perette matchbook was a lucky find from my friend Tiffany of Pinkyagogo Vintage.  You can see the same logo that is on the sign, and if you look carefully and squint a bit, you can see the words the “perette” silhouette under the dress on the sign.

“the perette silhouette”… The shape that’s sweeping the country…Created with a revolutionary new method of construction, employing intricate gores and clever detailing which moulds your body into a flattering long torso line with a billowing skirt below.

And here is an example of a Suzy Perette dress, on the cover of the December, 1953 issue of Glamour magazine.


Filed under Curiosities, Made in the USA

Trip Time

It evidently is not cold enough here in North Carolina, because I’ll be traveling north with friends for the next week.  I’ll be in New York City just in time for New York Fashion Week, which I’ll be ignoring, and the Westminster Dog Show, which I may have to trick my friends into attending.  Otherwise it will be nonstop museum hopping and fabric shopping, with a bit of sight-seeing and warm bars and restaurants thrown in for fun.

There will be scheduled posts here while I’m gone, and I’ll try to check in to reply to comments.  I’ll be posting on Instagram as well, so check in for a preview of all the things I’ll find to write about here on The Vintage Traveler.


Filed under Vintage Travel