Tag Archives: NY

A Walk Through New York

People who know me know that I love to walk.  When I was teaching I’d walk home from school and I’d often have little kids stop me to ask me if I did not own a car.  I’m an early morning walker, and so I often get to see a place before it fully awakes.  At 7 AM even New York is a relatively sleepy city.

We were a little too late to see most of the Holiday windows and decorations.  It might have been January, but at Saks, spring had arrived.

The mannequins at Louis Vuitton were all set for a bit of travel.  That yellow would sure come in handy at the checked luggage carousel.

Herve Leger at Bergdorf Goodman.  Love the dress, love the window.

Of course the Bergdorf Goodman windows are so great that they now have their own book.   This display was in the little window beside the Fifth Avenue door.  Windows within the window.

Some of the jewelers were still in a festive mood.  Thank you, Harry Winston…

and Bulgari.

Here was a bit of Samsonite luggage to delight any lover of the city.  It’s called CityScapes.

And finally, a bit of yarn bombing.  It’s such a cozy little tree.

I know that some of you must be thinking that I’ve milked that New York trip long enough, and so you might be glad to know this is my final post about the city – at least until I visit again!


Filed under Viewpoint

The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology

One of the highlight of my trip to New York was a stop in at the Museum at FIT.  The current exhibition is called Fashion and Technology, a look at how changing technology has affected fashion design and garment production.  Don’t be misled by the name, thinking that all the garments are of modern, high tech fabrics.  The earliest garments in the show are a man’s coat and waistcoat, circa 1780-1800.  The items were made from machine knit fabric, the latest technological advance in the textile industry in 1780.

The five dresses shown above each illustrate a technology that we simply take for granted today.  The circa 1800 white dress is made from cotton, which was not easily manufactured until the invention of the cotton gin and the spinning jenny.  The circa 1844 brown dress is made of fabric woven on the new jacquard loom.  Note the sewing machine in front of the next white dress.  That dress shows a combination of both hand and machine stitching.  The last two dresses show advances in fabric finishes and dyes; the light brown dress has a moiré finish and the purple was dyed using the new to the 1860s aniline dye.

Note the computer screen in front of the white dress.  It shows the inner workings of the dress, letting the visitors see both the machine and the hand stitching present in the dress.  This was just one use of modern technology in the exhibition.  There were videos set up throughout the hall showing several runway shows that have incorporated technologies, including Burberry’s holograms and McQueen’s robotic paint sprayers.

The exhibition continues through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th.  There are some beautiful 1920s garments that show the influence of the the Art Deco movement and how technology influenced the design motifs of that era.  And the new technology of zippers is shown with a Schiaparelli dress and one by designer Charles James.

In this 1955 Charles James dress, the zipper helps to form the shape and fit of the gown.

With the 1950s and 60s came synthetic fabrics.  One really interesting dress was a “wash and wear” fabric dress by Claire McCardell which was displayed along with an ad for a washing machine (or maybe it was for powdered soap; I lost my note on it).

The photo above shows some of the interesting fabrics of the 1960s.  Starting on the left you see a pair of “space age” inspired boots and a dress by French designer André Courrèges.  The first pink dress is made from paper, and the second one is a dress from Pierre Cardin, made from a heat molded fabric.  There is a plastic disc dress from Paco Rabanne, circa 1965, and a jumpsuit by Emilio Pucci made of an elasticized silk shantung fabric, “Emilioform.”  Finally, the yellow coat is made by Yves Saint Laurent from PVC.

Here’s a closer look at the Courrèges and the paper dress.

No talk about technology and fabrics would be complete without a look at Ultrasuede®.  The suit on the left is by Halston, circa 1975.  On the right is a dress from Mary McFadden made from her signature poly pleated fabric.  And don’t miss the platform shoes with the built-in wheels.

On the left is a Pleats Please dress from  Issey Miyake , 1997.  The hologram ensemble is from Kenneth Richards. 1996.  And the jumpsuit is Jean Paul Gaultier’s look at cyberspace, 1996.

And of course, in the past few years, we have seen more and more influences from technology:  Gareth Pugh, 2012, Louise Gray, 2012, and Mandy Coon, 2013.

Fashion and Technology runs through May8, 2013, and if you are going to be in the New York City area, you really should make time to see it.  I went with my two friends, neither of whom gives a whit about fashion history (or so they thought) but both of whom were completely absorbed in the experience.  The only disappointment was that this was the only exhibition, as Ivy Style had just closed, and it left them wanting more.

The small photos are clickable to see enlargements.

All photographs copyright and courtesy of The Museum at FIT, New York.  To see more of the exhibition, visit the special website that FIT has set up for it.


Filed under Museums

Art and Fashion

Last week I lamented the fact that the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York did not have an exhibition while I was there.  But even without actual clothing on display, one can always get a nice dose of fashion at an art museum just by observing the paintings and the people portrayed within.  Fashion historians often closely scrutinize the clothing in paintings, especially those painted before the photograph came along.

I’m always amazed by the skill that many painters show in recreating the details of dress.  Laces in particular would seen to be hard to show, with their quality of being both opaque and see-through.

This Gilbert Stuart portrait of Matilda Stroughton de Jaudenes, painted in 1794 gives an excellent view of her dress and the rich embroideries and laces on it.  She was just married to  a wealthy Spanish diplomat, and the richness of her dress reflects her new status.

This portrait of Euphemia White Van Rensselaer was painted by George P. A. Healy in 1842.  Note how well he captured the texture of the fabrics worn by Euphemia – the velvet trimmed in satin and the moire skirt are quite evident.  Healy even managed to make the feathers on her bonnet look soft.

Often it helps to know the back story of a painting in order not to get a confusing picture of the fashions of an era.  In 1883 John Singer Sargent approached Madame Pierre Gautreau and she eventually allowed him to paint her.  She was well-known in Paris for her daring style and beauty, which Sargent was determined to emphasize.  Although sleeveless dresses were not unheard of at that level of society, to most of the viewers at the 1884 Paris Salon it was scandalous.  It did not help that one of the jeweled straps had dropped off her shoulder, and eventually Sargent had to give in and repaint it in its proper place.

UPDATE:  Here is a photo showing the painting before Sargent made the changes.

In the same room at the Met is probably my very favorite Singer painting, the wedding portrait of Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, 1897.  Originally Mrs. Stokes was to wear a satin evening gown, but one day she arrived at her sitting in the walking outfit shown above.  Sargent loved the look so much that he changed his mind and painted her in it.  It must have seemed so modern for a woman to be shown in her outing clothes.  That’s her new husband standing behind her.  Originally Sargent was going to paint a Great Dane, but when the dog became unavailable, the husband stepped in to finish the composition.

Off topic, but very interesting:  Mrs. Stokes was Edith Minturn, and was the aunt of Edie Sedgwick who was named for her aunt.

I think it is interesting how much more modern Edith Stokes looks than do these two women, painted in 1909 by William McGregor Paxton.  In Tea Leaves, the women somehow look as they are merely a part of the room.  Still, the fashions of the era are nicely captured.

This painting by Winslow Homer, Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts, was painted in 1870.  What is notable about the painting is the lack of coverage the clothing provides for two of the bathers.  When the painting was adapted as an illustration for a popular magazine, the engraver added stockings and the little dog was replaced with the girl’s missing cap.

The painting above is by Claude Monet, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, 1867.  He is one of the artists featured in the exhibition, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity.  It started out at the Musee d’Orsey in Paris, and will open at the Met (in a slightly different form) on February 20 and at the Art Institute of Chicago in June.  I just put the companion book on my wishlist at Amazon and an early fall trip to Chicago sure sounds like the thing to do.

And I’ve got one last painting to share:

I fell in love with Ammi Philips’ Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog, 1834-1836 not because of her dress, but because of the sweet-faced dog and the frilly pantaloons peeking from beneath the dress.


Filed under Museums, Viewpoint