Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night

Ho-ho-ho! Welcome to the Dollhouse - IF Style!

Join us in our annual pilgrimage as we show you some of the holiday windows in midtown Manhattan. In just a few square blocks, radiating from the epicenter, 57th Street and 5th Avenue, we had a cornucopia. A feast for the eyes, and then some. We put aside an evening, since the windows look so much better after dark (and since we mistakenly thought the crowds would be thinner). The trek never fails to imbue us with the spirit of the holiday season. For those of you who cannot make it to the Big Apple, kick back and tag along as we share our favorites with you. In On the Street in today's New York Times, Bill Cunningham says "Fifth Avenue and 57th Street is the epicenter of Christmas spirit in the city, the exuberance of the shoppers complemented by the shop windows." We couldn't agree more. (If you've got a copy of today's paper, look closely at the two women to the right of photo 13 on page 4 to see our friends Christina Viera and Suzanne Golden strutting their stuff for Mr. Cunningham!) To truly appreciate the images in our posting, please click on our photos to enlarge them.

For this assignment, we had to consider our outfits carefully, unsure how we would show up in the dark. Jean chose a very tall, textural hat, and a coat with a wide skirt so her silhouette would show up, even if her face might not. I wore a tall white hat, white coat and white boots to raise the odds that I would not get swallowed up in the dark. Henri Bendel - RADIO CITY DOLL HOUSE In addition to a six-foot neon Radio City sign that draws you in like a beacon, Henri Bendel's window features a doll-house townhouse that is a Peeping Tom's dream!

Each window tells a different story. The tableau in the lower right window involves three chic young babes ringing in the New Year and toasting with champagne. While one sits quietly in contemplation, another (in fishnets) dances on the table top and the third in the strapless dress perches on the shelf. The attention to detail is amazing - note the lobster and cupcakes on the table, the artwork on the walls, the presents on the shelf and the clock striking midnight. The top floor has a mirror on the ceiling so people on the street can get a fish eye's view of goings on. Brings playing with Barbie to a whole new level!

Life Imitates Art: Below, Valerie gets into the spirit in front of Bendel's, duplicating (well, SORT of duplicating) the pose of the stylized Lady Liberty walking her elegant hound who is sporting reindeer antlers.

Barneys - Fun House:

Lady GAGA's Workshop at Barneys

Fabulously stylized neon depictions of Lady Gaga greet customers at every entrance to the store and at the top of the main stairway. As you step off the elevator on the 5th floor, you encounter this giant replica of a Pepto Bismol pink-clad yellow-nailed reclining Lady Gaga. The men's section has been transformed by Barneys for the holiday season into a fun-house-like atmosphere with products in a wide variety of price ranges (under $10 dollars to over $4000), with 25% of the proceeds donated to the Made this Way anti-bullying charity co-founded by Lady Gaga and her mother.

Among the items for sale are wax bust candles by Douglas Little in colors like blue, white and black. We cannot imagine anyone actually burning one of them into oblivion. Their crystal-like shape is reminiscent of Superman's Fortress of Solitude!

Clever, colorful Gaga-inspired cutouts fill the space. The green Gaga-headed spider is Jean's favorite.

In Case of Emergency, Break Glass
. Jean says: We like to fantasy shop at exhibitions and galleries and openings and select our favorite items, as if money were no object. (To paraphrase Bette Davis in Whatever happened to Baby Jane? "... but it (money) is, Blanche, it is!") Anyway, were I as rich as Daphne Guinness, I would have bought these shoes (in black, of course). They are handmade Night Maker shoes by Noritaka Tatehana.

The setting for Lady Gaga's Workshop is spectacular. The custom-painted walls add to the fun-house atmosphere, providing the perfect op art backdrop for our photo op, especially for Valerie's black and white outfit! (Valerie says: where did I get that expression?! At least this proves I am not using botox!)

Nails are a recurring theme in the workshop. The extremely long nails on the large pink Lady Gaga statue are duplicated in the displays suspended from the ceiling.

Jean bought two items made out of candy: a pair of giant outsized lips (top lip red and bottom lip black) on a a lollipop stick and a ring that is a full-sized purple finger with a long black fingernail, reminiscent of Lady Gaga's nails in the window display (see window photos below). The shopping bags themselves are collectors' items.

Barneys Windows: More Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga dominated Barneys windows. We asked (harassed?) a very nice gentleman to take our photo. He said he was bringing his daughter the next afternoon to see the workshop. This was the photo in which he cut off our feet. This is but one of the many risks we run when we hand our cameras over to people who think the face is all. :)

Lady Gaga's Boudoir is constructed entirely out of faux hair: the furniture, the rug, the curtains, the chair. Apparently, one of the hottest items (which sold out weeks ago) at Lady Gaga's Workshop was a headband with a faux-hair bow.

Here is a close-up of the talon-like nails and hair-covered hand.

Even Lady Gaga's stockings are constructed of long back filaments of hair. Our favorite item in the window? The black braided platform shoes! They resemble woven raffia platform espadrilles.

The southwestern window on Madison Avenue is dominated by an anthropomorphic, aerodynamic Lady Gaga Speed Machine -- pop star as motorcycle! Who'd a thunk it? The line of neon lights in the background light up in a rapidly changing sequence that gives the illusion of motion. If you scroll to the bottom, you can see a short video that shows you the entire sequence of the lighting, as well as Jean doing a cameo in front of the window.

Lady Gaga Crystal Cave windows - one of which faces Madison Avenue and the other of which faces 57th Street - give a three-dimensional glimpse of a turquoise underwater world.

The Star at 57th and Fifth: The iconic crystal star dominates the sky at the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, lighting the way for tourists, shoppers and residents alike.


Tiffany's: "Carousel of Animals"

You can practically hear organ music in the background. The tops of the carousel with their familiar white light bulbs are hung from the front of Tiffany's, above the windows. Inside the windows are shadow boxes with glimpses of colorful carousel animals like the rabbit, reindeer and zebra. Some of the windows had moving parts. Scroll down to the bottom of today's posting to see brief videos showing those windows.

Bergdorf Goodman's - "Carnival of Animals" Horses:

The windows facing 57th Street contain evening gown-clad mannequins surrounded by or riding horses of varying sizes.


This vignette of a trio of bird-headed ladies posing for a photographer faces the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel. Look closely at the painted backdrop to see the fantastical winged reindeer flying past snow covered mountain peaks.

Mice: In a small shadow-box window on Madison Avenue surrounded by jeweled minaudieres under a crystal chandelier are an adorable trio of performing circus mice: a ring master, gymnast and ballerina. The closeup of the gymnast balancing precariously on his ball shows the gorgeous costuming. You can even see the ballerina's reflection in the mirror.


This crimson mannequin is surrounded by fabric-covered feline figures. The closeup is of the wild-eyed, wide-mouthed cat which appears in the left of the photo (to the mannequin's right).

Ermine: This black and white window on Fifth Avenue is breathtakingly beautiful. With the exception of the model, everything is made of paper! Jean's sentimental favorites are the two lace doiley-covered ermines lounging at the foot of the mannequin. They're even wearing little golden masks. How fabulous!

Van Cleef & Arpels - "Bals de Legende":

Depicted in Art Deco silhouettes are famous balls. In this particular installation, the gondolier rows his boat forward and backward languidly and endlessly as the figures in the balcony move about. Each in the series is artfully constructed and fascinating to look at. They are most effectively viewed at night.

Saks Fifth Avenue - "Land of the Bubbles":

Further down Fifth Avenue, Saks features a series of windows inhabited by mostly female designer-clad mannequins hard at work operating a series of Rube Goldberg-style contraptions whose primary function is to produce bubbles. Behind each of the figures in the windows runs a long, low wooden basin through which a raven-haired figure rides a big-wheeled bicycle back and forth, to keep the bubble mixture bubbly. Scroll down for videos of these.

Anthropologie - "Air - Breathe!": On a side street across from the tree at Rockefeller Plaza is Anthropologie's window featuring a big wooden structure affixed with white rectangular bags that rhythmically inflates and deflates as if powered by an unseen breathing machine. It's the post-modernist/up-cycling Christmas.

Fendi and Cartier Holiday Bows:

Opting to decorate their entire buildings, not just their windows, Fendi and Cartier constructed huge twinkling bows. Fendi's black outlined white bow cascades down the front of the building. Cartier's crimson bow encircles the building like a gift box.

VIDEOS: Thought we'd make life easier at Christmas by just uploading a few videos. Ha! Turns out a video takes about one minute to upload per second of its length. So a lot of time was spent babysitting the computer. Lesson learned. Still, enjoy the sights and sounds.

Tekkie question: We've noticed that our perfectly good videos upload slightly cut off on the right hand side. Anyone know what we're doing wrong? If you're our age, you probably don't. If you have a 12-17 year old child or grandchild, would you please ask them for us? Thanks!!!

Lady Gaga window at Barneys, with cameo by Jean

Behind the Scenes at the Lady Gaga Crystal Cave:

The magic doesn't just come from nowhere. Somebody's gotta be in charge of it. Seeing this is a bit like seeing Toto pull the curtain away to reveal the homely Wizard of Oz.

Coach did separate cartoon videos for each of its four picture windows on the corner of 57th Street and Madison Avenue. Each cartoon contains one or more vignettes. Lots of jolly little surprises. If you look closely, you'll see that certain rectangular shapes have been replaced by the signature Coach tag. They're all New York City-specific, so one wonders what they did for their windows in other cities. (If you know, write and tell us!)

The first Coach window shows the Rockefeller Center tree, with skaters in the skating rink, someone pushing a large present down the street, and someone getting walked by his enthusiastic dog. You'll notice the video was taken on an angle. The lighting was such that if we stood directly in front of the window, the video screen went stark white and all the details disappeared.

In the second Coach window, you can see the Empire State Building (both a distance and a close-up view, with people sightseeing at the top), the Chrysler Building, and a building of massive colored lights.

The third Coach window shows the Brooklyn Bridge, taxis and buses passing by, and what looks like Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. You can see the camera shakes occasionally. That's when Valerie, holding the camera in her right hand, tries to silently direct pedestrians with her left hand to go behind her rather than in front of her. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. New York was a rude place in the '70s, but we're a pretty cordial bunch now. It's lovely to see how many people go out of their way not to be the odd head that shows up in the middle of a picture. A few don't realize (they're probably checking e mail on their iPhones or zoning out with their mp3 players), and a few just really don't care, but most people smile, stop, and wait till you're done.

The fourth Coach window shows New York Harbor. There's the Statue of Liberty (who, due to a cruel trick of fate, mostly winds up behind a window frame that no moving to the left or right can ameliorate), Staten Island ferries, a tugboat and a cruise ship, all navigating the waters.

Tiffany: Wild Animals Stroll on Bridge in Central Park

Tiffany: Merry-Go-Round

First Saks Window:

Second Saks Window:

Third Saks Window:

Fourth Saks Window:

Fifth Saks Window:

Sixth Saks Window:

Seventh Saks Window:

Eighth Saks Window:

Saks Clockwork Wall:

We wanted to keep the videos short, so we only filmed each one long enough to give the general impression. This clockwork was no different. Unfortunately, what we didn't realize until too late was that the real fun didn't begin on the facade until the clock reached zero. But we would have had to wait another 13 minutes to film it, and it was actually difficult to hold onto one's place in the large crowd - about 250 feet directly behind the camera is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Valerie went back Christmas eve to re-film, but the countdown was not showing, possibly because St. Patrick's Cathedral, half a block away, was letting in congregants for midnight mass, and the sound of the ticking clock might have been distracting.

Anthropologie: Windbag as Art:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Life Dressing" at the Pier Show

Way back when we had our book signing at Primetime Gallery, we invited Jeanne Stella, who runs The Pier Antiques Show, to be one of our guests. When she wasn't able to make it, we were disappointed, but imagine our surprise and delight when Jeanne suggested we have an additional signing as her guests at the Pier Antiques Show! After excitedly conferring with our author / illustrator Joana Avillez, we gave Jeanne with a hearty YES. It was agreed that we would sign from 1 - 3 PM on Saturday, November 19. Just like in Goldilocks and the Three Bears: not too long, not too short, but just right. Enough time to meet and greet everyone who wanted to come by, but also enough time to see all the booths and try on all the great STUFF!

Doing the book signing with Jeanne Stella and the Stella Pier Antiques Show came with all kinds of perks. One was that we were included in the full page ad in the New York Times. It's a great ad - made along the lines (pun intended) of a Mondrian grid painting. In the leftmost column you can see the Life Dressing book cover, and note that - in newspaper parlance - we are ABOVE THE FOLD. OK, not entirely, but the faces are the most important part anyway. And remember we made a two hour appearance. So half way above the fold is really cool. (Jean says: I was in Atlanta on business. Imagine my surprise when I bought a copy of Thursday's Times and saw our picture in the front section of the paper. I shamelessly pointed it out to any and all who would listen.)


Having your mug on the cover of a book is really fun, as is seeing your mug in the New York Times. But as you can see above, we also got to have our mugs on a life-sized poster, which is truly a trip. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

We had a prominent space just inside the right side entrance to the show for our table. In addition to the poster with life-sized illustrations of us from the cover of the book were two 4 feet by 8 feet posters (about half of the width of the large poster). Thank goodness there was one for each of NOUS, avoiding any fisticuffs. We decided the largest poster should go to Joana and each of us could take our very own half-sheets home with us. (Jean took hers to work, prompting her boss's joke comparing her to Kim Jong Il, the Korean strongman who plastered his image all over Korea. [Valerie's, which will be hung at home, has yet to see the light of day, as it is awaiting the apartment's Big Clean-Up. The Big Clean-Up is a larger-than-life legend, which is expected to occur only slightly sooner than the Apocalypse. Or may actually BE the Apocalypse...])

Jeanne Stella and her mother Irene are responsible for staging the entire Pier Show event.

Jeanne was one of our best customers! She has a LOT of family members (many of whom work the show) and, lucky for us, she stopped by to purchase copies of the book for several of her relatives. Case in point - her chicly outfitted niece.

A video crew captured the event for posterity. Jean hangs back as Joana is interviewed. Sam, the cameraman, and Raquel, the producer, survey the set.

Joana wore a unique Issey Miyake pleated skirt with a roulette wheel print. It unfurled beautifully when she twirled.

One of Joana's friends stopped by. We loved her Bart Simpson-imprinted jacket. (See details in small photo.)


The Pier Show is one of our favorite haunts - for great people watching, for catching up with friends and for primo vintage hunting!

Speaking of people watching, we were thrilled to run into one of our favorite people -- fashion writer and celebrity in her own right, Lynn Yeager, who wears vintage like no other human on the planet. Her creative dressing is the perfect counterpoint for her instantly recognizable red bob, rouged cheeks and bee stung lips. She's a flapper for the new millenium!

As we mentioned in last week's posting, we have suddenly discovered that we revolve in many of the same circles as Sandy Long and have started running into her. She has an extensive vintage collection and everything we've seen is intriguing. Her friend wore fabulous two-toned vintage shoes.

Valerie with Stacy LoAlbo, from whom she purchased a vintage sequined hat that looked decidedly like a crumpled old Japanese hat from an ancient scroll. Or like the hat of Manet's The Fife Player. Or like the Phrygian cap worn by the Sans Culottes during the French Revolution. (Sequined hat not shown. We'll point it out when we upload it sometime in the future.)

Artist Katherine Crone, wearing her signature Miyake, stopped by the show and our booth. (She'd already bought a copy of the book at our first event at the Primetime Gallery in Brooklyn.)

Daniel and his wife Carole never disappoint. They have mastered the fine art of vintage dressing and incorporate it into their everyday wardrobes. Here is a shot of them on Sunday afternoon. Both said they wear their vintage to work. Dan said he would wear this bright blue suit, but would change into a white shirt. Did you notice how wonderfully his green shirt works with his blue suit? Who'd a thunk it? Proof that it pays to experiment.

Here's another shot of Daniel in what he wore on Saturday afternoon along with Sandy Long and her friend, who is modeling one of his purchases. (Yes, Daniel was there both days, as were we, Iris Apfel, and several other die-hards.)

One of the ladies who stopped by the booth showed off great black spiked bracelets that she had made.

Jean encountered this impeccably dressed gent on the floor of the show who insisted on getting her photo. She invoked our even exchange rule ("If you take my picture with your camera, will you take our picture with mine?") and got this great shot of both of them.

Our friend, vintage clothing maven Helen Uffner, also came to see us at our booth.

When we inquired "What did YOU buy?", this dapper gentleman proudly showed off his purchase: an antique photograph in a sensuously polished and shaped wooden frame.

We always stop by vendor Carol Weiss' booth to see what amazing antique items (toys, housewares, ephemera) she has on display. Carol herself is always a treat.


As we all know, women of a certain age are always in search of the holy grails of eyewear that allow you to see what you're doing/reading -- and look good doing it --- and footwear that allows you to romp around and still look terribly chic. Here are a few examples culled from the Pier Show:

Julie Allinson, right, president of Eyebobs, the fabulous reading glasses company, is one of her own best advertisers! As you can see, she's the perfect model-spokesperson for one of our favorite products.

Carol Weiss was sporting this chic but hilariously comfortable pair of Comme des GarconS boots which take the deconstructed look to an extreme. As someone who spends a lot of time on her feet at these shows, Carol knows whereof she speaks.

Raquel Livia's John Fluevog boots sported a beautifully curved and mercifully low heel.

After some cajoling, Valerie convinced this lady to let her take her picture. We really liked her Comme des Garcons dress. It has a wonderful hem that the photo doesn't do justice to. We also loved her United Nude shoes!

Designer Kirsten Hawthorne had both eyewear and footwear that caught our eye. She paired her cool vintage glasses with equally interesting vintage black lace up boots, which she paired with a great knit skirt and lots of black textured accessories. She maintains that slim figure by biking everywhere. She just puts her fab handbag in the basket on the front of the bike & takes off.


We also featured this gorgeous dame last year when she was wearing a different but equally stunning necklace. She has the hair and the style to carry it off beautfully.

Raquel Livia (also sporting great eyewear) was wearing a necklace and earrings of her own design. She paired them with a great black zip-front Ivan Grundhal jacket with a peplum bottom.


This lady made her Flintstone-style purse. Way cool, don't you think?


We stopped this woman to admire her fabulous two-toned hat, and were thrilled when she told us she bought it based on our influence. What greater compliment could we have received?! We thought she looked terrific in it -- and loved her great glasses.

The lady on the left wore a modified turban that she'd purchased many years ago from one of Jean's favorite milliners: Amy Downs. A great Amy Downs conversation ensued, and we found out that both Kirsten Hawthorne and Raquel Livia knew Amy Downs when she lived in New York City. Raquel also said that Amy did the hats for the film version of Tama Janowitz's "Slaves of New York", which chronicled the denizens of the city in the mid-1980's.

Isabel purchased a great vintage hat with an attached scarf, to wrap tightly around the ears and neck in colder weather, or toss over the shoulders when indoors. She does it proud!

The piece de resistence: Valerie purchased a white hat with black grapes that looks spectacular. Can't wait until it appears atop her noggin at a future event. (Valerie says: it really doesn't belong on top of a purple outfit, so hold your hand over that while you're looking. The tiny crown is vinyl, the white brim is silk organza, and the black grapes are plastic. Can't imagine what posessed the designer to combine these disparate elements, but somehow they work. This was also from Stacy LoAlbo. She has a sharp eye!)


Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style posed with Joana. He and Lina stopped by to shoot some video of us at the book signing --and of the other great ladies who frequent the Pier Shows -- like Iris Apfel, who didn't let being in a wheelchair slow her down one iota.

He took some great outdoor shots of us.

Needless to say, we had a blast. You can barely see them in this shot, but Lina is wearing wonderfully graphic spiral striped hose.

Here's a better shot of Lina and her green and blue striped pantyhose that looked like the stockings worn by medieval heralds. They were fab!

We're hoping that being videotaped by two separate photographers will up our street cred. And it really was lots of fun!

Although we were exhausted at the end of the day on Saturday, we almost hated to leave. We barely made the last bus.

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing a leopard cocktail hat by Ignatius (from the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show); vintage Norma Kamali leopard jacket (from Another man's Treasure); turtleneck from Uniqlo; harem pants from Brigitte; platform boots from Trippen; glasses by Illesteva; vintage bakelite necklace and rings. Black and white bakelite ring from Sheila Strong of Fool's Gold.

Valerie is wearing a vintage B. Altman hat with black persian lamb topped by purple velvet, vintage plastic fruit earrings from Germany, a vintage sweater jacket "hand knitted in Chile", unseen black shirt and pants, unlabeled spiky green combat boots from 8th Street.

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And since we've been talking about Christmas for the last couple of weeks, we can't let this week go without some nod to the season. Thought you might be interested to see this oooooooooold video of the Kinks, singing Father Christmas. With the economy being what it is, we thought it might be appropriate. The song dates back to 1977, which raises pretty interesting questions, and perhaps a few eyebrows. Ray Davies always tells it like it is.

Lyrics | Kinks lyrics - Father Christmas lyrics