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:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for giving us the tour of the holiday windows--what a labour-intensive post!
    Just as an FYI, when I click on the two Coach window posts, I get a message saying "this video is private". No matter, I'm not a Coach fan anyway, however I AM in awe of the Lady Gaga extravaganza, especially the Gaga as Speed cycle. Wishing you two a very Happy New Year!