Sunday, May 20, 2012

Puttin' on the Ritz: Japan Society Art Deco Party and Fashion Show

Earlier this month, we donned top hats and tails and strolled to the Japan Society's Art Deco party and fashion show, co-sponsored by the Art Deco Society of New York.

A long, long time ago (March 16th, to be exact) we had attended the opening of the Japanese Art Deco exhibit itself -- furniture, painting, sculpture, dishes, lamps, wall panels, covers of sheet music and matchbooks -- almost all of which came from a private collector in reaction to statements that art deco did not exist in Japan. One of our favorite items was an antique silk men's inner kimono covered in movie poster artwork. Although no photographs are allowed inside the gallery, on the night of the art deco party we did snap shots immediately outside the upstair gallery and the downstair reception. We persuaded a quartet of guests (in exchange for taking their group photo on their camera) to take our picture in front the poster which greeted us at the top of the stairs.

Glamorous Shien Lee (, whose Dances of Vice co-sponsored the evening and runs similar stylish events around the city, welcomed the crowd, outlined the evening's activities and introduced Kathryn Hausman, President of the Art Deco Society of New York.

Kathryn Hausman (( - on the left) and a friend posed with Patricia Fox (right).

These two terribly chic young ladies dressed for the occasion.

We ran into Lori Lewin (right) and her friends Martha and Jeff, all decked out in vintage finery. Sharp-eyed readers recognize Lori from our visits to the Metropolitan Vintage Show.

In a nod to the venue,  several of the guests (male & female) wore kimonos.

Valerie posed with Willard Morgan (aka Saint Hollywood) who curates the Ideal Glass gallery and event space ( in the East Village. Will was also in attendance at the March 16th opening.

This quartet of young guests enjoyed the swing band music while we all waited for the fashion show to begin.

Jean poses with actor & director Robert Ross (, a tall English dandy whom we met back in March at the opening of the exhibit.

Danielle, an adorable flapper incarnate, appears in our Easter parade posting in the gorgeous vintage cream ensemble. She outdid herself this evening in a shimmery vintage metallic sheath with matching shoes and bag. Her chivalrous escort held her coat while we took photos.

Gentlemen as well as ladies wore event-appropriate attire. This fellow sported suspenders, plaid trousers and bowler hat with great aplomb.

Speaking of peacocks, how could we not feature the ever fabulous Julius and his ubiquitous fan and his crimson-coated companion of 21 Club fame (try saying that three times rapidly, Kiddies!)?

Top hats come in a variety of shapes and materials, based on their use. Jean (who has two) had the bright idea of lending one to Valerie (who has none) since we had both in the recent past bought a pair of tails. (Jean's is made by chic Israeli designer Kedem Sasson; Valerie's is made by After Six, and is almost certainly a boy's jacket.) Valerie wore Jean's silk opera hat, also known as a concertina, which can fold flat like an accordian while the wearer is seated in the theater. At the conclusion of the show, a gentleman merely taps the brim with his walking stick and it pops back into shape. NOTE: We do not recommend trying this maneuver with vintage hats whose silk housing and liner may have weakened with age. (Valerie handed it back to Jean at the end of the evening without ever daring to pop it one way or the other.)

In keeping with the spirit of the period, this woman wore a blossom in her hair, and a black dress decorated with red cherries.

Christine wore a fabulous doll hat.

Lana, who came with Patricia Fox, poses with Valerie.

This was the only person we saw in a top hat, so we had little trouble spotting & locating each other in the crowd. His lady friend wears a wonderful flapper hat. (Why are they called top hats, anyway? As if your hat would be anywhere but on top...)

Patricia Fox and friend.

Doesn't this woman have the quintessential flapper thing going on? The hair, the dress, the shoes...

Danielle just bowled us over with her wonderful dress. Then she told us where she'd gotten it, and what she'd paid for it (next to nothing), and we were bowled over all over again. You go, girl!  (She and Julius were so fabulous, they rated two photos.)

This dapper gent shows everyone how it's done.

The woman at the left did a stunning job of dressing and setting her hair in the Japanese style of the period. The woman on the right is also dressed for the period. The little boy is wearing an aloha shirt, now believed to derive from large Japanese floral prints of the period, and brought from Japan to Hawaii by immigrant families.

Japan Society screened the movie Avalanche, directed by Mikio Naruse, that evening. Avalanche featured well-to-do people with the very latest fashions (and philosophies) of the times. Some pieces shown in the exhibition indicated that it became socially acceptable for women to drink in public during this period. In the screen shot below, this woman perfectly exemplifies that point. (She was in love with an unattainable man, if you're wondering.)

For the evening's finale, there was an art deco fashion show featuring vintage clothing and accessories. Here (and below) a number of the models stopped for photos.

On the second floor was a room with a DIY cherry blossom tree created by hundreds of tiny pink notes in the shape of flowers stuck to the wall. Against this stunning backdrop, we strutted our stuff. Murray Head kindly took this picture of us.  Because it was threatening to rain that evening, we both brought umbrellas, which we used as walking sticks. (Jean's umbrella -- black with white skulls, of course -- somehow mysteriously appears in some photos but not in others.)

Here's the view from the rear, courtesy of photographer Murray Head.

What we're wearing:

Jean: Vintage beaver Stetson top hat; Kedem Sasson tails; Indian harem pants; Uniqlo t-neck; Trippen geta boots; vintage aluminum and marble earrings; bakelite rings; Made Her Think leather and metal bracelet; Issey Miyake Pleats Please drawstring backpack, black skull umbrella from Beacon's Closet.

Valerie: Jean's concertina top hat; After Six ("Dynasty Collection") tails; Josephine Chaus shirt; Nuno pleated polyester ascot tie; Kedem Sasson pants; Melissa spats-like sandals designed by Gareth Pugh; Metropolitan Museum of Art umbrella.

Fred shows us all how it's done. (Hint: it's done with mirrors.)


  1. Hi Jean & Valerie!

    What fantastic photos! Thank you both for posting two wonderful pictures of me and my silver sequined gown. My name is Danielle and I do hope to run into you fabulous ladies again very soon!

  2. You two look effing marvelous in your top hats and tails - Fred Astaire ain't got nothin' on you! Looks like such a fun event; love the outfits, especially Danielle's silver dress and the kimonos.

  3. In love with your top hats and tails; you really know how to put on the ritz. The outfits, the hats, the commentary and the vintage fashion show had me reviewing your post several times.

  4. OOoooo what style, thanks so much for these fotos. you ladies are superb <3