Thursday, February 25, 2010

On the Antiques Trail

TD and I were in Guilford, Connecticut, this weekend visiting my parents. On Saturday we went to check out the Guilford Antiques Show. It was held in the Elizabeth Adams School on Church Street and it was funny to be in again an elementary school which reminded me of my Clinton Road School in New Hartford, New York.

We bought our tickets and proceeded into a smallish gallery filled with dealers. I liked the Majorca set, pictured above, fashioned to look like shucked cobs of corn. You already know that I love vases and plates that feature vegetables or fruit – like cabbage or radicchio or blue berries.

This tall metal metal weather vane was mounted on a green wooden pedestal. Brown rust washed across its billowing sails. Wouldn't it be great to own this if you lived in a loft by the river.

This kind of wooden sconce would be easy to make (if I was handy). I'd put a candlestick on it and a small flower vase or a sea shell.

Out into the hall we went where more vendors were displayed. When you're little you think schools are big but actually the halls were narrow and the ceiling was low.
A display case showed paper fish, made by children, dancing on gold paper waves.

We got to the end of the hall and I was afraid that was the end of the show but we rounded a corner to this: the school gymnasium, filled with dealers.

The wooden bleachers were folded up against the walls and reminded me of attending high school basketball games on frigid cold nights in New Hartford.

We liked this pale wooden bench which we would use as a coffee table but it was too big for the apartment.

The dealers, Steve and Lorraine German of Mad River Antiques in North Granby, Connecticut, said its square nails revealed that it was from around 1840. The top is one 18 inch wide plank which is unusual because trees are not that big anymore. The wood had grown in around the square nail heads. So interesting. Very "Swedish beach house" but just too big.

Out in the hall, primroses were for sale.

The woman arranging the flowers said, "A view of spring."

There were lots of antique chests at the show which reminded me of a chest I own. It was my great grandfather's tool chest on the railroad. Dan O'Donnell came from Sligo, Ireland, and raised his family in Herkimer, New York. Here he is now, second from the left, engineer on the train from Herkimer to the Adirondacks.

Here is his tool chest, in our living room.

Painted and chipped with a heavy metal latch, it is one of my prized possessions. Years ago, my grandmother really insisted that I take the chest, and it languished for a while at my parents' house. Now I'm so grateful that she gave it to me.

Near to that chest in the living room is a table which my great grandmother received on her wedding day.

The dark wood sculptural scrolls and ornate base stand out against a pale wall. Its polished shape contrasts with the rough tool box.
I love having these pieces from my great grandmother and great grandfather around me. They're gentle and evocative and create a comfort.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The State of Fashion

Where is the fashion world today? What are the trends? How are designers responding to the changing economy? What do people want to wear? Charlie Rose recently posed these questions to his guests Robbie Myers, editor in chief of Elle magazine, Cathy Horyn, fashion critic for The New York Times, Mickey Drexler, chairman and ceo of J. Crew, and American designer Narciso Rodriguez. You can watch the program here; click on Narciso to start the clip. It's an interesting discussion with the magazine editor, the newspaper critic, the designer, and the ceo. Charlie Rose says "Where is fashion heading?" Cathy Horyn says, "It's fantastic."

At the end is a Charlie Rose interview with Alexander McQueen from 1997 when McQueen was 27 and funny, earnest, humble, defiant. So sad.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Angels in America

(click on photos to enlarge)
Last night I passed by Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and looked at the windows. They always do a great job, and these were quite spectacular.

An elegiac winged angel floated in one window, a tribute to the great Alexander McQueen who died on February 11th.
His white dress from his spring collection is trimmed with white feathers – he was a truly original talent.

On 58th Street, crazy hats set the scene for Oscar de la Renta's gold ensemble.

Very madcap, get it?

On to the main event – the big windows along Fifth Avenue.
Black and white dresses are presented in a window decorated with red and white raffia. It's an inexpensive material but it's cleverly used to create a striking effect. The linear nature of the raffia contrasts with the sculptural shapes of the dresses. Pretty great.

Brightly hued dresses are set into a window with a collage-like background and happy colored lights that reminded me of Christmas.

The big window at the corner of 58th and Fifth feature clothes by Vera Wang, Rodarte and Balenciaga. The plump, ruby-colored plumes in the back wave gently in a breeze.

These clothes are strong, sexy, sharp, almost savage. Nothing dainty about them.

The windows offer a good direction for spring: color instead of neutrals, pattern, texture, structured shapes, decoration instead of minimalism, dresses instead of separates.
It's springtime at Bergdorf Goodman, and I'm all for it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is the twenty-fourth Valentine's Day Ted and I are celebrating together, and I'm very grateful for it, this you-and-me, I'll tell you that. We have a lot of fun together.
I made cupcakes!

Not bad right? I got a little decorating kit at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.
For Valentine's Day, we have a lot of roses around the house, because you know I love roses.

But I say, if you don't have someone buying you roses

go buy some for yourself

and I say, here's to love, in all its forms.

Friday, February 12, 2010

(Fashion) History Repeats Itself

Millicent Rogers, the Standard Oil heiress and jewelry designer, in a portrait by painter Bernard Boutet de Monvel.

I've been reading about the recent couture shows in Paris. I have to say, I miss the show of Christian Lacroix, the heavenly French designer who whipped up the most fantastic clothes, and recently went out of business.

John Galliano for Christian Dior presented some very Fifties-ish designs that featured a narrow waist and then billowing silk skirts. When I saw it, it reminded me of the tableau of Charles James dresses which opened the recent "Model as Muse" exhibition at the Museum of Metropolitan Art. Here is my photo from my visit last year:

Charles James was the artistic American couturier who was renowned for his sculptural gowns which combined colors in unexpected ways. The heiress and jewelry designer Millicent Rogers was a great client of his. She is pictured at the top of this post in clouds of Charles James' silk which worked well with her strong, bold, abstract jewelry designs.

Then I read on Hamish Bowles' entertaining blog, The Hamishphere, that, yes, in fact John Galliano was inspired by the museum exhibition for his recent Dior couture collection which included complicated ball gowns in structured shapes – a rich confection of lustrous fabrics and jewel colors.
(photos from

This collection goes back to Charles James and it goes back to Christian Dior himself who in the Fifties presented the New Look. After the austerity in France of World War ll, Christian Dior created a popular dress silhouette with a narrow waist and a full skirt featuring yards of fabric which spoke to prosperity and abundance: The New Look.

Now, this is the interesting part. In the Fifties, after closing down her fashion house during the war, Coco Chanel returned to the world of fashion. Chanel of course had already revolutionized fashion earlier in the century. In a reaction against stiff and formal Edwardian clothes, Chanel invented comfortable separate pieces – jackets, pants, tee shirts – which followed the lines of the body and allowed for easy movement.

In the Fifties Chanel was again shocked to find women constrained, this time by the corseted waists and crinolines skirts of Dior's New Look. Her answer to it was a new invention: the Chanel suit. Made out of a lightweight tweed, the suit jacket skimmed the body and was edged with embroidery or pearls; it could easily be slipped off and worn over the shoulders like a cardigan. The slim skirt stopped at the knee, assuring that the modern woman could run to catch a cab and sit down in an office chair.

At the recent couture shows, a day after the Dior show, Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel presented this:

A crisp refreshing tonic, a slice of lemon to cut through the sweetness. Hamish Bowles reports that the edges of the fabrics were unpicked and then woven back together so that there appeared to be no seams. Now that's a modern approach, just as Mademoiselle's new suit was in the Fifties.

The Chanel jacket still skims the body.

Evening dresses seem to float.

Karl Lagerfeld is going for a real weightlessness here. Beautiful and wearable.
As in the past, one collection evokes opulence while the other looks to the future.

In Memoriam: While I was thinking about this post came the news that the amazing English designer Alexander McQueen, age 40, had committed suicide. In 2007 his great friend English stylist Isabella Blow died from suicide. It's so sad. Beyond the tragic loss of life, the world of fashion needs so much these fantastically eccentric and imaginative English talents who really work outside the bounds and take us all beyond the basics.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Trip to Carnegie Hall

On Saturday night in the frigid cold TD and I headed up to Carnegie Hall to enjoy a concert giving by famed American soprano Alessandra Marc who is particularly well-known for her portrayal of Puccini's brutal Chinese princess Turdanot. This was billed as Marc's "return to the New York stage" so we were excited to be invited.

Carnegie Hall is one of the great buildings in New York.

It was built in 1891 by Andrew Carnegie, the nineteenth century industrialist who emigrated with his family to the United States from Scotland as a child. Ah, an immigrant.

Carnegie Hall is renowned for its acoustics and graceful beauty. Its white and gold interior is quietly elegant. The main hall seats almost 3,000 people. Weill Hall, on the third floor, where our concert was on Saturday night, seats about 300 people. It was originally called the Chamber Music Hall and was named after Sanford Weill, the former chairman of Citigroup, in 1986.

In the hall the stage was set with a black grand piano, a table with a bottle of water, a music stand, and a chair with a pillow on it. Our seats were in the third row. The room was cozy and warm.

Alessandra Marc took the stage accompanied by her pianist David Chapman. The crowd received her enthusiastically with a standing ovation. Obviously, she is a favorite in New York.

A note from her in the program referred to her convalescence and additional surgeries which loom in her future. She wrote that the songs in the program "eloquently capture the glorious joy and tragic despair the are common to the human experience yet uniquely experienced by each individual."

I found this picture of Alessandra Marc as Turandot online.

On Saturday night her long red hair was waved in curls and she wore a purple gown with a golden sheen. She stood, and sat, about twenty feet away from us and performed some of the greatest arias in opera as well as some spirituals. It was thrilling. She has a big voice and it was quite extraordinary to be so close to it. The audience loved it and yelled "Brava!" throughout. She is an artist, and whatever her setbacks may have been, an artist needs to create her or his own art.

For her encore she sang a famous aria from La Boheme. On the stage: slight David Chapman in a black tuxedo, glossy grand piano, a big bouquet of red roses for the star, and Allesandra Marc in sparkly amethyst singing Puccini. Next to me, my great friend handsome TD in a jacket and tie. It was a beautiful thing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Date at Carnegie Hall

TD and I will be going up to Carnegie Hall on Saturday night (in the snow I think!) as we have been invited to a concert given by American soprano Alessandra Marc. She is particularly known for her interpretations of Strauss, Wagner, Verdi and the title role of Puccini's Turandot, and has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, the Opera Bastille in Paris, and the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. I'm looking forward to it. The concert is 8:30 in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. Tickets are still available; perhaps you would enjoy it too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Winter Home of the Brooklyn Flea

The weekend before last, TD and I headed out to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Flea. I'm a huge fan of this flea market which is located in the warmer months in a school playground in Fort Greene. The coolest people in New York go to it. For these winter months, the Flea moved indoors, into a fantastic space at One Hanson Place, which is the old Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower. Built in 1927, the tower has 37 floors and was for a long time the tallest building in Brooklyn. Now, the top of it is filled with condos, and the bottom is the home of the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends.

The vast vaulted space looks like a Gothic church, but it's not a church, it's a former bank. A temple to capitalism I guess you could say.

The details are really fantastic, with Romanesque columns, tinted glass windows, gold leaf ceilings and elaborate chandeliers.

The Flea includes more than one hundred vendors selling vintage furniture, clothes, collectibles and antiques, as well as new jewelry and art by local artists. I loved these metal globe lamps; very Rough Luxe.

The Flea covers three floors in the bank; here is the view from upstairs.

On the way downstairs, the beautiful ceiling is mosaiced with blue tiles, and iron silhouettes decorate the upper door arches.

In the basement, the bank vault is filled with local food vendors. Brooklyn is becoming famous for its gourmet food. Delish.

After that, we walked down Atlantic Avenue and visited some familiar haunts. Then we were downright parched so we stopped at the Brooklyn Inn in Boerum Hill for a pint or two. It has to be one of the most charming spots for a bar.

You snag a stool in the windows and watch the world go by as you sip a Brooklyn Lager and dusk settles in.

It's a very pleasant place to be on a Saturday afternoon in January.