In the pink

We spent most of last week in New York, during my favourite time of year there: windows brimming with a new season, the air carrying the salt of the ocean, the restaurants serving the harvest's bounty.

That scarf is red, but I wanna talk pink!

The Fashion Institute of Technology's exhibition "Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color" had just opened; if you are in the city before January 5, 2019, don't miss this exciting, educational, and audacious show. Though the staging is more modest than the big museums, the collection was every bit as exuberant.

The exquisite couture is on display—Grès, Balenciaga, Yves St. Laurent, Dior—but so are Japanese schoolgirls' clothes, 18th-century infants' layettes and exquisite vintage and contemporary corsetry. Pink from the colour of Caucasian skin to Schiaparelli's famous shocking pink, every hue from pastel to neon.

One of my favourites was the dress at left below, by Scottish designer Christopher Kane, of leaves of black-edged peachy-pink chiffon; can you imagine how this would float on the body? Next to that dress is a Dior Homme suit that fashion journalist Hamish Bowles ordered to wear to a wedding, probably upstaging the bride.

This astonishing piece of draped silk jersey by Mme Grès shows her signature design, modern now as sixty years ago, in a luscious cyclamen:

On the streets, women had not yet covered in coats. I looked for more pink, but saw little. What I did notice on countless bedraggled tourists and clacking-to-work women, were long cardigans, from lower-hip to below-knee length, in neutrals. These have just about buried the blazer as the go-to jacket, an unprepossessing direction in daywear.

Unless the woman had that hipless Inès de La Fressange build—definite, straight shoulders atop a narrow and small-busted torso—these looked from awful to only okay. I mean, blazers have shoulder pads for a reason. Tailoring defines body shape, and these thin knits are the opposite, creating a droopy egg effect.

Women in these unstructured knits looked dragged down and sloppy, especially with a big bag slung from the shoulder, tugging the top askew, or a crossbody bifurcating the middle. In contrast, a woman in a light wool Prince of Wales plaid reefer-cut coat looked so smart I wanted to hug her.

Once again, I admired Japanese women of the neighbourhood where we stay. Hard to say who they were, but we were near the UN, and they had an air of business more than tourism; they too wore cardigans, but theirs ended at or just below the waist. With a fitted blouse or fine-knit top under the sweater and an easy skirt or narrow, ankle-length trousers, these women were polished and chic in the 'strict' Parisienne manner, restrained but graceful.

Coincidentally, I learned at the FIT exhibition that the three most popular colours in Japan are white, red, and pink, seen in Japan as a shade of red.

Another sad trend is the closing of yet more department stores. Lord & Taylor's windows held only forlorn final sale notices, and Bendel's closes at the end of the year. Bergdorf's remains, selling a sterile stock of luxury brands; there is absolutely no soul in the place.

Bloomingdale's, through which I flipped quickly, displays lacklustre quality in the bridge and house lines, another sign that Manhattan has abandoned the middle class shopper.

I mourned the demise of good department stores with clothes, lingerie, and shoes in one place, the boudoir-like ladies' lounge with flowered wallpaper... and a Cobb salad to boot. Of course there are boutiques, which are a paradise when they're just your style, but exhausting if you are a visitor trotting around, trying to make decisions with limited time.

I'd rather order my clothes online from a few good sources, pay the damn shipping, and save my energy to explore the corners still particular to New York, such as the Chelsea flower market. Below, you see Le Duc at the edge of the ornamental trees.

We returned to our own island city, an hour's flight to another country and culture. "What did you buy?", the customs official asked me. (Pair of jeans.) I wanted to answer, "Well, not one of those limp cardigans!"

I'll miss the pristine Air BnB apartment, though understand the purpose of NYC's new law prohibiting short-term rentals in multiple-dwelling buildings. Le Duc teases me that we don't want transient renters in our condo building, but enjoyed the option of being just that in New York. Ah yes, I'm a housing hypocrite!

Montréal's temperature dropped from 22C/71F on Sunday afternoon to 6C/48F the next morning, so time to unbox the sweaters... in pink!


Kristien62 said…
Although I live in Upstate New York, it's been years since I have been to the city. I am shocked that Lord and Taylor is closing. Is it just the NY store (which is bad enough) or is it the entire chain?

After your comments about the long cardigan, I will have to take a good look at how I am styling mine. I do love them, but agree that the top and slacks should be tailored and body conscious. That might be difficult for me to pull off.

The exhibit sounds wonderful. On one foray to NYC, I attended a showing of Oscar dresses of the 20th century and it was delightful.
Duchesse said…
Kristien62: Lord and Taylor will close 10 of its 50 stores including the flagship Fifth Avenue one, which was sold to WeWork. They say they will move to more online retail but I wonder if they will last when they have nothing to differentiate them.

I like long cardigans but getting a lightweight one to hang well isn't easy.
Madame Là-bas said…
That Mme Grès dress is exquisite! Department stores seem to be vanishing. They really do not serve the same purpose as they did in earlier times. I agree with you about long cardigans. I have a more structured LL Bean navy cardigan that I wear for casual times
at home or in the neighbourhood. But I have narrow shoulders and a full bust so the droopy sweater is not a good look. My daughter bought a vintage pink blouse (1980's) in Paris and it was so pretty. It will be nice to see some pink.
JohnInWI said…
What a relief! Someone else who doesn't like those long cardigans. Bedraggled is the perfect adjective for them. I love cardigans but at 5'2" I look like a stump in the long ones!

Pink is probably my favorite color. I am wearing a soft muted pink flannel shirt as I type this. My favorite blouse is a billowy blush silk.

It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday. Thanks for taking us along vicariously!

sandra said…
Harsh commentary on the long cardigan... they can look schlumpy if thrown on in unthoughtful way, but they are great at creating a column of colour; when they have a little more heft they are a nice alternative to a coat in the in between weather... I'm 5' 2" and I have a couple. One, fine black merino wool with lovely stitching worn with well fitting black trousers is a great elongating look for me.
Duchesse said…
Mme Là-bas: Oooh I would love to see that blouse.

Unknown: It's not that I don't like the style, but I find the thinner ones almost can't help looking limp. What is supposed to be 'easy' ends up looking messy. But then I am not a huge lover of unstructured clothing, even though I wore it for awhile.

sandra: What can I say, reporting observation. The more heft the better, the ones approaching fall coat weight hang better. Tailors weight the hems of coats for that reason.

Roberta said…
So sad to hear of the Mother Ship L & T closing, I always looked forward to visiting there when I made it to New York. So many floors! The lovely cafe! The small, sad L&T at my mall closed last year, and Nordstrom cheerfully absorbed its few shoppers. We mourned when Marshall Field's became Macy's too.

I love the FIT Museum and have seen some wonderful exhibits there, especially of lesser known designers and smaller fashion eras. I have know them to outshine the Met's fashion wing!
materfamilias said…
What a wonderful exhibition that would have been! It's been 30+ years since my only visit to NYC --a week, at just this time of year, and we loved it, so I'm not sure why we didn't get back. . . You make it look and sound very appealing again.
As for pink, I have new oxfords in a soft blush, and I'm in love!
Duchesse said…
Roberta: Remember the vast, entire floor of nothing but dresses? Tha art deco brass elevators? Even after being bought by Hudson’s Bay, a anadian company, they continued to open with the American anthem. Though it had not been a chic store for decades ( they used to sell Charles James!) it had retained a particular character.

materfamilias: Given your love of art and your keen eye for architecture, I think you would enjoy a return!
I'd never think of wearing a pullover or coat in pink; I don't wear pastels in general, but I often add pink in paintings and perhaps I'd like a scarf with some pink in it. Pink and black is a Leitmotiv in Mexican art, culture and apparel.

Our mayor Valérie Plante pushes for la Ligne rose (Pink Line), a diagonal métro line from northeastern to southwestern Montréal, reminding us and reminds us that pink can also be a symbol of feminism, as well as conventional femininity.

I have seen very few of those long cardigans here, perhaps because our warm weather cuts to far cooler more suddenly, or simply because they are less popular.
Beth said…
Wore my hot pink cashmere yesterday: the weather called for it, and I needed the color! I do have a long lightweight cardigan, in light heathery blue, and have worn it a lot, sleeves pushed up, and didn't feel schlumpy...but I hear you. Those pink dresses are gorgeous.
LauraH said…
What a wonderful exhibit, thank you for sharing it.

I too miss department stores such as Eatons. It was so convenient to be able to buy good housewares, linens, towels, clothes, fabric, etc. etc. all in one go. And then to have it delivered! Very few stores offer real customer service anymore although they pretend to.

Yes that overnight drop in temperature was a shocker. On went the flannel sheets and duvet. And soon the cashmere will come out of storage. I'm sorry to say that Bompard is offering a gorgeous deep pink and lovely Kelly green this fall...too tempting:-)
It's funny - I hated pink as a child - I think I thought of it as too girly and frilly and I was a Tomboy. But in the past 10 years or so it's a colour I've come to love. I own a pink shirt and I think 5 pink sweaters (in various shades) - although I find that I like the softer pinks better than the fuchsia end of things.
I am afraid that our BAY department store won't be lasting much longer. I frequent both the Yonge & Bloor and the Queen Street shop and I'm often astonished at how quiet they are - even on a Saturday or just before the start of school they felt deserted. And they don't have anyone to blame but themselves. So much of their lines are now luxury - or approaching luxury brand level with a corresponding price. Last week I was looking for a small, black purse/handbag to wear with a party outfit - nothing fancy - plain leather with a shoulder strap - I couldn't find anything under $190! I think that's ridiculous. I don't mind paying a decent price for a good everyday purse (Dooney & Bourke are my favourites) but these were ridiculous! And why can't I find anything without the designer's name plastered all over it? I couldn't find anything that didn't make me into a walking advertisement. They have completely deserted their middle class base and it has resulted in empty stores.

And don't get me started on the behind the scenes amenities - bathrooms that are filthy and haven't been repaired in years - escalators that break down constantly and run down, dirty change rooms with terrible lighting! It is absolutely shocking. I walk with the aid of a cane and on many occasions I've had to walk from one end of the floor to another to find someone to pay as they have so little staff available. And the nice little coffee shops for lunch or a shopping break - all closed. And then they wonder why they're having difficulties?
Duchesse said…
Margie: For your bag, check out consignment. I have a TO friend who only buys bags ; there is one place on Mt. Pleasant, Rewind, that she especially likes, but I have never been there. Or search eBay for brands like Coccinnelle whih do not have huge logos as a rule.

I wrote about the demise of department stores :"Department Stores: A Farewell to Charms"

LauraH: Oh, delivery! I forgot about that service. And you could get alterations done there, sometimes even free for small things like trouser hems. Concierge service, fashion shows, trunk shows. "You don't know what you miss till it's gone", right?
Maria said…
Thank you so very much for posting about this exhibition. I’m in Australia and, as a trip to NY isn’t in my immediate future, I visited the website of the Fashion Institute of Technology museum and am enjoying their excellent online coverage for the pink exhibition. So far I’ve listened to an audio tour about each of the exhibition rooms and I’m about to launch into other more detailed coverage. Entertaining and informative. I really enjoy considering the socio-political aspects of all the arts, including fashion, so many thanks for bringing this terrific exhibition to my attention. BTW, I love pink! The “Think Pink” interlude in Audrey Hepburn’s “Funny Face” is a favourite movie segment of mine.
Duchesse said…
Maria: And thank you for pointing us toward all those online resources! I had no idea so much was available.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
You are correct, so sad. I remember feeling as you do when Bonwit's closed, Altman's, Best & Co., each going down. I have said to my husband that I believe that someday things will shake out, reverse. There are many who wish to shop in real stores again, albeit not big box stores.
Duchesse said…
Liz: Altman's! When a young working woman, I could always find something suitable at Altman's, and the sales woman would even say "I can put it aside, there's a sale beginning Saturday."

I. Magnin, Hudson's, Jacobsen's, The Bon-Ton (now an online retailer), and Marshall Field's, where my grandfather managed the warehouse operation. There are more— we have lost a whole culture.

Well, there's Saks and Neiman's (among others) in large cities. Saks' Fifth Avenue flagship still looks glossy but I will not pay $400 for a modal scarf just to keep them going.
Mardel said…
The Pink exhibit sounds wonderful. I still love visiting NYC, and walking around, and once I loved shopping but not as much now, perhaps simply because I am older and my needs have changed. I felt Bendel's had gone downhill over the last few decades, and I stopped in Bergdorf Good man for the first time in a few years last spring. It was once more magical, always more expensive yes, but there were artful and unusual and even occasionally affordable things, but your description exactly fits how it felt to me now, although I do miss the magic.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Was some of that "Magic" due to our youthfulness? Youthfulness? Pizazz? Sparkle? "Service (real service - not lip service)." Of course we are speaking of a time when those waiting on you made nothing and did as they were told.

What is the book titled, fabulous and fun read - is it "Bury My Ashes at Bergdorf Goodman?"

An aside on department stores. Fire Island, maybe in about 1979 - 80. My father in law bought Kleins a department store on the island. Now, this was a tiny store, but in reality they carried everything, thus Kleins Department Store. The funny thing is my mother as a youth, used to go to Fire Island for fun. She used to shop there. It may well be closed today I hope not, again a piece of history filled with memories for many. I am 71. I hope that it is open.

More history. My father in-law (he died in 2015 at 93) before Kleins used to be in the coat manufacturing business on 7th Ave before retiring. He manufactured coats for places like Loehman's and Lane Bryant. When retired, he became bored and bought the store.

More history. My mother in law's grandmother survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

More history. My mother was anti-Semitic. My in-laws were of eastern European ancestry. They wanted no part of me and let me know it loud and clear. Ha! Come to find out that I am Jewish. But I am a German Jew. I sit here and chuckle to my father in law as he looks down upon me, as I tell him that fact.

Another funny but wonderful part of the history. I opened a shop for women long ago. Once that happened, my in laws suddenly loved me. I would go to NYC to market, stay with them, have a ball. Pop always came into market with me. It had suddenly become a marriage made in heaven. We had a ton of fun. OK - anti-Semitism. We walked by a booth where I wished to buy. My father in law grabs my arm and says we are not going in their, they are Sephardic, you cannot trust them. Wah? That just taught me that there is prejudice everywhere. Love your neighbor - love all. I miss him SO much.
Jane W. said…
Flashback to the high school lunchroom! Not seeing any wisdom in your "observation."
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Jane - I am not sure if you are speaking to me. I gather I offended you, please accept my apologies if you are responding to me and if I offended you. You are right - no wisdom there. Just meant to be a love story with round about and peculiarly circular dislikes that are stupid - hard on others and then repaired. Perhaps a better story told in person - again if you are speaking to me. I am truly sorry.
Duchesse said…
Jane W.: If you are addressing me: this post is •my opinion•, not wisdom.

I look, and I think, and then I write what I think. I never photograph a person or make a comment to those looking less than well-served by their choice of garment that day—unlike in the lunchroom.

This is nothing, read my post on Eileen Fisher.

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