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!