Sunday, March 27, 2011

In a Word: COLOR!

The Sonia Delaunay Retrospective


Valerie says: Just a few days before spring, and just a few days before New York trees began showing tiny bursts of green at the tips of their branches, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum opened its exhibition on Sonia Delaunay, whose work is characterized by its bold justaposition of riotous colors. Delaunay, known as both a painter and textile designer (and married to painter Robert Delaunay), is one of a small exclusive club of women artists whose work is given as much credit as that of her male peers. Particularly after a winter of freezing temperatures, and repeated snowfall punctuated only by rain, when a woman with a broken wrist dare not put so much as a nose out of doors, this was a very welcome event indeed. Shown above is "Colored Rhythm", oil on canvas, dated 1946, but the exhibition focuses on Delaunay's textile and costume designs. Below is a mere hint at the breadth of the exhibition and of her the scope of her work.

NOTE: This week, we're devoting the first half of our posting to the exhibition itself and the second half to the people who attended the opening. (Valerie reports on the artist and her oeuvre and Jean reports on the glitz.)

Here is Delaunay herself in a dress of her own design.

Here is a silk satin dress with metallic embroidery, dated around 1925 - 28, that appears in the first room of the exhibition.

Here are four highly imaginative dress designs for daring women of the time.

Delaunay was also commissioned to design costumes for movies. This extraordinary movie still is taken from "Le P'tit Parigot", 1926. This alone makes you want to see the movie! She also worked for Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.

This coat, wool embroidery on a wool base, was made for Gloria Swanson. Click on the photo for a better look at the texture.

We both fell in love with this knitted swimsuit in the exhibition. The colors and shape are great.

Here are two models wearing some of Delaunay's beachwear designs, dated 1928.

Here are four additional Delaunay beachwear designs.

An entire room was devoted to textile designs. This design, called simply "B53", shows elements of both Bauhaus and Wiener Werkstatte, neither of which Delaunay belonged to. Both movements were prominent during the period Delaunay was active, and both shared her passion for bold graphics and interlocking colors.

In one room, there was a design on yellow with large red, black and green dots. I mentioned to Susan Brown, the exhibition's curator and (fortunately for me!) my tour guide, that it looked exactly like an Issey Miyake design from several years ago, shown above. Ms. Brown replied that in fact Miyake had done a line based on Delauney designs. Time for an AHA! moment.

For several years, Delaunay had her own gallery/shop, called Atelier Simultane (simultaneity was the word used to describe the juxtaposition of many colors at the same time), where she sold all sorts of goods and accessories of her own design. Unfortunately, she found it to be unprofitable, and closed it after several years. What a great storefront!

And for the piece de resistance, here is Delauney in a 1925 Citroen B12 of her own design.


Jean says: On March 17th, we had the great opportunity to attend the opening of the Sonia Delaunay exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. By chance, both of us chose feathered chapeaux, but that's where the similarities ended. While Valerie chose an ethereal, frothy salmon-colored straw hat with delicate wispy pink feathers to accent her graphic kimono, I chose a black coq-feathered 'take no prisoners' number to highlight my ninja warrior look. I did make one fashion concession in homage to Ms. Delaunay and incorporated a geometric yellow and black bag into my ensemble. (Does anyone remember John Belushi's SNL bumble bee outfit and his ninja warrior routine? Am I rockin' the John Belushi look or what?) Viewing tip: Click on any of the photos (especially the black and white sketch) to enlarge.

This photo of the artist at work shows how she incorporated her designs into her everyday life.

Jean says: I managed to discreetly take two photos before security informed me of the "no photographs" rule. Luckily, if the camera is pointed away from the art, we were allowed to photograph each other and the other guests!

Jean says: Here's another of my contraband photographs -- of one of Sonia Delaunay's sketches which captures the line and shape of the clothing during her heyday. There were wonderful photographs of her and of other young women wearing her designs scattered throughout the second floor exhibition space. My favorites included the one above of two flappers in her wonderful one-piece bathing costumes and the other was the one of Sonia in her convertible Citroen painted in one of her designs (also above).

Jean says: We ran into Tziporah Salamon, who was channeling her best Sonia Delaunay look and fashion illustrator and photographer Sergio Baradat ( Tziporah's attention to detail is amazing. Even her socks were patterned to match her outfit. (You'll just have to trust me on this. The very sweet volunteer who took this photo failed to do a full length shot. There are apparently limits to how much one may impose oneself on total strangers.

Jean says: Tove Hermanson, fashion culturist and writer, made a beeline for us as soon as she entered the reception. Needless to say, she was hard to miss in her wonderfully accessorized red ensemble. Her card reads: "How fashion intersects politics, economics, gender, & pop culture:,,". Since she was very aware of us and our blog, we think she should consider adding "ageism" to her list of fashion intersections. [Valerie says: I would say geriatrics, since ageism is politically incorrect, and possibly grounds for law suits. Hey, are we two geriatrix???]

Jean says: Despite a couple of minor camera malfunctions by my beloved Pentax, Valerie was able to snap this photograph of this fabulous redhead with me in the first floor reception area just before she entered the elevator to view the exhibit. I love how she accesssorized her black outfit with her colorful little shoulder bag. You can get a better view of my hat in this photo taken against a light background. (Doesn't it look sort of like demonic Mickey Mouse ears, if Mickey were part vulture? Love that! Hey, Valerie - does this inch me ever closer to being abandoned on an ice floe? Avid readers know of my love -- and Valerie's aversion to -- hats with ears, or with appendages that look like ears, etc.) (Valerie says: I LOVE this hat. I draw the line when I can just about see a place to put a hearing aid. As for the ice floe, just last week I did as Jean pleaded with me - you're dangerously close to the ice floe, I told her. I warned her that I would NOT be seen with her if she wore a certain pair of shoes. When, a few days later, I saw the shoes on her [she flaunted them - she just about dared me to find an ice floe!], I saw the merits of the shoes and withdrew the ice floe threat. Rather than express relief or surprise or joy at my change of heart, Jean laughed at what she called a left-handed compliment. Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness? You know how it is when a woman says "Does this dress make my butt look big?", and a good friend / spouse will say 'Nooooooooooooo' if (s)he knows what's good for him/her? Same thing here. When Jean says "Put me out of my misery if I ever dress like THAT", she means "But obviously if I wear THAT it's because it's fabulous, so back off.")

Jean says: I think museum shows that feature clothing and textile designers attract a very different crowd from those featuring painters. While it's never good to generalize, the latter often involve starving artist types with paint-spattered jeans, while the former include individuals who take special care to dress in keeping with the designer's style. Valerie's wonderfully patterned kimono captured the spirit and look of Sonia's geometric designs. Likewise, a fellow guest, Mrs. Weissmann, appeared in this gorgous jacket which incorporated the color palette of Sonia's circular and swirling patterned fabrics and paintings. On a more serious note, I love this photo because it also highlights Valerie's vintage deco handbag with bakelite clasp from the period.

Jean says: Valerie and I met this wonderful lady at the exhibit. While it did not surprise us that she was an artist or that she had designed the hat she was wearing (in Delaunay style), we were touched to learn that she had actually known Sonia and had worn the hat to her memorial service. The pattern appears above and below the brim. It was in pristine condition and quite lovely. Valerie concurs: it was fabulous!

Valerie with Matilda McQuaid, deputy curatorial director and head of the textiles department at Cooper-Hewitt. Textile lovers owe a lot to Matilda, who has a long history of putting together some of the best textile exhibitions in New York City.

Jean says: Leigh Wishner, who works at Cora Ginsburg, LLC, wore a black and white patterned dress and a great resin necklace. She was accompanied by her POSSELQ, who was kind enough to pose for my photograph. Valerie says: usually when I see Leigh, she's wearing a fabulous vintage Mexican skirt. She makes them all look stunning.

Valerie says: Midori Sato, who works in conservation for Cooper Hewitt, is shown here in a dress of her own design. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's fabulous! Midori should have a second life as a dress designer. As Jean mentioned earlier, she and I are always trying for the head to toe photo; people who kindly offer to take pictures for us are only concerned with our smiling faces. SIGH!

Valerie says: this was my favorite couple of the evening. We women often dress for the occasion, but for a man to willingly - enthusiastically - dress for the occasion is a rare treat to be savored. Everything they're wearing is wonderful, but the real prize winner needs a photo of its own...

Here is a close-up of the gent's shoes. They're needlepoint, and notice that they are not left-right mirror images. The gentleman told me he commissioned them for his fortieth birthday, which he wrily added was a long time ago. It only occurred to me a looong time after I'd taken the picture to wonder whether he'd done the needlework himself, or designed and commissioned it, or bought it as a scrap, and whether it was period fabric - possibly designed by Ms. Delaunay????? All sorts of questions arose. Too late to ask, of course - as so often happens to so many of us.

Jean is wearing a black vintage 1930's feathered hat, a yellow and black Issey Miyake bag, Brigitte harem skirt, Kyodan jacket, Trippen geta platoform boots, vintage eyeglass frames and bakelite rings, black coral ball and brass bird earrings by Kirsten Hawthorne.

Valerie is wearing an unlabeled vintage ('50s?) pink net hat with pink feathers sewn down in a circular pattern; a vintage ('40s?) kimono with an interpretation of a Delaunay design; a vintage (late '70s) pink tussah silk trapunto sash (which traditional wearers of kimono will be too polite to laugh out loud about) and Cole Haan / Nike shoes (ditto; and they would also be taken aback by the hat). Still sporting the splint, and Andy's Marilyn over it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Famouser and Famouser!


We apologize to ourselves for muscling in on our own blog, but we received a SPECIAL TREAT, and we want to share it with our friends!

We're not telling what it is, so you'll have to CLICK HERE. (Hint: it's better if your sound is on.)

ENJOY! We certainly did!

With many thanks to Lina Plioplyte and Ari Seth Cohen.


The IFs


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Peerless Day - The Pier Show and the Wee Drinkie

On March 12th, we were in our glory, running up and down the aisles at Fashion Alley at the Pier Show. (Well, okay, walking, like the semi-dignified elders we are.)

Jean says: Stacy LoAlbo blew us away with her bold, gold bustier! Yes, kiddies, this is HER own garment from the disco era and she CAN STILL WEAR IT! Boo-rah, Stacy! She has a great book, Vintage Fashion Accessories (in which both yours trulies appear, along with Stacy's daughter!). While we were in her booth, chattering away, we met Maureen, aka "Mo", from Ohio (who has a pied a terre here in the Big Apple). She got into the spirit and donned a black net hat from Stacy's booth and hammed it up for the camera with us. We all agreed to get together again soon.

Jean says: Valerie's hair is a work in progress. While she has been recuperating, she has been letting it grow. This is the first time I've seen her wear it loose and I'm not sure what I think of it, but am not worried because it is not yet a fait accompli. Although the sides and nape have grown out to about 2" in length, the top and back are about 15 inches longer than that. I am intrigued to see what happens next. The hat that she's wearing is from What Once Was. Valerie says: my ragged and unruly hair now tops 19 inches at its longest. I'm not sure what I make of it either. If I hadn't broken my wrist, I would have felt obliged to keep cutting it, but since I'm away from the office, I'm getting shaggy, just like men who grow beards while they're on vacation.

Michal Feinmesser is the proprietress of What Once Was, from whom Valerie purchased the black and white hat we're both modeling in the top two photos. Michal has accessorized her fab Kedem Sasson skirt with a red bakelite necklace that she's paired with red plastic earrings that are nearly identical, bakelite bangles, and a great drapey long red sweater. She also buys and sells estate jewelry ( Her husband is in the background to her right. Valerie says: I bought the hat, but I think it looks better on Jean, at least in the photos above. That might change once I cut my hair. I'd like to point out to women who are shy about wearing hats that not every hat is for every head. Jean and I both have gray hair, and are both wearing black, but the hat suits her better. If you think you can't wear a hat, you are probably just choosing the wrong hat styles again and again. Really! The hat that looks ordinary on the hat stand may look transformative on you.

Jean says: While Valerie was in the dressing room, I made the acquaintance of Paul J. Hanly, Jr., Esq., whom we'd seen from afar while we were in the cafe. He is one of those very rare males of the species who can wear vintage and carry it off. He was kind enough to humor me and pose for a photograph.

Jean says: We were running by a booth called something like Chanel Mania when we spotted this redhead trying on a yellow sequin Chanel jacket. It was a show-stopper. Nothing else she tried on did it like that jacket! I hope she went back and bought it later. Valerie says: I saw it hanging at the booth late in the day, and I was disappointed that she probably decided against it. Maybe it had a big hole in the lining that we didn't see? Maybe it was beyond her budget? When we saw her in it, I called out to her to buy it. She had a great instinct for what flattered her.

Jean says: I spotted Christina Viera in her puffy plaid jacket from a distance and ran her down for a photo. Once I introduced myself, she told me we had a mutual friend -- Suzanne Golden! It figures. These COMME des GARCONS dames sure stick together.

Christina's black felt hat was what initially caught my eye. It's as if its baseball cap brim turned straight up and then did a figure 8. Her grey spikey cat-eye glasses, bright red lips, silver lace-ups and black and white hard shell bag really finish off her look. Her business card reads: "Jewelry Fashion Art". (

Jean says: It is always a treat to see our friend Alma, who has a great sense of style and a great haircut. She often pops up at tribal arts, Asian arts and high end craft events, and always unearths amazing treasures. The Pier Show was no exception -- she'd discovered some beautiful carved silver, turquoise and coral beads (Tibetan?). Valerie says: we also met her once at the Aaron Faber Gallery, where they had a stunning jewelry opening. I remember it clearly because it was within an hour of the news of Michael Jackson's death. Why is it I remember that, but can't remember the names of people I've met fifty times?

Jean says: From the moment we entered the show, Valerie said she desperately needed a Coca-Cola (her caffeine fix). We checked our coats and while I dawdled around, getting easily distracted (what else is new?), she was extremely focused. Since they'd actually moved the location of the cafe since the last show, we didn't get there and get settled until about a half hour after we'd arrived. Timing is everything! As soon as we'd been seated, Tziporah showed up, resplendant in her antique Chinese finery. After we'd had a chance to catch up, a reporter and photographer from Time Out New York (TONY) Online approached us and asked if they could photograph and interview the three of us individually and together. (Our response? The same as that to the question "Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?" Answer: "Of course!). Imagine our surprise when we checked TONY's 3/18/11 online slide show. Click here for a look.

Valerie says: LOL! Yes, I was extremely focused on that Coke. I find I have about two hours a day of energy - my arm hurts and my bones are knitting. All that robs me of energy better spent finding hats. So the daily Coke is to replace my feeble proverbial single candle of energy with a proverbial hundred watt bulb. Jean was like a kid in a candy store, and I was like her harried mom. "Yes, darling, that's WONDERFUL"; "no dear, we can't stop now - maybe on the way back"; "JEAN, PUT THAT DOWN NOW, OR MOMMY WILL HAVE TO SPANK YOU"...

As for Time Out New York, silly me, when TONY approached us, I told them we'd been featured only several weeks before, assuming for sure they'd say that in that case they didn't want to feature us a second time. What was I thinking!!?? Here we're getting recognition, and I'm saying the equivalent of 'oh, thank you very much, but we've already been recognized'. Clearly I'm one of the reasons we're not famouser yet!

Jean again: Following are four more individuals I photographed that also made the TONY cut:

Jean says: I had photographed Robert Bryan and Kyle at the last Metropolitan Pavilion show, and when I saw them again recently, asked them to kindly indulge me just one more time. Both of them are impeccable and have a very low-key but fabulous style. We were tickled pink to learn from TONY that Robert is a retired fashion editor for the New York Times Magazine. (Can we pick 'em, or what?)

Jean says: I first met Lisa Lozano, an installation artist from Ft. Greene in Brooklyn, via New Orleans, while she was shopping by herself. I stopped her to admire her hat and her fabulous culottes, which she'd gotten in The Big Easy. Later, I met several of her friends who were visiting from New Orleans.

Just before the TONY reporter and photographer approached us in the cafe, we were admiring Trudy Solin's necklace. She told us she'd actually made the beads herself. (I can barely make oatmeal and this wonderfully talented person makes her own gorgeous jewelry. Geez, Louise!)

Jean says: Chubo is one of my favorite vintage vendors. On this particular occasion, he looked like he was getting ready to take off. He was decked out in his flight suit, complete with medals pinned to his chest. He has started growing his sideburns since we saw him at the last show at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

Jean says: Apparently, our hat "voguing" inspired Michelle so much, she purchased this black net hat. If you've been paying attention, you recognize it as the hat Mo was wearing in our photo with be-bustiered Stacy earlier. Michelle was sweet enough to model it for us. She confessed it was the first had she'd bought in a long time, and then promptly bought a couple more! It's a large world, but we're gradually converting women to wearing hats, one at a time. (Something tells me we should have started the crusade sooner rather than later...) Valerie says: when we ran into Michelle it was very late in the day, and she stopped us specifically to tell us that she wouldn't have bought the hat if she hadn't seen us wearing ours. That made my day! Ladies, follow Michelle's example and start with a black hat. It goes with everything. If you start with something like yellow or green - which are wonderful colors but harder to match - you'll probably only wear it once or twice a year, and then you'll wonder why you bought it when you find it stuffed in the back of your closet, flattened. Start with black, and build with coordinating colors from there. Red might be a good color for a second hat. (And don't buy an Ascot-sized hat unless you expect to go to Ascot!)

Before we left, we went looking for Jeanne Stella, shown here with her mom, Irene. Between the two of them they run (or seem to run!) the entire Pier Show. Even though it is closing time at the end of the first day of the show, don't they both look fresh and lovely? They're actually having a great time, enjoying the whole experience. What IS their secret? I cannot imagine all the details and mini-crises that have to be attended to at a show of this magnitude. Those two give new meaning to the term "grace under pressure"!


At the end of the day we took a bus thoughtfully provided by Stella Management to ferry visitors from the wilds of the Piers back to Grand Central Station and civilization. Jean's suggestion that we go for cocktails gave us the perfect excuse to try the Campbell Apartment, a cocktail lounge we'd been wanting to try for some time. It was John Campbell's private apartment in Grand Central Station, built in 1923, and furnished in the opulent manner of the railroad barons of the times. We could fill the blog telling you all the details. Instead, click here for Wikipedia's colorful summary.

We had some trouble finding the Campbell Apartment once we were inside Grand Central, but that was part of the fun, sort of. We must have gone up and down in the elevator three or four times, looking in vain for the phantom Level E before finding the place by accident, and by not following the instructions. Once you get there, service isn't great - it's one of those you-need-us-more-than-we-need-you places. First we were seated with a young couple at a small sofa flanked by two chairs. They immediately asked to be re-seated, but were informed that all of the other tables were reserved. To our surprise and delight, when the hostess approached us with our menus, she suggested another more private table on a banquette (much to the chagrin of our previous table-mates who then had to endure having three female tourists seated with them).

Jean says: I was absolutely starving. Luckily, I ordered the cheese plate (which, it turned out, could have fed three people) and a snazzy mango margarita-like cocktail. It felt so good to sit down -- and schmooze about our day.

Valerie says: I ordered the flapper cocktail, I think. It had champagne and amaretto, and peach puree, I believe, with a slice of strawberry. I also ordered a plate of three sliders, two of which I left behind. I should have ordered a second flapper instead. Really interesting combination of flavors that beat the heck out of the Arby's-like sliders. There were several other cocktails on the menu that sounded equally intriguing, too.

While imbibing and degusting, we checked out Campbell's old crib. In the photo above, you can see the inlaid wood beam ceiling. All that gorgeous old wood doesn't buffer sound, though. It got pretty noisy. The Campbell Apartment is not exactly a secret, alas.

There was also a crow's nest (mezzanine? loft?), which was not among the choices given us when we asked to be seated. Looks great. Wonder what's up there, and what the price of admission is. (If we have to ask, we can't afford it???)

Outside the Apartment is a winding double staircase, so much in vogue during the Gilded Age, and so in keeping with the grandeur of Grand Central Station as originally conceived. Now it looks a bit neglected - it needs a paint job, and WHO decided to put the blinding white fire hose THERE? - but it's easy to see that it was designed to bedazzle and uplift the traveler.

Here we are, footless and fancy-free, outside the Campbell Apartment. SO many people are SO generous, offering to take a picture of the two of us so we don't have to take two solo pictures. We're so appreciative, but at the same time we know this is not without its risks. A lovely sweet gentleman took this photo of us. We did ask him to please take the picture lengthwise to get our feet in ( - hey, why wear shoes if no one's going to photograph them? - ), but it wasn't to be. He probably has a camera that includes more than he sees in his viewfinder, and figured this camera worked the same way.

But this was a great end to a great day, and we already know what our feet look like anyway.

Jean is wearing a vintage 1930s black felt and feathered hat (no label); faux goat chubby jacket (made in Spain by Amaya Arzuaga); vintage black wool blazer with enamel buttons (Louis Feraud) ; black turtleneck (H&M); black and white striped orb earrings (by Aiaka Nishi from Red boutique); vintage black bakelite necklace and assorted black and white bakelite and plastic bracelets, cuffs and rings; long harem pant-skirt (Brigitte); black patent customized saw-tooth clogs (Dansko); 1980s vintage frames (Fabulous Fanny's).

Valerie is wearing: an Ignatius hat, vintage red celluloid or bakelite earrings, black cotton jacket by Jill McGowan, black bustier by H&M, splint on right wrist by Procare; felt cuff on left wrist by Tiiti Tolonen; vintage red elastic belt with metal and leather closure by Issey Miyake; unlabeled vintage red suede harem pants; red open-toed sandals by Nicole.