Killer Heels as Art in Brooklyn

Gaultier’s 2012 Nude Tattoo Boot displayed next to its inspiration, a Chinese porcelain Ming vase (1573-1619)

Gaultier’s 2012 Nude Tattoo Boot displayed next to its inspiration, a Chinese porcelain Ming vase (1573-1619)

The hottest show in New York right now is Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, a curatorial masterwork that the Brooklyn Museum has decided to extend through March 1.

As soon as you enter the first-floor gallery, you’ll encounter Zach Gold’s mesmerizing Spike video, a wall-sized video extravaganza of high fashion, high glamour, and high heels. Why rush into the first room of the exhibition when your eye is trying process all the lush details? This digital kaleidoscope genuinely sets the tone for what lies ahead – an historical mash-up of style, fashion, and design all seen through the lens of ladies’ shoes.

What an eyeful – carefully composed vitrines where you can behold golden Baroque curliques on Prada platforms, 1920s evening shoes, and a 19th century gilded table. What about silver-and-pearl Chanel boots whose heels mimic the 1890s Gorham candlestick right next to them? Or the red-hot strappy Miu Miu shoes whose ornament is identical to the handles on a 18th-century Wedgewood ice cream cup? Check out our Flickr feed to see some of our favorites.

2008 Heels by Miu Miu next to a Wedgewood ice cream cup and saucer (1790-1800)

2008 Heels by Miu Miu next to a Wedgewood ice cream cup and saucer (1790-1800)

Everywhere you look, there are delightful juxtapositions across time, culture, and material – embellished pointy-toed heels from the 1690s, iron-and-leather pallets that boosted the feet of ladies above the muck of 18th-century city streets, and sky-high mother-of-pearl-inlay stilt shoes that Syrian beauties sported in the Twenties. It’s interesting that the latter are displayed in proximity to those dangerous purple Vivienne Westwood gillies that gave Naomi Campbell such problems on the runway.

Nothing’s chronological. It’s all designed to unfold in your mind by pinging unexpected references and associations – designer shoes next to concoctions from another place and time, fantastical embellishments, and streamlined perfection.

Fashionable, embellished pointy-toed 1690 French and 1720 British heels

Fashionable, embellished pointy-toed 1690 French and 1720 British heels

Provocative, room-sized videos commissioned for this show and small historical films only heighten the pizzazz. Check out Edison’s 1903 short, The Gay Shoe Clerk, or snippets from Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette or other Hollywood classics. Don’t miss Eve A.D. 2000, shot in 1939 to predict what fashions and footwear of the future would look like. You’ll have fun evaluating whether those Thirties visionaries got it right.

There’s simply too much to describe – glass slippers by Georgina Goodman, political-statement heels, shoes that seem to take Metamorphoses at its word, and architectural-engineering wonders. Go see for yourself. You’ll find shoes by Ford, Ferragamo, Prada, Gaultier, and unknown Italian, French, and British craftsmen of long ago.

Watch curator Lisa Small’s video but make the trip out to Brooklyn to immerse yourself in one of the best adventures of the season:

Sturtevant’s Mini-MoMA Imitation Game

Sturtevant’s 2004 piece — a reproduction of an light bulb and cord installation “ Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (America)”. On far wall, “Study for Rosenquist’s Spaghetti & Glass”, an oil painted in 1965-1966

Sturtevant interprets Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (America) (2004). On far wall, Study for Rosenquist’s Spaghetti & Glass, an oil painted in 1965-1966

The free Friday night crowd at MoMA could not get enough of the Elaine Sturtevant tribute, Double Trouble, closing this weekend. Sturtevant spent her long career creating ready-mades out of other people’s art.

The show is a who’s who of 20th century art, except that all the pieces were done by Ms. Sturtevant. The show has it all – an entryway plastered with Warhol’s cow wallpaper (done by her), Lichtensteins, Rosenquists, Johns oil paintings – all done in her hand. Take a walk through our Flickr site and see more in the photos on the curator’s blog.

It’s all imitation, except that Elaine’s versions are really, really good. It’s hard to tell them from the originals displayed through the rest of the museum. Nothing in the show is a line-by-line copy, but you’ll have to go MoMA’s permanent galleries to compare them with the real thing.

Sturtevant’s 1967-1968 oil on canvas,Study for LIchtenstein’s ‘Happy Tears’

Sturtevant’s 1967-1968 oil on canvas, Study for LIchtenstein’s ‘Happy Tears’

In fact, MoMA encourages a trek upstairs to compare Duchamp’s own ready-mades and whirligig. Or Mr. Beuys slabs of fat with those sitting on Sturtevant’s chairs in the darkened gallery.

Can anyone distinguish the Warhol Wall Flowers that Elaine made from the reproduced images of the originals on the stuff all over the gift shop?

The Gonzalez-Torres installation was the dramatic high point, all flashy bulbs in a charismatic, mysterious circle near the pretty perfect interpretations of early video games. Everyone is having a blast lining up to contemplate Sturtevant’s walk down digital memory lane with her interpretation of Pacman 1.0.

Is that Sturtevant’s Duane Hanson museum security guard reproduction in the corner? Oh, no, it’s an actual MoMa guard! Sorry. Just about everything else is a fool-the-eye art encounter. Total fun in the white cube.

Sturtevant’s 1990 vision of Warhol’s Flowers alongside her 1968 Duchamp film with interpretations of three Beuys chairs

Sturtevant’s 1990 vision of Warhol’s Flowers alongside her 1968 Duchamp film with interpretations of three Beuys chairs

Sending a Message by Dressing in Black

Dramatic 1861 British mourning attire in black silk moiré.

Dramatic 1861 British mourning attire in black silk moiré.

When the curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were researching collections for last year’s Impressionism-fashion show, they noticed something curious – a disproportionate number of luxurious 19th century American dresses in black. The black silhouettes found in the Costume Institute’s collection formed the basis for their first fall exhibition in seven years, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, closing this weekend.

The show is a sumptuous walk-through of the years spanning the 1840s to the early 20th century, when fashionable women telegraphed their status as widows, paid tribute to fallen heroes, and acknowledged the passing of a member of the British royal family through dress, hats, parasols, rings, brooches, and other purchases. Click here to see our Flickr feed, and here for the Met’s own gallery views.

1868 wedding ensemble designed by West Virginia bride to honor casualties of the Civil War

1868 wedding ensemble designed by West Virginia bride to honor casualties of the Civil War

Fashion became such a rich language that the women in the 19th century felt “forced” to conform, according to associate curator Jessica Regan. It was an expensive proposition, and during the hard times of the American Civil War, many women stopped worrying about what others might think if they didn’t conform. If you didn’t have the cash to commission a new frock, it seemed to be OK just to dye an old one black.

As fashion magazines and periodicals became ubiquitous, middle-class and elite-status women eagerly sought styles that telegraphed sorrow while maintaining an up-to-the-minute silhouette.

Men of the 19th century were essentially wearing all-black suits, so the show’s focus is squarely on the ladies and the complex codes of mourning-attire etiquette. For example, after a sufficient period of time, a woman could introduce a bit of grey into her wardrobe, then mauve.

1894-1896 half-mourning dress purchased at James McCreery at 180 Broadway,when machine sewing was more common

1894-1896 half-mourning dress purchased at James McCreery at 180 Broadway,when machine sewing was more common

The team has assembled stunning examples of each from local collections (the now in-house Brooklyn collection, New-York Historical Society, and the Museum of the City of New York) as well as from the V&A’s collection in London. The most dramatic all-black look is the sweeping silk moiré gown from 1861 Britain. Perhaps the most startling is the 1868 a all-black bridal gown designed for a West Virginia bride who chose to pay tribute to fallen Civil War soldiers on her happy day.

Boutiques within department stores catered to mourning clothes buyers. Entire warehouses were filled to the brim with essential accouterments for the correct “look”. By the 1860s, mass-production of fabric increased the accessibility of the raw materials. A few decades later, heavy fabrics fell out of fashion in favor of lighter weight, more flowing options.

The 1890s fashions feature the best from New York department stores, including a mourning dress emblazoned with a bold geometric design.

1902 dresses worn by Queen Alexandra to mourn Queen Victoria’s death. French tulle, chiffon, and sequins.

1902 dresses worn by Queen Alexandra to mourn Queen Victoria’s death. French tulle, chiffon, and sequins.

A conservative black dress worn by Queen Victoria stands in stark contrast to the sparkly mauve gowns worn in tribute to her by Queen Alexandra – exquisite and subtle, but not really subdued. The spotlights emphasize the delicate pizzazz of these French confections.

By 1910, wearing all black became fashionable, decoupling the color from its sorrowful past. The show concludes by noting that World War I essentially brought an end to mourning-attire traditions and fashions in Europe.

Enjoy this lecture by associate curator Jessica Regan here, posted on the exhibition home page.

Next up at the Costume Institute, Spring 2015: Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film and Fashion. Get out your cheongsams.

1915 Mme. Boué-Debat mourning hat with silk grapes from Brooklyn Museum collection at the Met

1915 Mme. Boué-Debat mourning hat with silk grapes from Brooklyn Museum collection at the Met

Times Square Time Machine at the Skyscraper Museum

Poster from the Schubert archives of “The City at 42nd Street”, the never-built 1979 mall-superblock plan

Poster from the Schubert archives of “The City at 42nd Street”, the never-built 1979 mall-superblock plan

Two weeks ago, the eyes of the world were on Times Square, but how did it get that way? Take a walk through history at The Skyscraper Museum’s exhibition — Times Square, 1984: The Post Modernist Moment through February 15.

You’ll find out that the crazy, frenetic, chaotic landscape of this town square and its surrounding theaters was nearly lost when the City Fathers and the real-estate community thought Times Square should be “sanitized”. It took wrecking balls destroying several historic theaters to bring activists, celebrities, actors, historians, and preservationists into the streets and paddy wagons to reverse course.

The skyscrapers that were finally built at Times Square, including the Times Towers of 1997 and 2004

The skyscrapers that were finally built at Times Square, including the Times Towers of 1997 and 2004

The Skyscraper Museum has assembled the architectural models, videos, personal memorabilia collections, and planning sketches to resurrect this nearly forgotten war story. See the installation views on our Flickr site.

The show opens with a 1905 Mutoscope film showing the panorama from the top of the new Times Tower – the first skyscraper in that part of town. See it here on the exhibition web site. The Times started the ball drop in 1907, and it’s continued as one of the City’s most famous traditions.

The “Great White Way” name became popular in the 1920s and 1930s to indicate the glow from theater marquees lining Broadway, Seventh Avenue, and the side streets. The second skyscraper wasn’t built until 1927 (the Paramount Building/ Hard Rock Café), and remarkably, no other skyscrapers popped up until 1972.

Cutaway drawing of the Portman/Marriott Marquis Hotel (1973-1985), which kept focus inward away from tawdry Times Square

Cutaway drawing of the Portman/Marriott Marquis Hotel (1973-1985), which kept focus inward away from tawdry Times Square

The Portman Hotel (now Marriott Marquis) project was sketched out in 1973, but it took until 1985 to open. The fortress-like complex was designed to look inward on purpose – away from the tawdry street life that characterized Times Square in the “bad old” days when drug pushers, crime, pickpockets, loudmouths, and fistfights were the norm. The atrium and rotating rooftop restaurant were marvels to tourists, who were happy to have an inside-escape route.

By 1979, it was so bad outside that the City proposed some drastic plans to make it all better: Why not tear down a few blocks and make an indoor entertainment mall, complete with a 15-story indoor Ferris wheel and the world’s biggest movie screen? Why not make Times Square look more like Sixth Avenue by building monolithic skyscrapers on each corner of Broadway at 42nd?

Real estate deals ruled the city at the time, and the bonanza created by tourism was still decades away.

Save the Theaters study with 1982 photos of Joe Papp and others protesting the destruction of the Helen Hays and Morosco to build the  Portman. Courtesy: Lee Harris Pomeroy

Save the Theaters study and 1982 photos of Joe Papp protesting the destruction of the Helen Hays and Morosco to build the Portman. Courtesy: Lee Harris Pomeroy

The actors, preservationists, and architects were aghast at plans to tear down so many historic theaters for the Portman/Marriott Marquis and began staging street protests and galvanizing public opinion to save Broadway. Through a lot of community organizing, a Save the Theaters study, and a night where all the theaters turned the lights out, the battle was won. Yes, new towers would be built, but the demolition of theaters would stop.

In 1993, Disney pledged to take over and restore the New Amsterdam, the study identified theater features of historic value (including backstage areas), and a 42nd Street redevelopment effort commenced. Julian Eltinge’s theater (now AMC Empire 25) was moved 130 feet down the street, rehearsal studios were built, and the New Victory brought children’s theater to a house that used to be Minsky’s (and the Belasco).

Today, the crossroads is dominated by tall, sparkling skyscrapers and bustling with high-spending visitors. The TKTS island serves as a concrete village green for the entire area.

Looking north today toward Times Square and 42nd Street

Looking north today toward Times Square and 42nd Street

Insiders at the Skyscraper Museum’s winter program at Columbia University let us in on the fact that the there are actually design requirements for flashing signs and billboards in Times Square to be at off-angles and tilts to maintain the slapped-together look of the area – design elements flouted by Vornado’s new block-long HD video billboard.

This short synopsis is only the tip of the iceberg on Times Square. For the full story and history, get to the show and take time to watch Carol Willis’ historic, all-star panel from last November, where you’ll meet the people who saved the Theater District, remade 42nd Street, and created the landscape of Times Square that the world knows today. You’ll never look at it the same way again:

 

For more, click here to read the exhibition story online and see more photos, videos, and artifacts.

Nature Meditations in the Land of Fire and Ice

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

When the weather dips below freezing and people think they’re in the Arctic, there’s no better place to get out of the elements and meditate on the landscapes of long, dark winters than the third floor of Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Until tomorrow, January 10, you’ll join eleven contemporary artists from the sub-arctic on their journeys in a show mounted by the Katonah Museum of Art, Iceland Artists Respond to Place.

Bjork may get all the media attention, but do yourself a favor and walk through this three-gallery show, which beautifully and simply presents the work of Iceland’s other leading visual artists. See the land of fire and ice through their eyes.

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Installation photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson takes you on an aerial journey along a 60-mile meltwater river, from the mouth to the source. Ragna Róbertsdóttir splatters miniscule lava rocks against a wall but it’s not what it sounds like. Far from a violent eruption, it’s an undulating, mesmerizing meditation that you’ll spend time contemplating.

For sheer romantic and modernist punch, enjoy Georg Guðni Hauksson’s two works – a large landscape memory and a solid dark blue canvas evoking the long winter nights (like an emotional Ad Reinhardt).

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Egill Saebjornsson takes home the whimsy award with a multimedia installation in which rocks speak (seriously!). Eggert Pétursson zeros in the microscopic natural phenomenon – painting flowers (life sized) in patterns that read like tapestries. You’ll wish you were on some hikes with him. Katrín Sigurðardóttir simply packs up her landscapes into boxes. Tiny, tiny recreations of vast, romantic landscapes.

When we visited the galleries this week, visitors were asking if there was more they could see. Scandinavia House always hosts classy, elegant shows, so although the exhibition space is limited, we have to admit they always leave us wanting to see what’s next from that part of the world.

Seth Myers was recounting his Icelandic adventures this week on Late Night. If you can’t get to the country like Seth or visit the show, at least you can spend chilly days and nights like the natives do, courtesy of this instructional video produced by Scandinavia House:

 

Pterosaurs Leave New York

AMNH illustration of Mary Anning’s Dimorphodon. Courtesy: AMNH.

AMNH illustration of Mary Anning’s Dimorphodon. Courtesy: AMNH.

They came from all over the world to hang out for the ball drop, but will be gone by the time of the Super Bowl. Yes, the crazy cast of characters in the American Museum of Natural History’s show, Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of the Dinosaurs, will decamp for their hometowns tomorrow, January 4 just like everyone else who came to New York and had a blast.

Quetzalcoatlus, Tropeognathus, and “Dark Wing” have been putting on quite a show for AMNH visitors since April, and only time will tell if New Yorkers have learned to stop calling them “dinosaurs.” They are flying reptiles.

AMNH illustration of super-tiny Nemicolopterus from China (10 inches) proves that not all pterosaurs were giants. He lived in the forest.

AMNH illustration of super-tiny Nemicolopterus from China (10 inches) proves that not all pterosaurs were giants. He lived in the forest.

The show features life-sized replicas of these flying machines and the big celebrity “Dark Wing” from Germany – the only pterosaur fossil yet found with impressions of the amazing wing membrane that contains layers and layers of thin muscle, all suspended from a single finger.

Get to know more about these amazing animals in the intro to the show, complete with a peppy soundtrack created by the Museum’s digital divas:

 

When Mary (“She Sells Sea Shells…”) Anning went scouting along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast in 1828, she found little Dimorphodon and sold it to Mr. Buckland, starting a scientific quest to determine the exact nature of these enigmatic creatures.

Happy Ptreranodon in the Vertebrate Origins hall before the crew made him a star of the show inside the Lefrak Gallery.

Happy Ptreranodon in the Vertebrate Origins hall before the crew made him a star of the show inside the Lefrak Gallery.

Most of the press at the time went gaga for the pterodactyl found in Bavaria during the 1830s and 1840s, named Pterodactylus by Mr. Cuvier. Pterosaur fossils have been around so long that it’s hard to believe that this New York show is the first time that these non-dinos have gotten the full star treatment.

Co-curators Mark Norell and Alexander Kellner and the AMNH exhibitions squad took on the jumbo challenge of mounting this first-ever museum show devoted solely to the vertebrates who “invented” flight. Yes, before birds (or bats) took to the skies, fuzzy-bodied pterosaurs were dive-bombing Mesozoic fish, launching from beaches, and leaving their unmistakable footprints on mudflats all over the ancient world.

Click here to see paleontologists searching for pterosaur footprints on an ancient Upper Jurassic beach in central Wyoming.

Pterosaur tracks in the Wyoming sandstone. Crooked forelimb print (L), hindfoot print (R). Taken on a 2006 trackway field trip with the Tate Museum.

Pterosaur tracks in the Wyoming sandstone. Crooked forelimb print (L), hindfoot print (R). Taken on a 2006 trackway field trip with the Tate Museum.

We couldn’t take photos inside the AMNH show of the beautiful pterosaur trackway from the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah, so this Flickr slide show gives you the idea. The shots were taken ten years ago, when paleontologists were still debating whether pterosaurs were bipedal or quadrupedal. As you can see, these Jurassic pterosaurs left quadrupedal tracks.

It’s doubtful that these flying marvels stayed on the beach for long. Watch here to see how gigantic Quetzalcoatlus and friends took off via the animations by the AMNH digital team, based on Michael Habib’s analytics and simulations. You’ll be surprised by what airplanes and pterosaurs have in common:

Philly Hosts Patrick Kelly’s Runway of Love

Mismatched button-inspired looks line the center runway in the show (1986)

Mismatched button-inspired looks line the center runway in the show (1986)

Supermodels having fun, crazy colorful buttons, zingy color, and tongue-in-cheek tributes to fashion’s greats – it’s all on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s tribute to one of our all-time favorite fashion designers in the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, on through December 7.

Click here to see our favorite Flickr photos from the exhibition, which has been packed with fashion admirers throughout the show’s run. The gallery is ablaze with life, references to African-American heritage, supermodel sizzle, and the sheer joy that Patrick took in upending fashion’s icons.

The center runway features lots of Patrick’s iconic button dresses, evoking his grandmother’s way of using mismatched buttons to refresh his well-worn clothes as a kid in Mississippi. As a youngster, Patrick consumed acres of fashion magazines – Vogue and Harpers were his favorites – and high-tailed it to Paris as soon as he could.

Always fun to spoof Chanel’s use of pearls (1988) and create a Ricci-inspired flamenco dress once modeled by Iman

Always fun to spoof Chanel’s use of pearls (1988) and create a Ricci-inspired flamenco dress once modeled by Iman

He made and sold voluminous coats (inspired by Issey Miyake and Balenciaga) on the streets of Paris to earn cash. But soon his cut-up jersey tube dresses caught the eye of editors of Elle. Maybe it was because he created them for his model-friends to wear on casting calls. When the “tubes” were published, Bergdorf’s placed an order, put his work in their windows, and his career was off and running.

He appropriated sly references to Black culture in the American South and put his own unique high-fashion spin – flouncy dance dresses made from bandana fabric, denim jumpers inspired by sharecropper wear, runway shows with models sporting Blackamoor turbans, and watermelon accessories. Paris went wild over his exuberant runway shows.

A lot of the excitement was over the models who walked his shows — Pat Cleveland, Iman, L’Wren Scott, and other beauties – who cavorted and flounced all his flirty and fun creations. Watch the trailer and see Patrick and his supermodels in action:

 

Patrick created a bit of fashion history in 1986 when Pat Cleveland interpreted Josephine Baker in Patrick’s famous Banana Dance costume, a collaboration with jeweler David Spada. The photos went viral.

Two looks inspired by Josephine Baker. Left, the “Banana Dance Costume” (1986), a collaboration with jewelry designer David Spada

Two looks inspired by Josephine Baker. Left, the “Banana Dance Costume” (1986), a collaboration with jewelry designer David Spada

The show features videos of Patrick sporting his familiar denim overalls, a joyful designer with a lot of love in his heart for his models, friends, and colleagues. It’s fitting that the museum has posted on its web the things that he loved best. Click here to see Patrick’s Love List and a photo of Bette Davis wearing one of his looks.

If you can’t get to Philly to see the show, click here to see the museum’s site and work your way through each mini-slideshow. The curator’s copy is attached to each look.

Thanks to Bill T. Jones for lending so many of Patrick’s inspired creations and to the museum’s web team that has created such a terrific documentation of this bright light.

And how does a fashion exhibition like Patrick’s all come together? Here’s a backstage look with the exhibitions team:

 

Tiny Show Tells Big Story at NY Historical Society

Tiffany & Co., Sterling silver controller handle used to operate NYC’s first subway train, 1904. Source: NYHS

Tiffany & Co., Sterling silver controller handle used to operate NYC’s first subway train, 1904. Source: NYHS

Has anything changed in New York in the last 400 years?

To celebrate the debut of a history book by Sam Roberts, the New-York Historical Society has filled its tiny second-floor gallery with A Brief History of New York: Selections from A History of New York in 101 Objects. Perhaps it’s always been about infrastructure, finance, and tourism. See for yourself through Sunday, November 30.

Many of the stories intertwine, and it’s fun to get insights from reading the backstories of the items on display, like the 1500s arrowhead and the 1700s oyster. We all know that New York City was the oyster capital of North America until the 1920s, but did you know that they were so abundant that crushed shells were used to line Pearl Street and provide the major component of the foundation mortar for Trinity Church on Wall Street?

Consider that the earliest guidebook to New York City (formerly New Amsterdam) was written in 1670, long before double-decker buses were trolling the mean streets.

New York's first guide book from 1640

New York’s first guide book from 1640

Mass-market media manipulations were born here as long ago as 1809, when young Washington Irving (who first used “Gotham” as a synonym the city in 1807) began posting missing-persons advertisements in a variety of city papers (the New York Evening Post is on display) to drive sales of his satirical political “history” of New York by a fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker. Move over, Buzzfeed.

City infrastructure highlights include Mr. Randal’s field books for laying out the Manhattan street grid in the early 1800s (see the digitized results here) and a snippet from the first transatlantic cable, deployed in 1854-1858. Queen Victoria sent an 88-word telegram to New York, which was officially received in an astounding 17 hours — an innovation at the time but significantly slower than dial-up AOL.

Visitors absolutely love the wooden water pipes on display at NYHS, but the show shares the fact that these were deployed by Aaron Burr, who got the state license to build New York’s first water system as part of his mission with The Manhattan Company. We’re used to hearing about the crumbling infrastructure under the streets today and contractors under-funding city technology projects, but this item underscores that it’s not a new story.

Section of water pipe, 1770-1804. The note says it was put into service in 1804 on Washington Street near Liberty Street and pulled out of the ground around 1911.

Section of water pipe, 1770-1804. The note says it was installed on Washington Street (near Liberty) in 1804 and pulled out of the ground around 1911.

Burr made money but let this innovative delivery system deteriorate. Instead of keeping the infrastructure up-to-date, he use the cash to build The Manhattan Bank (today JPMorgan Chase) to break the monopoly held by Mr. Hamilton’s Bank of New York – a rivalry that later escalated toward an historically tragic outcome. (See their dueling pistols in the lobby.)

On a happier note, one of the brightest objects in the show is the sterling silver Tiffany handle used to operate the first subway train in New York in 1904. Dignitaries used it to make the first run from City Hall up to 103rd Street on a day when 150,000 tickets were sold and New Yorkers took their first ride.

Subway tokens (1995-2003). Source: NYHS

Subway tokens (1995-2003). Source: NYHS

Although they only went extinct in 2003, the subway tokens mounted behind glass seem like ancient history – little round artifacts that look as though they should have been dangling from beaded wampum belts and not carried around as currency in the 20th century.

Thanks to NYHS for providing us with this illuminating capsule collection.

FIT’s Fun, Flirty Historic Lingerie Show

Unusual combination: Sleeves on a silk corset with whalebone stays, circa 1770

Unusual combination: Sleeves on a silk corset with whalebone stays, circa 1770

After sifting through hundreds of corsets, petticoats, slips, nightgowns, knickers, baby dolls, and stockings, the FIT curators have selected 70 key pieces from the archives that lay out trajectory of ladies’ underthings in Exposed: A History of Lingerie, on display through November 15.

The upstairs gallery – usually reserved for gems from FIT’s spectacular collection – takes you on a journey through four centuries of shape-shifting garments that really contributed to the silhouettes of yesteryear. Remarkably, many look totally “today”. The first room pairs underwear and outerwear to make the point.

Hard corsetry items follow next – bustles and corsets from the 17th and 18th centuries, including two that are reckoned to be some of the first examples (at least, in FIT’s collection) of “underwear as outerwear” – a delicate, lavish petticoat and a spectacular 17th century whalebone corset. The telltale signs: If you weren’t showing them off, why would you own a corset with sleeves or a petticoat with such fine hand-embroidered detail?

1969 Pucci Lycra-Spandex body stocking for Formfit Rogers

1969 Lycra-Spandex body stocking by Pucci for Formfit Rogers

Predating flappers by more than a century, you can gaze upon the unstructured “natural corset” that 1815 fashionistas wore under their white Grecian-style muslins. One hundred years later, underwear history repeats itself with the 1920s silk underwear designed to be worn under the “corsetless” styles of the Roaring Twenties.

Then it’s on to many more 1920s intimate-fashion innovations – hostess gowns, boudoir mules, French cami-knickers sold at Saks, and the ultimate in period bohemian luxury, the Fortuny tea gown.

Retail history is noted in the 1930s section. Alongside the languid lounging pajamas, negligees, and lingerie-inspired evening gowns, you’ll learn that in 1935, Bergdorf Goodman became the first Manhattan retailer to open up a specialty store within the store specifically devoted to lingerie.

1949 overwire and a 1951 nylon net and silk taffeta petticoat from Dior.

1949 overwire and a 1951 nylon net and silk taffeta petticoat from Dior.

In the 1940s section of the show, special honor is given to Dior’s structured nylon petticoats that gave the New Look’s iconic silhouette its shape, the role of the overwire bra, and the sensation caused by the 1940 debut of nylon stockings – a fashion must-have that quickly became impossible to acquire during WWII.

Historic intimate gems keep appearing through the exhibition, culminating in more recent innovations, such as the Gaultier’s girdle dress, Rudi Gernriech’s no-bra bra, and the revolutionary Wonderbra, as well as up-to-the-minute styles by La Perla, Agent Provocateur, and Victoria’s Secret.

Want to know more? FIT again gives us a stellar on-line exhibition site organized by decade. On each decade, click on “more images” to see nearly the entire exhibition. FIT’s exhibition blog contains the backstory on a dozen or more pieces from the collection.

Even if you’re able to get to Seventh Avenue this week, why not take a walk-through with Coleen Hill, the curator who created this beautiful, thoughtful, and delight-packed show?

Sinclair Dinosaur Sneaks In and Out of Grand Central

Entrance to the show, featuring the 1964 monorail, transport of the future

Entrance to the show, featuring the 1964 monorail, transport of the future

Although he’s featured at the back, the famous Sinclair dinosaur from the 1964 New York World’s Fair has generated a lot of attention inside the New York Transit Museum’s show Traveling in the World of Tomorrow: The Future of Transportation at New York’s World’s Fairs, closing today.

Drawn in by the spectacular photo of the monorail, commuters and tourists visiting Grand Central have been roaming through the gallery and gift shop, checking out the photos, murals, and Dinoland movie that whisk them back to the transportation pavilions of the history-making 1939 and 1964 New York world’s fairs. What’s a dinosaur doing in the World of Tomorrow? It’s all about the car.

The 1939 World’s Fair was built on top of the Corona garbage dump during the height of the Great Depression, putting visionary architects and day laborers to work.

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A futuristic subway station was built to deliver visitors to the fairgrounds from the A Line. You could enter a spaceship-shaped Flash Gordon amusement ride and watch the first 3D Technicolor movie ever produced inside the Chrysler pavilion.

The best was the legendary Futurama, where people could imagine a time where everyone owned their own car. The ride took them to the faraway year of 1960. Superhighways and curly exit ramps bisect acres of tall skyscrapers, with cars traveling on autopilot at the amazing speed of 55 miles per hour. Incredible!

Dinoland brochure from the Queens Historical Society

Dinoland brochure from the Queens Historical Society

Fast forward: The Sinclair dinosaur is part of the 1964 experience. By then, every family owned its own car. Sinclair’s long-necked, supersized Brontosaurus was a familiar icon to any family stopping to gas up along the newly completed interstate highway system, so why not mix a little magic, promotion, and science?

Sinclair built Dinoland and populated it with life-size replicas of nine dinosaurs. The exhibition has plenty of Dinoland souvenirs along with a movie clip of families seeing the Jurassic giant for the first time.

Robert Moses and Walt Disney look at the model of the 1964 World’s Fair. From MTA Bridges & Tunnels archives

Robert Moses and Walt Disney look at the model of the 1964 World’s Fair. From MTA Bridges & Tunnels archives

The show also pays tribute to the man who also brought another group of Mesozoic superstars to life inside the fairgrounds. Walt Disney designed four of the fair’s animatronics displays, including the robot cavemen and dinosaurs glimpsed in the Ford Motor Company’s “Magic Skyway” ride. There’s a terrific photo of New York’s Robert Moses alongside Walt, looking out over the model of the 1964 fairgrounds, and you can see the actual model itself, right inside.

Missed the show? You won’t see all the movies and hear the soundtracks that made the exhibition so exciting, but you can take a look at the galleries on our Flickr feed.

The 1964 car that everyone wanted — the Ford Mustang, which debuted at the fair

The 1964 car that everyone wanted — the Ford Mustang, which debuted at the fair