Monday, December 29, 2014

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows: Deco

In addition to the Fairy Tale-themed main window displays, the rest of Saks Fifth Avenue's windows are more fashion-focused with an Art Deco style. Before we arrived at Saks, I had just been telling Jim that I really didn't understand fur as fashion. We had seen a few people walking down Fifth Avenue in absurdly ostentatious full-length fur, and aside from all of the ethical reasons why fur is wrong, I thought it just didn't look great. Then we came to Saks, where nearly half of the ensembles in the Deco windows included a fur piece of some kind (I'm not sure if it's real or faux, but I'm guessing if it's at Saks, it's real).

I had to admit that the mannequins looked stunning, although it's hard not to love the sparkles, the swirling beadwork. the golds and silvers and the classic glamour that is inherent to the Deco style. The New York Times would be pleased to know that I spotted at least two monocles on the male mannequins, which—along with the pencil-thin mustaches—helped them look extra sinister.

These photos also ended up having that interesting double-exposure look since they were taken in the afternoon, with Rockefeller Center serving as the quintessential Art Deco architectural backdrop. There were at least two actual Rockettes costumes on display (the skyline dress and the feather headdress ensemble), which were neat to see in person and reminded me that I need to get to the Radio City show next year. I am a huge fan of classic, Christmas-themed displays or the insanely intricate themes at Bergdorf Goodman, but I found myself really appreciating and marveling at the truly just-for-fancy fashions at Saks.

Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral

On Saturday I didn't have many plans, so I wandered around for a while and stopped into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I was hoping to see their paper crane tree, which I did, but I had forgotten that the Cathedral was playing host to a huge sculpture installation from Xu Bing, called the Phoenix.

Constructed of pieces of discarded construction debris from Beijing, two birds (Feng and Huang) hang suspended in the Nave. They are enormous and really intricate, with bits of curling, twisting metal, fire extinguishers, fans, metal signs and pipes. They are both lit with hundreds of tiny lights, and paired with the already-jaw-dropping scale of the Cathedral it's quite an impressive sight.

I'm not super into installation pieces in historic spaces—especially when I just want to see the original space—but I've been to the Cathedral enough that this is a welcome change. Exhibitions like this are best seen in person so you can really experience the massive scale (like the Kara Walker Domino Sugar exhibit). Phoenix is on display until February and entrance into the Cathedral is free (suggested $10 donation).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows: Fairy Tales

This weekend I met up with Jim and we walked down Fifth Avenue, taking in the holiday window displays. I had already seen Bergdorf's, but I wanted to see how the others compared. While it's nearly impossible to beat Bergdorf's insanely intricate scenes, the windows at Saks are a worthy runner-up. I appreciate that they keep things orderly by installing a railing and even security guards, so you have a chance to properly take in each window without a million people bumping into you or lingering for hours.

Their main window displays this year had a fairy tale theme which aligned nicely with my recent Into the Woods soundtrack obsession (the movie version, but of course). We met up in the afternoon, which isn't the best time to see the windows but I did end up getting some pretty interesting photos.

I was getting frustrated with all of the reflections, but when I got home and looked through the photos I liked them so much more than I thought I would. You could do worse than to have Rockefeller Center as a backdrop, and most of the photos ended up looking like funky double-exposures.

I would love to see these all lit up at night, but after Sunday's Home Alone 2 and window tour, I think I'm all holiday-crowded out. I've definitely petted Christmas to death as I tend to do, and I'm right on schedule this year. Merry Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Last year was my first year experiencing the tacky, extravagant joy that is Dyker Heights at Christmastime. The Brooklyn neighborhood is famous for its over-the-top lights and decorations, most of which are set against already ridiculous houses—waterfalls, stone lions, nude statues, elaborate columns, monogrammed stained glass windows and golden gates are not uncommon in Dyker Heights.

That being said, the Ohio girl in me knows that suburban light displays can get insane, and when you compare the lights in DH to ones across the country, they aren't majorly impressive. They are, however, somewhat of an anomaly in New York—it's strange to even be walking around a neighborhood that has actual yards.

I like that Dyker Heights is accessible by subway and you see so much more of the lights by being able to walk around, instead of driving through like you might do in the suburbs. This time around I spotted a lot of the vintage plastic light-up figures that I love so much—tons of Santas, Frostys, toy soldiers, nativity scenes, angels, a few reindeer and a Mrs. Claus or two.

I have very specific tastes when it comes to Christmas decorations, but generally the more simple and classic, the better. Simple and classic aren't really the words I would use to describe most of the decorations to be found in Dyker Heights, but I will always appreciate a certain level of tackiness and the willingness to go overboard no matter the season.

I really, really despise the recent influx of inflatables, although there is something so ridiculous about an inflatable nativity scene that I can't help but love them. The more worn and weird the decoration is, the more I love it as well, and it will be hard to beat the one-eyed choir boy for creepiest Christmas decoration of the season.

Most of the houses we remembered from last year, and it makes sense that they wouldn't change much from year to year. There is the "Vegas" house, which is covered in rope lights and has a twinkling Eiffel Tower in the front yard (?), the one that is positively lousy with inflatables and the one that looks like it has a face—but the one that has been the most memorable two years running is the candy house. There is something so whimsical, delicious and tiny bit dark (Hansel and Gretel, anyone?) about a real life house made up to look edible, with gumdrops and fruit slices and ice cream cones lining the porch and stuck to the brick walls.

I highly recommend that you take a trip out to Dyker Heights, if you've never been. It's a bit of a journey, but it's definitely worth it for the creepy Santas, pipe-smoking snowmen and sketchy choir boys—if you're really lucky you might even see an inflatable baby Jesus or two.