Museums in New York

Hello all!

I’m back from my whirlwind trip to NY and I just wanted to share some thoughts from my travels. Today New York’s museums. Here are a run down of the ones I visited.

Ohhh…. And this is my attempt at taking poncey shots from the top of the empire state building.

Museum @ FIT

The museum galleries of the fashion institute are only quite small BUT a rarity for New York they are actually free! This is a must visit for any fashion history fan and currently on display are some amazing highlights from the collection including gorgeous pieces by Charles James and Alexander McQueen. My only issue was the heavy shaking you could feel from the subway whilst in the galleries.

Charles James at Museum at FIT

The Frick

This is what you call a personal collection! The Frick collection was formed by Henry Clay Frick
And is still kept in the building that was originally his house. What I like about this collection is you get a real sense of Fricks personality as you wander round the museum, and you actually see the paintings where he originally chose for them to be hung. This is definitely what I would call a relaxing museum to visit. My highlight was the Fragonard room, which was seen as a ladies room; ethereal and light. The Fragonard panels honestly transport you to a different, dreamlike world.

Guggenheim museum

This was my least favourite of the museums I visited. I’m not the biggest modern art fan and a lot of the pieces here were too abstract for my liking. I feel that you get a lot more for your money at the other museums, as even for a student entry to the Guggenheim is $18. If you are interested in modern art check out the contemporary galleries at the Met or MOMA instead which I feel offer more. Needless to say the Frank Lloyd Wright building the museum is housed in is sensational.

Neue galerie

I didn’t make it to this museum, but I did pick up the brochure and I have to say it looks fantastic. I think if you are into your German and Austrian artists this is the museum for you. Lots of art nouveau here, I will definitely be visiting the next time I am in New York.


Another amazing museum filled with absolute delights. I went on a Friday afternoon which is free. This does mean it is incredibly busy, but very much worth it. Here are a few of my personal highlights from the museum.


The MET is THE New York museum. As much as I enjoyed the other museums the met just has everything one could want (like the V and A only bigger). I was so excited to get to see some of my favourite pieces of art in the flesh. Especially the John Singer Sargeant works. Madame X has always been one of my absolute favourite paintings and to see it up close I have to admit moved me. I also really liked seeing the works by Signac and Monet and really getting to understand their brushwork up close.

Not only does the met have wonderful art, but there is also wonderful design. The museum has amazing room settings allowing you to truly understand how furniture would have fitted together. I liked this Art Nouveau room setting the best.

Then of course there is the costume collection (currently closed, another reason I need to go to New York again). The current major exhibition is Schiaparelli and Prada: impossible conversations. Schiap is my favourite designer of all time, so of course I was going to enjoy the exhibition, but I really appreciated the thought process and the thematic approach to the display. Items were really well displayed to allow you to get close enough (but not too close of course) and see both back and front of items. From an exhibition design point of view it was one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to I think.

Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

One thing that New York museums made me think is how lucky we have it here in the UK with so many of our museums being free. New York museums are pricey, and I actually think we get too much here for free. I mean everything you get at the V and A and not to pay anything for it??? Personally I think there should be a charge, but that is just my two penny worth : ).

In my following blog posts shopping in New York AND getting to hear Tavi Gevinson and Iris Apfel speak.

Schiap Schiap Hooray

Today I’m going back to my roots…sort of . What I am really doing is going back to a post which I wrote nearly 2 years ago. All the way back then I wrote about Schiaparelli who is my favourite designer of ALL time, today after doing a research project on 30s fashion I’m going back to the Schiap and I’ll introduce you to some of my favourite designs.
Schiaparelli was one of the most innovative and imaginative designers of the 1930s. She began here career as a fashion designer in the 1920s creating simple knitted jumpers with trompe l’oeil motifs, but it was really the 1930s when her career took off.
The 30s saw Schiaparelli take design inspiration from a wide variety of sources, from art to nature even the celestial sky became her inspiration. Schiaparelli was more than just a designer she created objects d’art and Balenciaga would later say she was. “ the only true artist in fashion”
Schiaparelli was an innovator in terms of fabric and design, bringing the zip fastening to high fashion and often creating gowns in unusual fabrics. She often used synthetics to create her luxurious evening gowns.
Her style came to epitomise a new woman who was developing. Schiaparelli created “power dressing” before the term was even invented. She began developing more of a military silhouette in the 1930s with boxy shoulders and a squared silhouette that would become mainstream fashion in the 40s. Her clothing oozed sex appeal at a time when this still was often seen as inappropriate using motifs which had hidden sexual meaning.

Wonderful example from the Pagan collection featuring the insect buttons which came to epitomise this collection.
Schiaparelli’s circus collection of 1938 was one of her most popular and whimsical. The theme was widely copied.
The circus collection was launched in February 1938, Schiaparelli “sent the performers skipping up and down the imposing staircase and leaping on and off the venduses’ desks in her dignified showroom…This was the most riotous and swaggering show that fashion had ever seen. Here you paraded in a tall hat and a ringmaster jacket with a high collar, or in tights worn under long narrow black skirts.”

This is the jacket I originally blogged about all that time ago, which I now understand in a lot more depth than previously, and it still stands to be the garment I would probably give up my entire vintage collection for (o.k. everything bar my Horrockses, they are my babies after all). It was one of the key pieces in the Circus collection and the image here shows Maria Berenson, Granddaughter of Schiaparelli wearing the jacket (it is is the actual jacket in the V & A) for a Vogue shoot in 1971. The jacket actually featured in Cecil Beaton’s exhibition of the same year for the V& A Fashion: An Anthology which was the dawning exhibition of a new age of fashion exhibitions.

The fastenings on the jackets are one of the most important parts of the Circus collection. These complex fastenings employ industrial techniques, Here industrial slide hooks are used to keep the cast metal buttons in place.

The tear dress is probably one of Schiaparelli’s most famous designs. This piece was created for the 1938 Circus collection in collaboration with Dali. The dress uses imagery based on Dali’s painting necrophiliac springtime. The pink and red painted design is supposed to resemble torn flesh. The dress is typical of Schiaparelli’s playful juxtaposition of beautiful dresses with seemingly odd print or embroidery subject matter. 


The theme of Schiaparelli’s 1939 fall collection was music. This is one of the key garments from the collection. The dress is embroidered with musical notes in jaunty colours with gloves to match. The collection also featured fanciful items such as buttons shaped like drums and music boxes on hats. Many of the embroideries covering her garments this season featured instruments and musical notes.

And a final note, one of the key inspirations throughout Schiaparelli’s career was the 1890s. She collaborated on a series of wonderfully whimiscal printed dresses with Vertes and often the shapes of her garments recall the period (leg-o-mutton sleeves anyone). So whilst Schiaparelli was a great innovator she was more than happy to borrow from history too! The image above comes from 1939,  The print on the middle dress is an example of one by Vertes, there are a number of further fabulous examples in the book Fashion and Surrealism too.

She’s my icon

Schiaparelli. Schiap. Whatever you want to call her, i really do love her. Undoubtedly one of the most inspiring designers of the 20th century (and someone who i have mentioned a number of times before). Her style was all about fashion with a sense of humour and irreverence. She worked succsessfully with some of the greatest artists of her time including Dali and Cocteau and challenge many of the preconcieved ideas of beauty. Not a particularly attractive woman she was the antithesis of Chanel with her relaxed elegance. Although, whereas Chanel was a truly wonderful businesswoman Schiaparelli was an amazing designer. She though, interestingly, didn’t consider herself a designer. Schiap introdced us to shocking pink, exposed zips and some of the craziest, maddest applique patterns ever seen.The book on her story, “shocking life” is quite wonderful and gives a real insight into her life. Some excellent examples of her work can be seen on both the Victoria and Albert museum website and the Met Museum website. Here are a selection of a few of my favourite garments by her, all from the Met archive.