NYC Adventure: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) to see the new fashion exhibit, Charles James: Beyond Fashion.

The adventure began on a rainy spring day…

Stole the boyfriend's coat

So naturally I stole my boyfriend’s coat

We saw the sign for the fashion exhibit the moment we got to the museum. (Oh, the excitement!)

Charles James: Beyond Fashion

Sign for the Charles James exhibit

Charles James: Beyond Fashion

The Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit features dozens of beautiful designs by the late American couturier Charles James.

Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit

Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit

His designs are timeless and breathtaking. I managed to snap a couple of photos before a member of the museum staff told me that photography isn’t allowed… oops.

I just love how this first display is arranged. Can’t you just imagine sophisticated ladies wearing these lovely gowns at a fancy event in the 1950s?

Front of the exhibit

This next part of the exhibit had a modern twist. There were live-feed moving cameras that projected close up views of each gown’s intricate details and screens that displayed x-ray images of their internal support structure. Not only were the gowns beautifully designed on the outside, but on the inside they were a feat of remarkable craftsmanship.

Stunning gown

One of the many stunning gowns

Charles James essentially constructed wearable sculptures. I could have spent hours and hours carefully studying each gown, but we did want to see some of the rest of the museum, (which is HUGE by the way) so I bid farewell to the gowns and took a stroll through the rest of The Met.

I felt like I barely scratched the surface of the museum, but I did get a brief taste of ancient Egypt, Qing dynasty China, and 18th century France. Below are a few of the highlights:

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt has always been sort of a fascination of mine–probably has something to do with the glamorization of Cleopatra. While the mummies did freak me out a bit (I’m so squeamish), I enjoyed the rest of the exhibit.

Egyptian statue

Ancient Egyptian statue

Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles

Next we saw Chinese snuff bottles from the Qing dynasty. At first I laughed at the idea of this exhibit, but they were actually quite lovely.

Chinese Snuffboxes from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Snuff bottles from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

According to the exhibit, snuff is a mixture of tobacco leaves, herbs and spices and was used for medicinal purposes. Snuff usage became increasingly popular during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) which led to the production of snuff bottles.

Snuff bottles

Intricate snuffboxes

These small, air-tight, containers preserved the freshness and flavor of the snuff. Over the centuries, snuff gained popularity in every aspect of Chinese society. The bottles display the various types of Chinese artistic styles through the centuries and how they were influenced by Western techniques.

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As you can see from the images, the bottles incorporated a variety of art forms including glass, porcelain, ivory, painted enamel, metal, and calligraphy. Aren’t they pretty?

According to the display, some of the most exquisite snuffboxes were made of precious metals and decorated with gems. These were often gifts from European envoys and missionaries to the Chinese court. These snuffboxes were some of the most prized possessions of the Chinese emperors.

18th Century France

Perhaps my favorite part of the museum was the display that recreated rooms from 18th century France. Have a look!

French drawing room

Formal Reception Room from the Hotel de Tesse, Paris

Could you imagine living amongst all this beauty? Le sigh.

Room from the Palais Paar, Vienna

Room from the Palais Paar, Vienna

The French certainly are fancy. (There’s even a harp!) Every detail in this room is exquisite.

French bedroom

French bedroom

I’d feel like a queen waking up in that room each morning! Just look at that chandelier.

This was just a small snippet of the many beautiful things to see at the Met. If you ever find yourself in NYC and are looking for a cultured visit, I’d definitely recommend spending an afternoon (or a whole day!) at The Met. Until the next adventure!

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NYC Adventure: 150 Years of Design Innovation

On my way to meet someone for drinks this past week, I accidentally stumbled upon FIT, The Fashion Institute of Technology. My love of fashion, avid curiosity, and desire for adventure led me to check it out. I went inside and found a small (and free!) student exhibition called The Movement: 150 Years of Design Innovation.

The exhibit “…showcases ten time periods by incorporating architecture, fashion, and iconic objects for each.”

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the exhibition:

Bustle, 1871

Bustle, 1871

I LOVE a good bustle. It always amuses me how women wanted their bottoms to appear larger back in the Victorian era. I believe my large derrière would have served me well during this time period.

Seventeen Magazine and Gossip Bench

Seventeen Magazine and Gossip Bench

This 1940s gossip bench was built for functionality — it included a tabletop for a phone and a drawer to hold a notepad or phone book. The first Seventeen Magazine, as seen on the gossip bench, was published in 1944 for girls ages 12-19.

Dior

Dior “New Look”

In 1947, designer Christian Dior rocked the fashion world with the launch of the “New Look” featuring higher hemlines, fuller skirts, and smaller waistlines. Women’s fashion was never the same.

Mod Dress

Mod Dress

The 1960s brought forth the next frontier: space travel. With space travel, futuristic mini skirts and mini dresses became all the rage.

Isn’t the history of fashion fascinating? You can tell so much about a particular time period just from studying the garments.

My next adventure also features the history of fashion… Up next: my trip to the Met!

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The Haul: Forever 21

Yesterday I took a lovely trip to New York City to visit two of my very best friends, one who lives in North Jersey and another who was born and raised in the City — lucky girl! We shopped, dined and chatted for hours. I’m a firm believer that your true friends are those who make you laugh the loudest, and these two had me in hysterics all night. I must say that we did more chatting and laughing than shopping, but I did make some fabulous purchases at Forever 21. And get this — I spent less than $15! (You KNOW I love a good bargain!) So without further ado, here’s my Forever 21 Haul.

Salmon Sandals, $8.80

Aren’t these fun? I’ve been wearing the same tired sandals since last summer and I’m thrilled to have found a bright new pair to replace them. I have a sad habit of wearing the same pair of shoes over and over again until they’re destroyed and unwearable. Since these came in a bunch of other colors, I’m thinking of going to the Forever 21 near my house to pick up another pair!

Baby Pink Nail Polish, $2.80

Baby Pink Nail Polish, $2.80

Little known fact: Forever 21 has GREAT nail polish! They have a trendy selection of colors, the polish goes on streak-free and the price is right at less than $3 a bottle. I picked this particular color for future job interviews in the city! (Keep those polished fingers crossed for me!) Even though the bottle says “Baby Pink” I’m going to rename this polish “Lucky Interview.”

Tribal Headband, $2.80

Tribal Headband, $2.80

Admittedly, I wasn’t actually in the market for a new headband, but once this little beauty caught my eye I couldn’t let it go! I’m not sure what I’m going to wear with this just yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a great outfit. Who knows, maybe I’ll need to go on another shopping trip just to find the perfect look!

What do you think of my new finds? Leave a comment below!

London Blog: Harry Potter Costumes

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Click through the slideshow to see some of the beautiful costumes from the eight Harry Potter films.

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London Blog: Museum of London, History of Fashion

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Click through the slideshow to view the history of fashion from the 1700s to today.

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London Blog: Fashion Exhibit, Victoria & Albert Museum

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Click through the slideshow to see some the fashions on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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London Blog: Day 5

Big Ben

Big Ben

I had a relaxing morning sitting in Starbucks eating pancakes and blogging before meeting with our group to ride the London Eye. Once we got off the Tube, Big Ben was standing in the fog waiting for us! I have seen many pictures of Big Ben, but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it looks in person! There is exquisite detail and when you hear it chime it is humbling. After taking a million pictures in front of Big Ben, we finally rode the London Eye. It was a bit foggy, so when we got to the top we couldn’t see very much, but it was still a lot of fun.

Lunch in Kensington Garden

Lunch in Kensington Garden

Afterwards our group split up and Liz and I made our way to Kensington Gardens on a double decker bus. We picked up a hot lunch of soup and stew along the way and ate it on a park bench while enjoying the view. The fog gave the air a beautifully spooky feel, but our lunch warmed us from the inside out. Once we finished our lunch we went on a half hour walk through the park in search of the Peter Pan statue.

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

On the way we stopped at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. We also passed by a lake that was filled with giant swans, ducks and adorable black birds with white bills. Liz is a huge Peter Pan fan and when we finally reached the Peter Pan statue, Liz was overcome with emotion. I am so happy that she finally got to see her beloved Pan statue!  Since we were right near the Victoria and Albert Museum, we decided to stop in to see the Hollywood Costume exhibit.

Clothing circa 1920s

Clothing circa 1920s

We were told that the exhibit would take too long so instead we went through the Fashion exhibit before class. The clothing ranged from 1800-2012 and I was instantly reminded of my BCC fashion class. I’m starting to get good at identifying when an item of clothing was made just by looking at it – I can almost always put it in the correct decade. I walked through the exhibit very slowly so I could take in the details of each piece of clothing. Liz and I took the bus back to our hotel and we had just enough time to take a quick nap before class. During our class we discussed the three plays we had seen so far: The Wind in the Willows, Julius Caesar, and Richard III. After class a group of us went to a Lebanese restaurant near our hotel and I had a delicious hummus, veggie and salad wrap. We stayed at the restaurant for a few hours blogging and emailing our loved ones before turning in for a goodnight’s sleep.

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London Blog: Shakespearean Costume Demonstration

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Click through the slideshow to see the arduous process of getting dressed in the 1500’s.

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London Blog: Day 4

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

It was a glorious Shakespeare filled day and I loved every minute of it! After our usual breakfast at the hotel, our group took the Tube to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for our 10 a.m. tour. The Globe is a tribute to Shakespeare and includes an exhibition area, learning center and playhouse – which is a recreation of the original Globe Theatre that was lost in a fire centuries ago.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

The playhouse is absolutely incredible, but my pictures simply don’t do it justice. It is a 20 paneled circular structure with seating on three levels. The stage is beautifully adorned with painted columns and angelic sculptures. There is a large space in front of the theatre for standing room only. In Shakespeare’s day the “groundlings” watched the play from the ground for 1 pence while standing on a floor of hazelnut shells. We toured the entire playhouse and even ventured to the top level to sit in the Queen’s box!

In the Queen's box!

In the Queen’s box!

After we finished drooling over the theatre we watched a costume demonstration in the exhibition area. We learned that all the actors at the Globe Theatre wear authentic Shakespearean style costumes from head to toe. Even their undergarments are like those worn in the original Globe Theatre. I was lucky enough to be chosen to model Ophelia’s costume (step-by-step photos of the costume demonstration soon to come!) – making the Globe the highlight of my trip. Putting on the costume was quite a process – it took two employees to get me fully dressed. First, were the undergarments which is a long sleeved white linen dress and a pair of silk stockings that go over the knee that are fastened with two eyelets – red silk ribbons.

Costume rack

Costume rack

Next, the corset. I put my arms through the sleeves and the ladies laced me up in the back using straight-lacing. Even though they didn’t lace me up tight, the garment was incredibly stiff so I was forced to stand up straight. Next they put a farthingale or “bum-roll” around my waist to make me look like I had a larger bottom. Imagine women trying to make their hips and butts look bigger! In Shakespeare’s day, men found women with large hips attractive because that indicated that they could bear children. On the bottom they attached a petticoat by pulling eyelets on the corset through holes in the petticoat. At this point they told me I was standing in my underwear! I put on a pair of lovely shoes made of lamb skin and they were quite comfortable even though they were very big on me. Next they put a skirt over the petticoat which was also fastened with eyelets. Finally, they put me in sleeves (which go on like a jacket), a lace collar and a bonnet. The costume wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I did feel the weight of all the layers on my lower back. I imagine that if I wore the dress for a long period of time I would have a sore back. When I sat down, the dress forced me to sit up perfectly straight with my hands folded in my lap! No wonder ladies in Shakespeare’s time had such good posture. I felt incredibly elegant, and a part of me wishes that people still dressed like that. I would like to imagine that I was a 15th century noblewoman in a past life and got to dress up in lovely gowns all the time.

Notice how it's a male mannequin wearing the dress.

Notice how it’s a male mannequin wearing the dress.

Afterwards we got a chance to walk through the exhibits and I spent most of my time in the costume section. The colors, textures and patterns of the clothes were exquisite and the golds and reds were just to die for. Liz and I got a hot lunch outside beside the river overlooking the Millennium Bridge. I feel like I belong here in London because everything is so beautiful and full of history. I would gladly trade in New Jersey sunburns for London’s overcast weather. I hope to come back to London very soon!

In the afternoon our group went to the Apollo Theatre to see Richard III just as Shakespeare intended it to be seen. The all male cast performed the play “by the book” with hand-made costumes, live music, and a candlelit stage – dripping wax and all! The audience surrounded the stage on three sides and there was even seating onstage! It was so interesting to see actors wearing costumes just like the one I wore earlier in the day. At first it was slightly distracting that men were playing women, but I quickly saw past their gender and learned to appreciate their feminine characterizations.

My favorite actor was Mark Rylance who played the title character and managed to add likability and humor to an often hated character. He was always playing right to the audience and made Shakespearean English understandable to the modern audience. His version of the character had a hunchback, deformed arm, and limp. Despite the challenges of these physical impairments, Rylance radiated energy and vivacity with his every movement. When Richard III becomes King Rylance he wore a beautiful golden cape. During our Globe Theatre tour we learned that the cape is made of real gold and is quite heavy. Armed with this knowledge, I couldn’t stop gazing at the cape the entire time it was onstage! My only complaint of the performance was the director’s choice to cast men in female roles. Obviously, the director was aiming to put on the most authentic performance of Richard III as possible in 2013, but I would like to have seen actresses perform the female roles.

In the evening Liz and I got dinner with our professors at a pub and then turned in for an early night since we are still recovering from jet lag. So long!

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