New York: Fifth Avenue Window-Shopping Tour (Part 1)
By Theadora Brack in New York
Hold on to your hats because this week, we’re trekking to New York for some hazy, crazy summertime “window licking” ( faire du lèche-vitrine)!
While day tripping, time is precious, so I’ve created a Fifth Avenue tour for you. Yes, it is possible to visit most of New York’s centuries-old department stores in one day! I’ll also throw in a few historical and cinematic tidbits. Confession: I’ve been walking Fifth Avenue since the age of eight. I’m still mad about it.
Here’s how Anaïs Nin described New York City to Henry Miller: “I love the proportions, the amplitude, the brilliance, the polish, the solidity. I look up at Radio City insolently and love it. The vitality. Just bring your own contents, and you create a sparkle at the highest power.” All aboard? Let’s glow!
Miracle on 34th Street
We’ll kick-off our whirlwind jaunt outside Macy’s at Herald Square (34th Street and Broadway). After we’ve admired the vitrines, we’ll gaze up at the nearby Empire State Building, the closest thing to heaven in this city. It’s true! However, before crossing, do look both ways or else you, too, will have a star-crossed Affair to Remember. Besides, Cary Grant left the building years ago!
Heads-up! As you stroll, study how the vitrines mesh with the reflections of the surrounding cityscape. Providing seamless backgrounds, the trees and sky scrappers play nicely with the mannequins.
1. Macy’s 151 West 34th Street (at Broadway)
Conceived by Rowland Hussey Macy in 1843, the “World’s Largest Store” moved to Herald Square in 1902. Curious about the store’s “star” logo? It’s a nod to the tattoo Macy got when he worked as a teen on a Nantucket whaling ship in the 1830s. Perhaps R.H. had Moby Dick in mind when he created his first whale of a sale?
Film buffs: Here outside Macy’s is where the Thanksgiving Parade in “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) was shot. Reel it back! In the film, you’ll catch actual footage of that year’s parade in action (with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle!). Macy’s has been putting on the Thanksgiving pageant glitz since 1924. Now, let’s form our own conga line, and hit the hill!
2. Lord & Taylor 424 5th Ave (at 38th Street)
Each time I spy the mile-high stacks of silky-smooth shirts as I make my way to the elevators, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” pops to mind: “They’re such beautiful shirts, Daisy sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.’” Pass the tissues!
Launched in 1826 by Samuel Lord, “L&T” has been sitting pretty on Fifth Avenue since 1914. It was the first department store to embrace merchandising without merchandise. Artist James Bliss changed the window-dressing scene with his installation of mechanical bells. Soon shops worldwide followed suit! How’s that for pulling out all the props?
3. BCBG 168 5th Avenue (at 40th Street)
In 1989, French designer Max Azria broke the mold with his BCBG line (“Bon Chic, Bon Genre,” slang for really groovy!). Who also digs BCBG? Fergie, Angelina Jolie and Alicia Keys, along with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Kate Winslet. The recent collections were inspired by Bauhaus. Celebrating also constructivism and modernism, the gowns flaunt cut and color to the max!
Across the street from BCBG, you’ll find the New York Public Library. Making more than one dramatic cameo appearance in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” it’s worth a visit. Here you’ll find free exhibitions, along with a top-notch gift shop. Also, the steps are a great place for a picnic. Keep your eyes peeled for Holly and Paul ‘Fred’ Varjak!
4. Saks Fifth Avenue 611 5th Avenue (at 49th Street)
Now let’s make a bee-line to Saks. Fashioned by Andrew Saks in 1857 the store moved to its Fifth Avenue digs in 1924. Designed by architects Starrett & van Vleck, it’s another looker. Back in the day, the dynamic duo Starrett and van Vleck also created stylish shops for Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s.
While at Saks, check out the futuristic Alexander McQueen ball gowns by Sarah Burton. Royalists, Sarah Burton created Kate Middleton’s wedding dress! Here you’ll also find a panoramic view of 30 Rock. Grab the camera. It’s another picture-perfect backdrop for your social media portraits!
Stay tuned for Part Two of the Fifth Avenue Window-Shopping Tour!