When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Manhattan, Christmas always started with a trip to the city. It was a major event that required getting decked out in a sparkly dress with a big bow and my special red coat with the gold buttons and the black velvet collar. I remember standing out in the cold, in my black patent shoes (which were always too tight), in line on 5th Avenue, eagerly waiting for it to be my turn to see the Saks holiday windows. Some twenty-years later I still kick off the Christmas week with a trip to the windows (only now, I’m also there for the designer sales).
Fifth Avenue is at its best during the holiday season. The famous stores are wrapped up like glittering presents — Cartier has a big red glitzy bow, Fendi is enveloped in an illuminated belt, and Armani glows under a stream of blizzardy lights. Snowflakes hang from intersections and storefront windows become fairytale lands.
This year, Bergdorf Goodman has outdone itself. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland comes to life in haute-couture in the windows of this iconic NYC department store. Each artfully crafted window captures the fancy, absurdity, and other-worldliness of Carroll’s novel. Sculptures made of strips of paper stand next to mannequins clad in Alexander McQueen. It’s a stunning start to your stroll south from Central Park.
A few blocks away stands Saks Fifth Avenue, the most famed venue of theatrical holiday windows. Whereas Bergdorf’s display is all about couture, Saks is all about the kiddies. Complete with music and a narrated soundtrack, the Saks dioramas tell the story of a lucky little snowflake who travels round the world on a 747 and gets to experience Christmas in Paris and Italy. Even if that doesn’t sound like your thing, hang in there. Every 15 minutes the giant illuminated snowflakes on the department store’s facade begin a choreographed performance to Carol of the Bells.
Sure there are a gazillion people on the street, and sure all those lights make everything seem a little Las Vegas, but the Fifth Avenue Windows are a New York City tradition, and like Rockefeller Center and its tree, they’re not to be missed.
CC ’07, GSAS ’09