As innumerable holiday movies have demonstrated, New York City is all about Christmas once November hits. Besides the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, nothing captures that spirit quite like the classic department store window displays. With stores this year utilizing everything from LCD screens to taxidermy animals to Michelangelo-level origami, Yuletide 2010 appears to be no exception to tradition. By Chris Kelly. (Photo By Sophie Elgort For Bloomingdale’s).
Macy’s really boasts two separate holiday displays this year, each telling its own classic Christmas story.
The first, “Miracle on 34th Street”, depicts several scenes from the classic 1947 film, acted out by half-sized animatronic figures.
The second, “Yes, Virginia…” based on 8-year old Virginia O’ Hanlon’s famous 1897 letter to the New York Sun, is something unique. It is almost entirely made out of bright-colored paper, cut, folded, and sculpted by a team of 14 paper artisans. The display is quite theatrical, with paper curtains in the shapes of rooftop windows, subway trusses, and turn-of-the-century NYC landmarks drawing back to reveal an animated scene, often with further clever sequences farther back, as vibrantly-colored new rooms unfold like a labyrinthine pop-up book. Characters declaim lines, LCD screens show fireplaces burning down and birds fluttering outside of windows, the curtain closes, and spectators move on to the next scene. Extremely charming, dynamic, well-designed, and perhaps the best kid’s window in the city.
A sort of Victorian-steampunk mashup has become the high-class holiday aesthetic of choice for the last few years. This year it’s attempted by several stores, but done most stylishly and artistically at Bergdorf Goodman. Their windows are a Highlights hidden picture of cool set pieces, with models in outlandish gowns surrounded by a swirling stew of taxidermy animals and curious old machines. The two major overlapping themes this year seem to be travel and discovery, as well as maps and charts in general. In an astronomy-themed section, a model dressed as a female Isaac Newton is surrounded by dissected engravings of the solar system, as well as crawling zodiac creatures beautifully sculpted out of shredded paper. Further along, Agatha Christie dames travel down 5th Avenue on horses, giraffes, and railroad coaches, trailing long retinues of leather trunks before yellowed maps of the earth and heavens.
Saks 5th Avenue
Saks 5th Avenue uses a similar aesthetic for their “Snowflakes and Bubbles” holiday display, in which a stylishly dressed young girl consigned to the kids’ table at a fashionable party travels from window to window in various Jules Vern-esque conveyances, followed always by the motif of bubbles. A personal favorite was the flying elephant, a clockwork pachyderm suspended from a zeppelin and stamping to the motion of gilded gears and a bubbling liquid porthole in its side. Our heroine dreamily voyages from wood, to sky, to sea, and finally to a Coney Island-style dockside resort before finally crashing a fashionable party in a Martian-looking bubble car.
This year, Barney’s bucks the trends with “foodie holiday”, a display caricaturing various Food Network chefs and foodie idols to tap into the holiday association with feasts and gluttony. One window shows celebrity chefs engaged in a food fight, squabbling among the ruins of lobsters, wine, and corncobs under a garland decorated with the names and faces of New York restauranteurs – in a high point, Mario Batali’s head with an apple in his mouth garnishes the groaning table. Another shows a “Revolutionary Stew”, with some of the great chefs of the last half-century depicted as clouds of steam and smell emanating from a bubbling pot. In-jokes abound, but overall, points for humor and originality.
Lord & Taylor
Lord and Taylor democratizes the Christmas window this year by depicting the holiday memories of New Yorkers submitted via email and Facebook. What results is a New York City block in which the windows reveal mechanical doll-sized families acting out the styles and memories of the past century of Christmases. An apartment chimney slides back to reveal an 1800’s couple toasting with champagne next door to a 50’s family watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer on a rabbit-eared TV. Doors turn to reveal Currier and Ives girls in fur muffs heading out for ice-skating, while their contemporary great-granddaughters do the same on the other side. Upstairs, Disco Christmas bogeys on until far after Santa arrives.
Bloomingdale’s holiday display largely consists of a mosaic of 100 LED screens depicting snow covered evergreen forests and mountains with a single cardinal flying over them. Our take? It’s fairly unimpressive. Since the display is basically a pile of televisions, all showing essentially the same CGI image, it feels sort of like watching the menu screen of a DVD on a grand scale, or alternately, like visiting certain relatives: Nice enough if you’re going there anyway, but not worth a trek.
For more pictures of the department store holiday window displays, click here.
More Holiday Content From CBSNewYork:
Looking for a daily dose of The Best of New York? Follow us on Twitter!