Sunday, December 31, 2006

Orchard Street Corset Center - Lower East Side

It's easy for those with small perky breasts to buy cute bras. From Victoria's Secret to JCPenneys, to La Perla, every mall and high street is brimming with them. Likewise for buxom gals built like prison matrons, with big proletarian backs and large motherly bosoms. They can find the appropriate Cross Your Hearts at any Mervyns, KMart or JCPenneys. But what about those of us who have normal size backs but larger-than-usual fronts? Even Nordstrom doesn't special order anymore.

Orchard Street Corset Center to the rescue. It's one of two places I can find bras in my size, the other being M&S. This old fashioned merchant is not for those who like slick merchandising and a leisurely browse to see what styles are in. The bras are hidden in boxes, in shelves lining the walls. The fitting room is a curtain, strung up across the stock room. All is overseen by Ralph, the king of customer service, and his wife the chief fitter.

When customers walk into his shop, Ralph sizes them up and tells them if they are wearing the wrong size brassier. One one shopping trip, I dragged my modest sister-in-law, Angel, in. As she was mumbling her size, Ralph stopped her and said. "No, this is the size you are." She tried to disagree but he countered with an authoritarian "I see everything," held a suitable size up and called for his wife to sweep Angel off to try on the proper bra. He was right. While she has not ventured back to the shop, Angel does admit that the bra she bought that day is the most comfortable one she owns.

One thing I should mention: The owners are Hasidic, so the shop is closed on Saturdays.

157 Orchard St., Between Stanton Street and Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002-2214

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kate's Paperie - Soho

The Christmas decorations at Kate's Paperie in Soho, are simple, yet quite beautiful and appropriate this year: a large paper snowflake covering the whole ceiling.

561 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Purdy Girl - Soho

Purdy Girl is a cute boutique that feels like the really large closet of a stylish friend, a few well-picked vintage clothes, a nice collection of mid-ranged clothes from small designers, a few small brands and some lovely costume jewelry made by local artists.

Macy's - 34th Avenue

The blindingly extravagant Christmas decorations don't translate well into photos, but the glow was visible for blocks before I could even see the store. This year, the poinsettia extravaganza inside was even better than the decorations outside.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lord & Taylor - Fifth Avenue

This store is for chic grandmas, with three restaraunts, nice, comforable places to sit down and a lavish collection of clothes, such as Eileen Fisher, for older women who don't mind spending a little money to look good. Their Christmas ornament selection, while not as eye-popping as ABC Carpet & Home, is well worth a look during the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bûche de Noël at a Stop & Shop near you

The Bûche de Noël has now gone mainstream. When I saw Entenmann's "Yule Log" at the grocery store a couple of days ago, I felt a twinge of sadness. Does this mean Bûche de Noël will no longer be special? Will people be able to tell the difference between one you've slaved over for hours and one you've grabbed from the grocery store shelf?

Watch out Billy's Bakery. Red Velvet cupcakes are next.

Billy's Bakery -- Greenwich Village

Do not try to buy a cake here the day before Christmas Eve. You will be turned away, even though there are several cakes on display, ready to be sliced. Do not try to order a cake to pick up the next day, especially if you already tried to buy one minutes before. You will be sent away with nothing but a cupcake. The cupcakes are fair to middling, but the frosting is fantastic. It's good enough to convince me to go back again and try the red velvet cupcakes on a day when they're not sold out, or annoyed by too many pesky customers.

Note to self: Next time wear all black and affect an air of disinterested aloofness.

Myers of Keswick -- Greenwich Village

Myers' claims that they sell the only Cumberland sausages made in the USA. While I don't know how true this is, nor have I tasted them, this British grocer has a nice selection of canned and drygoods, including strange selections like Mexican-style baked beans. The deli counter look fantastick and is stocked with fresh made mince pies, pork pies, sausage rolls, and meat and vegetarian pasties.

634 Hudson Street
(between Horatio and Jane St.'s)
New York NY 10014

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nelson Antiques - Chelsea

Nelson Antiques is run by a lovely couple who have been in the neighborhood for donkey's years, Christmas ornaments, figureines, decco lamps and 50s-style tea sets are among the treasures to be found in this small shop crammed to the brim with tchotchkes.

184 Ninth Ave. (Near 22nd St.)
New York, NY 10011

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sermoneta Gloves -- Madison Avenue

Ahh, Italian-made gloves. At a fraction of the cost of Missoni, Sermoneta's first and only shop outside of Italy sells hats, scarves and lovely tailored gloves leather gloves. Known for their primary colors, they seem to be going away from the 80's this season with more muted shades.

609 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

It's an Andy Warhol X-mas at Barneys -- Madison Avenue

I love Simon Doonan. Who else could make a bust of Andy Warhol out of a bunch of cookie jars and Russell Wright crockery?

Madison avenue and 61st street
NY, New York

X-mas at Saks - Fifth Avenue

We are all unique masterpieces, just like the snowflake; at least that's what the story on the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue says to all the gawkers. Click on the photo to read it yourself. I didn't bother to read the whole story because it was split up on separate windows, corresponding to the scene depicted in each window, and frankly, I couldn't stomach standing in the long Disneyland-like lines to look at a bunch of naff dioramas.

611 Fifth Avenue, at 50th Street
NY, New York

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santaland at Smith Haven - Lake Grove

This is the first grotto I've seen this season. Where have I been? While the Santaland is nice enough, it's not magical. However the Father Christmas more than makes up for the shortfalls in Santaland. His beard, his rosy cheeks and his Santa-like physique make him the perfect candidate for the jolly old elf.

Smith Haven Mall
Rt 347
Lake Grove, NY

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

5-7-9 Shop - Lake Grove

Often, when I'm taking pictures for this blog, kind hearted passers-by offer to take my picture in front of whatever store I'm photographing. Sometimes they'll want to be in the picture too. When I was taking a picture of the 5-7-9 shop at Smith Haven mall, this character insisted on being in the photo. He's certainly not a customer, but somehow, he fits.

Smith Haven Mall
Rt 347, Lake Grove

Monday, December 11, 2006

Feria Ubana - Inner Sunset

This is more like it.

Held at the Canvas Gallery on Lincoln Way, this Urban Fair is what I expected at Pandora's Trunk last night. Those who like jewelry and accessories hit the jackpot. Handcrafted baubles with a modern aesthetic shared table space with Victorianesque pieces in strange proportions.

Among the gifts for wry children, stuffed monster dolls, made more for parents than their kids, were among my favorites.

The only things that were a bit dodgy were bags made out of reclaimed materials, straight out of ReadyMade magazine and pillows in burnt out velvet that may be good for those who like to decorate with gargoyles.

I went with good intentions of buying Christmas presents, but left with gifts only for myself.

Canvas Gallery
1200 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pandora's Trunk - South of Market

I expected some sort of Punk Rock craft fair, but what I got, instead, was a bunch of baby clothes for adults and grandma does Blade Runner. Didn't rave clothes go out in 1989? They should have handed out whistles. I felt like I should go to the Hacienda to see Madonna perform.

While the concept was cute for some of the crafts, they weren't particularly well-executed, nothing I would buy to give as a Christmas gift.

At er reading about Art Basel Miami, though,I have to say it was refreshing to go to an art show held by real starving artists. They didn't even look askance at my H&M velour sweatsuit and scraggly hair, drenched by the deluge outside.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I've heard of red-hot sales, but this is ridiculous -- Great Lakes Mall

Picture this: A fire breaks out at your favorite Dillards during high-holiday shopping season. Do you grab your loved ones and run out the door, greatful to be alive and unharmed, or do you continue shopping, taking advantage of the blinding smoke to grab the goods away from your fellow bargain hunters? That's exactly what shoppers did at Dillards in Mentor, Ohio. The fire was severe enough to cause $130,000 in damages, but it didn't deter customers intent on finishing their holiday shopping.

This reminds me of the year I worked at Macys during the Christmas rush. The power went out and instead of leaving the store, customers were annoyed that we didn't have flashlights or mechanical cash registers to ring their purchases up with.

Full story on the fire at Dillards

7850 Mentor Ave
Mentor, OH

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Apple - Union Square & Oxford Circus

Have you ever noticed how many times the word "love" comes up when people talk about their Macs? If you type the phrase "Why I love Macs" into any browser, 100s of sites will come up. People put things like "mac user" on their MySpace and FaceBook profiles, on their blogs and on personal ads. A quick search on Tribe turned up groups devoted to Gay Mac users, Lesbian Mac Users, Black Mac users, Mini Mac, Old Mac, Burning Mac. HMMM - I wonder if there's any crossover? This brings me back to my question. Does Mac inspire this type of devotion with clean, sexy design, or are the types of people who gravitate to the more intuitive usability of the Mac more right-brained and naturally more in touch with their emotions?

My irrational love for my Mac, carries over to the Apple store, one of the few places offering free wireless access in the city. The Apple store at Union Square is almost identical to the Regent Street store, my home away from home in London and also one of the few places to find free wireless in London.

One Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

235 Regent Street
London, W1B 2EL
020 7153 9000

Monday, December 04, 2006

Top 10 Worst Places to Shop in the U.S.

In no particular order:

Ross -- There's nothing good about this chain. The stores look like someone's garage.

Marshalls / TJ Maxx -- See above, plus I've never been to a Marshals with a clean bathroom. They are filthy, even first thing in the morning. If the employees use those toilets, I don't want to touch anything in the store.

Big Lots -- Don't believe the TV ads. This place is depressing. It should be called Big Jobs.

Walmart -- Complete lack of corporate responsibility. If price is important to shoppers, there are cheaper, better alternatives.

Ann Taylor / Ann Taylor Loft -- bland

Barnes & Noble -- Terrible return policies and filthy bathrooms. This is especially disturbing since most Barnes & Nobles have in-store cafes.

Old Navy -- Cheap teenage wear made of cheaper fabrics. This season, the color palette seems to be mud. If you want cheap throw-away wear, go to H&M or Forever 21. At least those stores change their merchandise frequently.

The Disney Store -- More cheap crap from China. It seems that the nice Disney-themed things are sold elsewhere.

Victoria's Secret -- Cheap, poorly made underwear for those with small tits. The bras aren't even cute. They belong in a Tijuana bordello.

Pottery Barn -- Over priced junk made in third word countries. Plus, they lose points for being everywhere, adding to the blandifying of America.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Smelling like Paris at Macy's - Union Square

I've been to Paris in the summer, and all I can say is that I would not want to smell like that. The same goes for Paris Hilton. Does anyone really want to smell like her? What about Britney Spears? If all those photos of her going commando in various miniskirts are to be believed, she's a worse hoochie than Paris. Yet, they both have their names on perfumes. Why would Macy's waste valuable Christmas window real estate featuring photos of celebrities who endorse perfumes? Will the marketing spin ever end? Are we, as consumers, so stupid that we think the people on our lists will like this kind of swill?

It may seem like I'm picking on Macy's, lately. I actually love the flagship stores, San Francisco and New York. The Manhattan flagship is an institution equaled by no other, and, since the renovation a couple of years ago, the San Francisco store is even better. Unfortunately, Macy's doesn't successfully carry the brand throughout their stores. The Santa Rosa Macy's, is just not equal to the San Francisco Macy's, neither is the store in Corte Madera, Westminster, Long Island..... you get the point. This is why a pedestrian store, such as Nordstrom has just a high reputation among those who say they are "born to shop." The Nordstrom in San Francisco is pretty much the same as the one in Walnut Creek. The Scottsdale Nortstrom is similar to the one in Roosevelt Field. Macy's' flagships far surpass the others, but out in the suburbs, shoppers are subjected to rows and rows of, Inc, Charter Club and all those other house brands Macy's has manufactured in China. Eventually, it will be like Marks and Spencers, selling only house labels. I'm not sure why Macy's does this, but it seems to me that they underrate their customers. Are we really going to think we're in Manhattan where we're shopping at a low-end Macy's in Colma? I think not.

170 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102