Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Reading 6: Bergdorf Goodman

This week I thought I would write about my favorite store next to my own - and by next I do mean close by - RARE vintage is located on the same block as Bergdorf Goodman.  Bergdorfs always has that feeling of luxe, calme et voluptĂ©.  There is a sense of timelessness.  I love seeing beautifully dressed very old ladies mixed with very young girls shopping.  Lady Gaga was shopping for Christmas gifts at Bergdorfs this past December and was overheard saying, "I always dreamed of being able to shop here."

Weekend reading for you from RARE vintage.  Read on...  

In 1926 the Vanderbilt mansion, Petit Chateau was torn down.  The gates went to the New York Botanic Garden and the massive fireplace can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vanderbilt mantelpiece formerly in the entrance hall of Vanderbilt mansion.
Met Museum gift of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt.

In its place a nine story beaux arts building with a mansard roof was designed by Buchman and Kahn.  But the legend is that Goodman actually designed the first sketch of the building on a cocktail napkin at a bar in the Plaza Hotel.  (Back in the good old days of, at least, two martini lunches)  

Meet the janitors of Bergdorfs: Andrew Goodman and Nena Manach ( a divorcĂ©e (!) from Cuba.  Papa Goodman was not too happy about this and made Nena sign a prenup.) The Goodmans lived on the ninth floor in a seventeen-room apartment.  Andrew Goodman held the title of janitor because Bergdorfs was designated as a factory because it held work rooms and he had to be named the janitor to abide by New York fire laws.  

The first floor of Bergdorf Goodman in 1968.

Halston on the second floor.  Here he is trying on a hat he bought in Paris, Givenchy's Pinwheel, on a client.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were clients and friends of the Goodmans.  In fact, Nena Goodman recalls The Duke of Windsor needing to use the bathroom but there had been a freak plumbing accident and the Duke was told that the water in the toilets was steaming hot.  The Duke of Windsor, replied, "Not to worry.  What I have to do, I do standing."

Here is the Duchess of Windsor with her friend, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, as she is being fitted in a Sarmi gown.

"Miss Puffitt, an asthmatic aristocrat, surveys all customers in the gift department with basilisk calm."

Mildred Finger's Plaza Collection of ready-to-wear on the fourth floor

The groovy Bigi Shop on the 6th floor.  "There is the blast of rock and roll and chatter of young teeners."

The 8th floor workrooms.

The custom workroom and the figure of - "we never mention names."

The ninth floor apartment of the Andrew and Nena Goodman.  The apartment was occupied by the family until the 1980s.   Joshua Taylor, the grandson of Andrew Goodman, recalls visiting his grandparents, "There was always a secret feeling of going there.  You entered from the street through a gold door and went down a long marble hall.  There was not a breadth of air in it.  You buzzed for the private elevator, which only made two stops - the 7th floor, where my grandfather's office was, and the penthouse.  The elevator had those old accordion gates and wallpaper and a bizarre flower arrangement inside."  

I have not seen it yet, but Joshua Taylor has done a documentary, Dita & The Family Business, and he takes you through the penthouse apartment where his grandparents lived.  The DVD is available here.

Images and some text from 'The Fashion Makers' by Walter Vecchio and Wendy Goodman's article 'Living on Top of the Store' on the Bergdorf Goodman blog.

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