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Postcards from the Past

May 27, 2014
Bill Cunningham: Façades
Hurrying along the streets everyday we rarely bother to look up and consider the history behind the many buildings and monuments that score the New York skyline. In the hope of changing this somewhat sad fact, the New-York Historical Society has dug out for display an impressive cache of snapshots taken by none other than iconic NY Times style section photographer Bill Cunningham. Cunningham embarked on the 8-year photographic essay, entitled Façades, in 1968, and with the help of muse and fellow photographer Editta Sherman (The Duchess) set out to document his beloved city’s architectural riches and fashion history.

The project began with the duo scouring the city’s thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing in which to pose models (in particular, Sherman) at historic settings that matched the period of the costumes. Together, they amassed some 500 outfits and recorded more than 1,800 locations that included landmarks synonymous with the city – a subject poses valiantly in front of St. Paul’s Chapel (completed 1766) in what resembles a Napoleonic hat and military coat; another model swathed in furs and a jaunty little hat perches in front of the Rockefeller Center (built 1939); and a petticoated lady with a parasol wanders under a gothic bridge in Central Park. Even if architectural history doesn’t turn your pages, Façades is worth it just for the incredible fashion finds, like a Courrèges and two pre-Civil War taffeta gowns!

Until 15 June 2014.

New-York Historical Society / 170 Central Park W / +1 212 873 3400 / closed Mon /