Those searching for a break from New York fashion week can head up to at 1220 Fifth Avenue. That’s where the Museum of the City of New York, in collaboration with the National Jewelry Institute, is exhibiting “Notorious and Notable: 20th Century Women of Style,” which opens tomorrow, September 14th and runs till January 3rd. It’s a showcase of the fashions and jewelry of key figures throughout the century, ranging from Joan Crawford’s dazzling diamond bracelet from jeweler Raymond C. Yard to Lauren Bacall’s Yves Saint Laurent le smoking. There are 81 ladies in all.
“These women were icons in their day,” explained Judith Price, president of the NJI. “But they’re not necessarily icons of fashion. The exhibit is beyond fashion and beyond jewelry; it has to do with the women.” So while the expected fashion plates are accounted for — Jackie O, the Duchess of Windsor, Diana Vreeland and Iris Apfel — there are some surprises, too. Actress and novelist Ilka Chase, who played sister to Bette Davis in “Now Voyager,” has a gem-encrusted jewel box, a present from her mother (and former Vogue editor-in-chief) Edna Woolman Chase. Congresswoman and activist Bella Abzug — “now she was not a pretty woman,” remarked Price — was included for her contributions to politics and the Women’s Movement. There are pieces from novelist Fannie Hurst, Bette Midler, mob wife Anne Lansky and burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, too. “If we have even one person who will see the exhibit and go to an encyclopedia or Google to learn about these women,” Price said, “then we will have succeeded.”