Byline: Norah Zis
NEW YORK — Who says New Yorkers are unwelcoming and rude? Not Andrew Bolton, an Englishman who just landed the post of associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. He arrived in town two weeks ago after a 10-year stint at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and he says he just can’t get enough of Gotham.
His favorite thing about New York: its efficiency. “I am very impatient,” he says, “so I love the fast pace of the city and all its amenities — such as takeout — and the fact that New York is open all night. It makes London seem provincial.”
He has already hit the party circuit, hobnobbing with the likes of Roberto Cavalli, Lulu de Kwiatkowski, Celerie Kemble and Wes Anderson. But Bolton did not come to party.
As second chair to Harold Koda at the Costume Institute, his first assignment is to curate “Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set,” an exhibition focusing on the lifestyle of society women from 1935 to 1940. It is scheduled to run Nov. 1-Feb. 9, and will feature mostly French couture fashions from the likes of Vionnet, Lanvin, Schiaparelli and Chanel. Many of the garments were donated to the Met in 1946 from a 1940 exhibition chaired by the Duchess of Windsor in New York.
Bolton’s arrival here follows an impressive tenure at the V&A, which includes the current show provocatively titled “Men in Skirts,” that runs until May 12. Intrigued by the taboo subject, Bolton insists the exhibition is “not about drag but about men trying to forge a masculine identity, and how they are styled.” It starts with togas and medieval gowns and moves on to include kilts and sarongs from designers as diverse as Jean Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten and Tommy Hilfiger. There is also a section on grunge featuring designs by Anna Sui and Courtney Love’s baby-doll dress worn by her late husband, Kurt Cobain. Bolton admits to a long-standing obsession with fashion. He talks about the joys of a well-tailored Savile Row suit from Richard James or Timothy Everest. “I love the Savile Row suits because there is detail only the wearer can appreciate.”
Case in point: his natty navy suit with lavender pinstripes and silk lining. “The cut of the jacket is longer with a double vent, along with a flared cuff and pinched waist,” Bolton points out, just in case a visitor misses the fine print.
There’s more to fashion than the dapper life, however, and he notes that looking a little “unkempt and spotty” isn’t all bad: “I love the nerd look. It’s appealing because you are vulnerable and geeky.”
As for style on this side of the Atlantic, Bolton says, “I think New Yorkers are sleeker than [Londoners]. They invest a lot of time in their image and they don’t do that as much in London.” He finds women here to be more polished, complete with toned bodies and well-kept hair and makeup. He also notices stylistic differences in men. “In London, men are scruffier. They tend to dress in a more shabby-chic street style.”
Although Bolton is unlikely to lose his British flair, he is eager to wear more American designers, including Marc Jacobs, a favorite.
“Marc is huge in London,” he notes. “And I can’t wait to discover more American designers.”
Despite his optimism regarding his new home, there is one thing Bolton doesn’t like, something he discovered during the recent heat wave: the joggers. “I have almost been run over by them so many times,” he says. “They are like the pigeons in London.”
Next stop on his American odyssey might be San Francisco. Better watch out for those trolley cars.