Thursday, June 23, 2011

Field Trip! Part IV - Fashion at the Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Open Minaudiere. 1935
In Part IV of Set in Style, the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, we bring you Fashion.

As the story goes … in 1930, Charles Arpels was having dinner with friends, among them, Florence Jay Gould, wife of a philanthropist, when he noticed the tin box she took out of her purse that held her lipstick (some say it was a metal Lucky Strike cigarette box).  He was surprised that such a glamorous woman didn’t have a more luxurious container for her cosmetics, and, right there at the dinner table, the clever, ornate and utilitarian Minaudiere was born.

“Minaudières” by Van Cleef & Arpels from “The Spirit of Beauty” exhibition from Van Cleef & Arpels inspirations on Vimeo

Taking inspiration from the smaller Nécessaire, Arpels decided it should hold everything (MacGyver style) that a fashionable woman could possibly need for a night out on the town.  It was an engineering wonder that contained fitted, hinged compartments which held lipstick, cigarettes, compact, watch, hankies, etc., and, when open, resembled a bejewelled piece of camping equipment.  Women looked so chic pulling a cigarette out of their Minaudiere's, however, the less dexterous may have needed help closing all those little lids because it looks like you could cut a finger off if you were in a hurry. 

Now this is my idea of a Kindle cover.
Black lacquer, gold and diamonds.

She came a long way from the tin box.
Pearl and diamond Nécessaire once owned by Florence Jay Gould.
Do you think this fits the IPhone?  
Ruby, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jade and gold Nécessaire, 1926.
An 18th century version of the Minaudiere, The Nécessaire was smaller and only held a few personal items like sewing needles and small scissors. far we've come.  Just think of Minaudiere and Nécessaire as French words for "make-up bag."  Women still refresh their make-up at the dinner table, although with today's manners, it's not unusual to see a woman throw a piece of Samsonite up on the dinner table and do a full makeup – 10X magnified mirror and all.  Gone are the glamour days of just carrying your essentials on a night out.  We carry so much stuff in today's gigantor handbags that a girl needs a cortisone shot in her shoulders from time to time just to carry her Marc Jacobs around town.

But you would be wrong if you thought the diminutive Minaudiere was a complete thing of the past.  Judith Leiber, one of the longest sustaining luxury handbag designers, continues to produce some of the finest Minaudiere's you can find.  Emigrating to the United States with her husband in 1947, Ms. Leiber honed her skills by working for some of the leading handbag manufacturers in New York.  Starting her own company in 1963, her unique, intricate marvels were a cut above the rest.  Made from the finest Austrian crystals and, in some cases, semi-precious stones, they are not cheap.  Not only have her bags been found on the arm of most of our first ladies since the 1950's, and some of Hollywood's most famous women, but you can also find them as part of permanent collections in London, New York, Washington, DC, Houston and Los Angeles. Here are some of the more hysterical - I mean unique ones....

Habibi Minaudiere. $5995-This party is so boring I'm going to rub the side of this bag and when the genie comes out, I'm going to wish I was somewhere else.

Panda Minaudiere. $4695 - For those of you who have ever been addicted to a Panda Cam, now you can just sit this thing on top of your computer.

Beehive Minaudiere. $5600 - Are Pooh and Piglet available as key fobs?


Jessie said...

Informative and hilarious at the same time. Love it!

Blogger said...

Are you paying over $5 per pack of cigarettes? I buy my cigs from Duty Free Depot and this saves me over 50%.