My Self-Guided Fashion Tour of Manhattan, NYC

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Conde Nast Building, Manhattan, New York City


I am in a cab from JFK looking from my backseat window when she starts to appear: Manhattan. I start to smile and squirm a bit in my seat, barely able to hold in my excitement. In between stomach butterfly flutters I think to myself, “I am here.” 

A bit of background may be helpful. Some girls dream of their wedding day while others plan their future home. Since I was a little girl, I dreamt of visiting, and shopping in, Manhattan. Finally there, I was not going to waste much time. In my less than 72-hour visit, I had dedicated the better part of a day to my favourite past time of shopping. Being the independent spirit I am, and wanting to explore the city for myself, I mapped out a rough itinerary for my big day.

10:55am        

I headed to Grand Central Station to catch the express MTA 4 subway headed downtown to Century 21. The store touted labels for less so I was off to explore it firsthand.

11:14am

“Express subway, indeed.” I thought to myself as I reached the Fulton stop. Up the stairs I went and I was in the Financial District. I did one of those cliché full 360-degree spins to get my bearings. My movie moment lameness aside, it did help my navigation. My eyes caught the red and white sign of my destination. Once inside I rose to floors three and four for the bulk of my time. I slowly walked past, and shamelessly caressed Prada, Gucci and Valentino being sure to take it all in. I saw a beautiful jacket on the tightly packed rack that I pulled out to take a closer look. The label read John Galliano. After reading that all I could think of is, “Sarah wears coat by a racist.” Needless to say it was placed back on the rack.

Not to be discouraged I tried on Lanvin, Carven and Maison Martin Margiela. I, to my hearts distaste, turned my back dove gray Dior cigarette trousers, not because they didn’t fit, they fit divine, but because too many others had tried them on before me and had scuffed them up and ruined them. The sad truth of discount department stores is that the garment can be loved by too many and thrown back worn and tired before it even gets a chance to be out in the real world. Not just firmly secure in the store’s precautionary dye tag but pushed deep in rack never to see the light of day. So sad.

I did score a pair of Pringle of Scotland black wide leg trousers, a Pucci gold and teal belt for me and a Christian Lacroix scarf and Ted Baker tie for gifts. One should know that going to Century 21 is a hunt. What it lacks in merchandising and store layout it more than makes up in fashion finds if you are hungry enough.

1:29pm

Next I decide to walk up Broadway to see what I could find. A quick check of my map verifies that I’m near Tribeca and Chinatown.

1:53pm

Having reached Canal Street, I got the distinct sense of feeling like I was somewhere new. While I never saw the infamous fakes hidden in the rumored hidden back rooms, I did see plenty of inspired replicas of purses and scarfs amongst the tourist tokens. Not able to resist the cheesy tourist t-shirts myself I came out of a store with three for $10 as gifts for loved ones. 

2:14pm

Now in SoHo, the usual chain suspects splatter either side of the streets. Before I knew what was happening my feet made their way into a Topshop Topman. While I enjoy the store, I reminded myself, while clutching a boxy silver top handle bag, that I should focus on brands that I don’t normally get to see (or buy considering the exchange rate and higher tax). I placed the bag back on the table and hauled my ass back on the street northbound. (As an aside, later I find out that if I went west a bit more, I would have found some higher end Flagships. Shopping gods be damned.)

Soon enough I reached Bloomindales. Brown bags aplenty, the department store was an organized, fine reprieve from the Century 21 chaos.

2:37pm

Wanting to keep focused, I decided to hop back on the Subway and make my way to Macy’s in the Garment District. Once off the subway, I made my way up to street level and walked over to the beloved American icon. Inside it’s everything you expect and not in a bad way. I had seen my share of Macy’s before but it was clear why this one is THE ONE.

3:02pm

Back on the street and on my way to Times Square I noticed the fabric shops that line the side streets. I think of a friend and my mother as I quickly walk by.

3:23pm

Times Square is nuts. Nuts. Bananas. A triple layer banana split. People everywhere, tourist cameras out, and pop music pounding interrupted only by the intermittent taxis honks at the aforementioned tourists touting their cameras. As one likely heard, it’s more a tourist destination than a shopping area. I did notice a few sporting brands, Toys”R”Us and the biggest and brightest lit H&M I have ever seen. The area reminded me of Vegas.

3:51pm

My next destination was Bryant Park for a quick, late lunch and a regroup. The area is home to Fashion Week and I too felt at home. I ate in the park and tried to envision how magical it would look with some snow and stilettos.

4:18pm

A quick walk over to my mecca, also known as the Conde Nast Building and I felt whole. I thought about all the years I had spent pouring over the famed magazines. I also thought about the clothing and shoes contained within the walls. Further, I was thinking about the fashion legends that had graced the halls. I was totally consumed. From the sidewalk I looked up, way up at the building and day dreamed about he happenings inside. Jolted back to realty from a rude passerby, I decided to head back to my hotel to drop off my goodies.

4:41pm

Although I knew I had barely covered all the must sees, I had limited time. For the day’s agenda I had one last area that I wanted to take in: Fifth Avenue. Even though it was my first time there, it felt familiar. As I walked over from Madison Avenue, I couldn’t help recall all the TV shows and movies that had filmed on this street.

My first stop was in Saks Fifth Avenue. While smaller than the other department stores I had perused, this one had everything one would want. Beautifully merchandised, clean and decadent it lived up to its reputation. I went up and down the escalators and caught myself sighing to myself. Pinching my arm, I decided that I probably looked crazed and needed to leave.

Back on the street I walked past the high-end brands the street was famous for. Coffee in hand and eyes wide open it was a lovely walk and window shop up to the park and back to my hotel. I did wish for a bit more space to move around but I think that’s par for the course in New York.

6:21pm

Back at my hotel I looked at my purchases again with delight and tried to absorb the day. As I took off my shoes, I saw that I had brought some of the New York streets with me. I washed my blackened soles and thought about my afternoon.

As the filth rinsed away I swear my sometimes too black soul was a bit brighter after my special day.