To soften the blow of leaving my eventful twenties behind, I did what every thirty-something woman wants to do. I followed in the Manolo Blahnik-loving footsteps of Carrie Bradshaw and (kind of) lived it up in Manhattan.
As cliched as it sounds, New York’s most famous fictional sex columnist turned fashion icon is (partly) the reason I type this on a MacBook as I sit in my apartment (ahem, flat), surrounded by stacks of Vogue magazines and a closet full of (mostly unworn and crumpled) clothes.
When I was 17 and I realised that Carrie and Co shared my problems, albeit on a better budget, I couldn’t wait to visit New York. Like most girls, I hoped I could emulate that oh-so-glamourous lifestyle where Cosmopolitans cured heartbreaks and designer wardrobes were paid for by weekly musings/moaning about men.
Although I’ve developed a real taste for Cosmos over the years, I’ve never quite managed to turn my mishaps with men into a source of income. Maybe one day…
So off to NYC I went with high hopes and wishful thinking that at 30 I would finally be able to afford to treat myself to a designer splurge that Carrie would be proud of. After spending a week in the city that literally does never sleep, I’ve come to a few conclusions…
The Big Apple’s not so Big
It’s funny how everything on TV looks so enormous. From Sex and the City to Gossip Girl, I’ve been fascinated by the size of the skyscrapers and the seemingly endless streets filled with cool cocktail bars and designer stores. In reality though, the buildings aren’t half as intimidating (I almost missed the Empire State Building, no joke!) and the bars not nearly as glamorous as I’d pictured (more Irish pubs than hip hangouts). But maybe I need to revisit the Upper East Side on my next trip…
And don’t even get me started on the men – if you’re looking for Mr Big, I’d suggest steering clear of Times Square, as the only men likely to hit on you are those intent on selling you ‘free’ tickets to a comedy show or a city bus tour. Swap suited and booted for hooded and deluded and you’re halfway to picturing the type of men that you’re really likely to bump into on the sidewalk.
There’s no such thing as the high street
Just a succession of H&Ms, Gaps and Banana Republics. I rarely set foot in those stores in the UK so I wasn’t exactly thrilled by their overwhelming presence in New York. But I now understand why there’s such a fuss about Topshop opening a store in Soho.
Big dreams come in gift-wrapped little blue boxes
I really did feel like a way less glamorous Audrey Hepburn when I visited Tiffany & Co. This was the one shop that surpassed my expectations, from the building itself to the way that the staff inside treated you less like a tourist and more like a customer than I expected. And so what if they knew I was heading for the ‘cheap’ floor (Level 3 FYI)? I bought into the little blue box of happiness and treated myself to a Tiffany silver horseshoe charm necklace. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t feel special to open the ribbon-wrapped box (even if it was a present to yourself!).
|Tiffany Horseshoe Charm, £80/$100, Tiffany &Co|
‘No one has breakfast at Tiffany’s and no one has affairs to remember’ Carrie Bradshaw
The department store rules
I didn’t visit all the department stores that New York has to offer, so I can’t give a true opinion on what the offer is but the ones I spent most time in were poles apart.
Macy’s was such a disappointment (though I had been pre-warned about this). I appreciate that it was undergoing renovations at the time of my visit but it was like Debenhams in the middle of a blue cross sale, with temporary signage and partitions as added unattractive extras.
The designer offering was poor – Louis Vuitton aside, the bag boutique was disappointing and there really is only so much Michael Kors you can look at before your eyes glaze over with disinterest. I did, however, appreciate the 10% off given to visitors when you flashed your passport so I treated myself to a Marc Jacobs watch.
|Marc by Marc Jacobs Amy Two-Tone Stainless Steel and Rose Gold Watch
US – $200, Macy’s
UK – £185, Harvey Nichols
Barney’s was almost clinical in appearance and it felt less like a shop, more like an installation. So I didn’t spend much time browsing in there for fear of contaminating the goods with my obvious window-shopper look.
Saks Fifth Avenue was by far my favourite store and not just because it’s where I (finally!) found the Marc Jacobs bag of my dreams. From the inviting cosmetics hall to the endlessly appealing floors filled with contemporary and high end labels, this was like shopping heaven. The service was great and I happily parted with my dollars after being treated to a full run through of this season’s Marc by Marc Jacobs lines by the friendly and knowledgable sales assistant on the floor.
I was happy to take Fran and the Wingman, as they’re affectionately known, back home with me, happy in the knowledge that I had at least saved a bit of money on UK prices.
|Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Fran Tote Bag, $448, Saks Fifth Avenue|
|Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Wingman Zip-Around Wallet, $148, Saks Fifth Avenue|
I didn’t make the pilgrimage to Carrie’s pseudo-Upper East Side apartment in the West Village, but if I do return to New York one day to do so, I’ll be wearing my downtown purchases proudly. When will that be? I couldn’t help but wonder…