Fields Forever...

The Beatles may have written about "Strawberry Fields," but I speak of the eternal greatest of a Fields of a different origin: Marshall Field's. The local retail giant may have gone defunct in 2005, after selling out to Macy's, but true Chicagoans will always hold Marshall Field's close to their hearts. The former flagship location on State Street is a poignant reminder of the glory days of the past, when Frango Mints were a Chicago-only treat that made a great gift for out-of-town friends and relatives, an afternoon luncheon at the Walnut Room was the height of sophistication, and the customer was always right. Now, particularly in this economic slump, one can scarcely find a salesperson on duty at Macy's, and they are chronically short on shopping bags at the State Street store. Nevertheless, Mom and I made a bargain-hunting pilgrimage this afternoon.

I do feel some slight pangs of guilt at patronizing the corporation that killed the illustrious Marshall Field's, but there is one thing in particular that keeps drawing me to the State Street store, besides the constant onslaught of coupons Macy's sends to my apartment: the building itself. Opened in 1907, the second incarnation of Field's (the first was destroyed in the Chicago Fire) featured a glorious mosaic ceiling designed by none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. There are no architectural features that I love more than mosaics and stained-glass windows, so what could possibly be better than a mosaic ceiling designed by the 20th century's foremost artisan of glass? Nothing.

This ceiling covered the central atrium of the original department store, and was Tiffany's first, and largest ceiling project utilizing the irridescent favrile glass for which he would later become famous. The ceiling was relegated to a corner of the store when the building was expanded to the size of a full city block in 1914, but I tend to think that the move increases its magical qualities. The store is intentionally difficult to navigate -- in your effort to find what you are looking for, you will pass the maximum amount of other merchandise. Therefore, I often come upon the Tiffany atrium on accident, continuously being reminded of its presence. It always takes my breath away.

It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite places in the city. If I weren't so terrified of standing next to the railings in large atria (seriously, the scene where Tai gets dangled over the ledge at the mall in Clueless scarred me for life), I could spend hours looking at it.

While we were at Macy's, we also hunted down an exhibit of costumes worn by Miss Piggy. Mom, as many of you are aware, is a bit of a Muppet aficionado, so the installation was a bit of a must-see, since we were at the store anyhow. It turned out to be smaller than we had expected, consisting of only five costumes, but the workmanship was impressive for such tiny garments.

Each outfit was created by such real-life designers as Jason Wu and Burberry. My favorite ensemble was the Sex and the City-inspired look with the printed trench coat (center, in the above photo), while Mom preferred the sequined gown paired with the hot-pink feather boa. I will say, there was a certain je ne sais quois about that ensemble which really captured the essence of Miss Piggy. I will also say that the pig really knows her jewelry! She had some very enviable baubles to complement her porcine couture.

Even if the Macy's experience lacks some of the polish and the panache of the Marshall Field era, the State Street store does offer up a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It may be a little bittersweet to be reminded of what the city has lost in the absence of Marshall Field's, but life must go on. If it can go on in the very cute art nouveau-inspired dress that I picked up today, all the better.

1 comment:

  1. So where is a pic of this dress I have heard so much about?