Nice Legs

Freshman hawks bags in NYC

In a post-ironic poke at commercialism, experimental artist Allison T. Tanenhaus ‘05 designs and sells a line of handbags made of dangling plastic doll limbs.

“My art has an element of fun, flippancy, and irreverence,” says Tanenhaus. “You can call these bags shabby chic or minimalistic and classy. Or, they could be what your five year old made when she screwed up.”

Tanenhaus handsews each distinctive bag, stitching craftstore doll legs and arms to fabric sacs in pink, purple, yellow, black and yellow. Her line of designs will be sold at the debut of a newly opening Soho boutique called “Patsy.” Tanenhaus has also sold her handbags to European fashionistas at a CD release party at Up & Co., a NYC nightclub.

Tripping the light fantastic at the Pudding? Match that cocktail dress with a black satin Tanenhaus bag with a pink sequin strap and a pair of killer plastic legs. Off to yoga class at Wellbridge? Sling along the “Shiva” bag, a divine octagonal sensation with ten lithe dolly arms a-waving.

“My bags are versatile,” says Tanenhaus. “You can wear them all around because you wear your own legs with anything, so you can wear my legs with anything.”

Readymade for the po-mo girl-on-the-go, Tanenahaus satchels are custom-sized to fit a cellphone, compact mirror, lipstick, or palmpilot. Creepy yet pretty, these handbags are a irony-tinged mlange of the sweet and the very sick.

Tanenhaus points out a skinny black bag with flourescent faux fur trim and says, “I was going to make this one a pencil case and someone commented that it seemed like it could hold a vibrator.”

“I was scared that feminists might take [my bags] the wrong way because you never know what the boundaries are,” says Tanenhaus, a self-described feminist. “They might look at a bag of mine and say, ‘Look, this represents females as a soulless empty sack.’ But I don’t think it’s sexist, because [the bag] could be a really girly man’s legs after all.”

FM wanted to know what Tanenhaus thought of that other very famous handbag designer-Monica L. “I wanted to intern at Henry Bendel’s, who sells the real Monica bags on Fifth Ave.,” says Tanenhaus. “I thought Monica bounced back pretty well. I think she’s cool. Everyone condemns her but they wear her lipstick anyway.”

Tanenhaus doesn’t use Barbie parts but it isn’t because of the whole Barbie controversy. Give the doll a break, says Tanenhaus. “Even though the proportions are totally off, Barbie’s a doll. Get over it. Anyone who wants to base how they look on a piece of plastic is delusional. I grew up playing with My Little Ponies. But I never thought I wanted to grow up with four legs, a tail, and a star on my butt.”

Inspirations of Tanenhaus include her father, who is also a visual artist. “Dad collects mannequin legs,” says Tanenhaus. “We have a couple sticking out of the lawn in the backyard.” Tanenhaus also mentions a Dali painting with eyes on a plate, which may or may not have been formative. “It’s kind of a cheap shot,” she says. “If you have a limb where it’s not supposed to be, it’s going to seem weird.” Touche.

To see more pictures of Allison T. Tanenhaus bags, look on her site: http://www.angelfire.com/emo/sticks/efemera. To place an order, write tanenh@fas.harvard.edu.

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