Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 


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In Search of Hattie Carnegie

On the day of the Inauguration, there was much intrigue about the necklace - or was it a pin? - worn at the collar of Mrs. O's Isabel Toledo lemongrass dress. Questions would be answered soon enough.

The mystery accessory proved to be a Victorian sash pin, acquired through the Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection. The discovery of Carole Tanenbaum's collection, a finely curated, hand-picked selection of costume jewelry has opened up a new world for us.

We now often visit the collection's site to admire the distinctive pieces, or to read updates on Carole's blog (the Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection provided jewelry worn in Grey Gardens, which premieres this evening on HBO). The collection has also revealed a few more secrets about Mrs. O's enviable brooch collection.

On a campaign stop in Pittsburgh last October, Mrs. O wore an orange flower pin at the shoulder of her Abstract rose print J.Crew dress. We recognized a similar pin on Carole's site - a rare Hattie Carnegie silk flower pin from the 1960s - and later confirmed that indeed Mrs. O's pin was Hattie Carnegie as well. We were unfamiliar with the designer at the time, but eager to learn more.

In 1904, Henrietta Kanengeiser emigrated to the US from Austria-Hungary at the age of 18. After changing her name to Hattie Carnegie in 1909, she opened a millinery shop on E. 10th Street in New York City called Carnegie - Ladies Hatter. In 1923, the flagship Hattie Carnegie boutique opened at 42 East 49th Street. 

En route, Hattie Carnegie had begun manufacturing a high quality costume jewelry line in 1918, which continued to be sold after her death in 1959 and well into the 1980s. Carole Tanenbaum's collection offers rare Hattie Carnegie pieces of the highest quality and finest condition for the serious costume jewelry collector. For those who don't mind a few scratches or missing stones, and pieces that likely aren't as rare, eBay also has a range of Hattie Carnegie pieces up for auction.

A quick search led us to the following: #1 Bee brooch, #2 Turquoise flower pin, #3 Blue flower pin. The pear pin shown above is a Hattie Carnegie pin (stamped "Hattie Carnegie" on the back), acquired a few weeks ago. It has signs of wear - the paint is chipped in a few places, the closure a bit bent - but we will treasure it, and the hidden connection to Mrs. O, none the less.

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Reader Comments (43)

Wonderful post. Thanks for the history behind the pin.

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterKwana

Very interesting....thanks!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmerican-n-Rome

Oh great, now ebay is geting more of my cash!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterjenh

My aunt lived in the City and shopped at Hattie Carnegie all the time. My idea of heaven was visiting her and playing (with her permission of course) with her jewelry collection. She had the most fabulous Hattie pieces.

Thanks for rekindling that memory.

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBevi

Here is another reason why I like to visit this site...
The history, the things I learn about all these talentd designers, past and present.

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

There are many of us online who have championed the wonderful world of vintage costume jewelry.
Susan http://eureka-i-found-it.com/

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thanks everyone! The history and background of the designers is one of the things that fascinates me as well. If anyone is interested, I believe Schreiner is another vintage jewelry brand that Mrs. O favors as well. And Bevi, what a great memory!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Mrs. T, What a wonderful story. I love how you discern these connections and weave them together. All the more interesting that you created a connection of your own. Thanks for all the information - well written, as always!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Thank you Mrs. T for this information. I really enjoy learning things like this. Costume jewelry from the past can be fascinating. One of my favorite sites for looking (and very occasional buying ) is: earthlyadornments dot com

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered Commentersusan

I collect vintage costume jewelry, including some Hattie Carnegie. Here are a few tips: the pieces on Ebay are likely to be from dealers, and you'll pay top prices. Instead, haunt church rummage sales, estate sales, and garage sales (although you'll do better at the first two.) If you travel, go to flea markets -- Portobello Road in London and the Saturday market in Vienna are great for finding interesting pieces.

I was in Chicago this week and noticed several women wearing big flower brooches. Mrs. O. is having an impact!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

and one more bit of advice. Much of the best costume jewelry in the 30s, 40s and 50s was made by immigrants, like Hattie, who employed men and women who had worked as fine jewelers in Europe. Eisenberg, Trifari, Miriam Haskell in particular all had terrific craftsmen. Even though they were setting rhinestones and crystals instead of gems, they did exquisite work.

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterbrenda

Thanks for the tips Brenda!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Excellent and interesting article, Mrs. T. I can't believe I'm a brooch/pin person because of Mrs. O!

And I have to say that it's funny you mentioned Grey Gardens, I have it on, as I blog, but must confess it hasn't caught my attention, so I'm not really following the movie.

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterIVA

Y'know, I've never been one for wearing broaches. I grew up with the perception that only women in a certain "age bracket" wore broaches, and thought I'd never wear one!

However since after seeing how fantastic Mrs.O looked when she wore hers on the campaign trail and the re-introduction of them as a fashion accessory, I now own 10 and counting! Yep, I'm a convert...totally. I've even worn them as a clip for a sash around my waist or on a bag. So thanks Mrs. T for even more vintage variety.


Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRocky

Please forgive my spelling! I mean brooches!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRocky

Thank you for this. The history is great and the links to affordable pieces! A real kindness. I'd love to see more of that -- links to affordable, similar clothes or accessories -- for us Mrs. O addicts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 7:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. S

And here's a fun fact. One of Hattie Carnegie's models became a spy for the U.S. in Spain during WWII. She married a Spaniard and later wrote some lively books about the spy years--Aline, Countess of Romanones.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaffodil Planter

Although Michelle did not accompany The President on his trip to The Summits of the Americas in the Caribbean it is quite interesting to take a peek at what others there wore.

HuffingtonPost has a slideshow:

First lady Rosario Murillo's sleeveless black and white dress looks like one that Michelle would wear. And in photo #4 the amount of accessories she is wearing seems very unusual and way over board to me.

Photo #5 shows a 'shoeless' lady dressed in a lovely ruffled pink.

I love the shirt fabric of Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's skirt in photo #6.

Photos #8 and #11 prove that men do dress in other than the traditional suit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

Great post about Hattie Carnegie. Enjoyed all the history and fun facts everyone has.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnn#1

I've never been a fan of brooches or pins, but I love this.


Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCafe Fashionista

I was hoping to see Mrs. Obama and her daughters today at Church. Maybe she is resting after all that European travel and of course ---- of the time training Bo!

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMJMR


The President is returning to the White House this evening.
I read the other day that their would be 'NO' public events for Michelle while the prez was out of town, so I wasn't expecting any photos of her while he was away.

If she has stayed IN the White House the past few days then I think it's great that she has had some time to kick back at home and lounge around. She has been on the go pretty much since the first day they moved in.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

@Daffodil Planter (love the name)

And I read somewhere that Lillian Hellman actually used the Aline biographical information and "borrowed" it when she wrote the story "Julia".

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBevi

Leah D. thanks for the link. Argentinas' President looks
lovely. Nicaraguan FL..Way too much going on!
Daffodil Planter and Bevi- going to look for some of those books this week. Sounds like something fun to read while my husband watches discovery, history, military channel!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnn#1

Thanks for the brooch info. Time to dig out the brooches in honor of mrs.o oak park il

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie m Laatz

Great post/website! Just what I like to pore over (and spend more time than I should on)...Thank you...

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSD

Leah D: I think that was precisely what I meant - maybe Mrs Obama has been resting and that is the reason for no recent pictures. Oh -well!

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMJMR

Whoooee! Too many items of personal adornment on the Nicaraguan first lady! I think the jewellery was wearing her. Some of those pieces were really nice, but you couldn't appreciate one in particular while it was being swamped by thirteen others!

Is it just me, or is Hillary looking fanTAStic? Has she had her colours done? Was she actually wearing a dress?? Nice to see, way to go Hillary!

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterposh tater

Oops, forgot to mention, thank you Mrs T for all the brooch details and history. It's amazing that you can track this stuff down at all, but thanks for sharing it when you do. Thanks also to Bevi and Brenda for sharing tips and memories!

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPosh Tater

I wish we could have seen Hillary Clinton from the front because that flip hairstyle looked great. Mrs. T., thanks for the brooch background, and Brenda, thanks for the shopping tips! I visit Goodwill and the Salvation Army on occasion and usually I just breeze by the jewelry, but I'm going to start taking a closer look now. It seems like the secret to wearing brooches is to go big and bold.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Actually here's some shots where you can see Secy Clinton. She DOES look great. I like the pants suits, they're practical but also very "her." And yes I do know that what she wears is just barely important compared to her brain and her life of service, just like Mrs. O. I just like pretty colors, that's all!

community(dot)livejournal(dot)com(forwardslash) obama(underscore)daily(forwardslash)213775(dot)html

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I highly doubt Mrs. O is taking this time out of the spotlight to lounge around. She is more than likely planning the events, etc. that she has coming up. She's got 2 speeches to make in May at a high school graduation in D.C., and at a university graduation in California. I'm sure she has more visits to federal departments to prepare for, and perhaps she's ready to get on to the next phase of her agenda for military families, for example.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterIVA

Yes, Argentine president Cristina Kirchner is quite stylish. I liked the silk shirtdress that she wore with the plaid print on top fading into an orange-red paisley toward the hem.

I like the fact that women in power can increasingly be accepted as fashionable and credible at the same time--that they don't have to be mutually exclusive attributes. Perhaps it's a sign of increased acceptance of women in powerful positions--or am I being too idealistic?

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergbs

I adore the Carole Tanenbaum collection. There are just so many goodies!!! No wonder Mrs. Obama is a fan!

Kisses from Paris!



twitter: chicsetera

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterwww.chicsetera.com

Oh how I miss Mrs. O....looking forward to her next appearance. Glad she's had some time to relax. She and the girls are probably getting accustomed to Bo. He's a big burst of energy......

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmerican-n-Rome

gbs - I think you're being a mite idealistic, though it certainly the way things SHOULD be. We're getting there!

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I did not mean 'lounge around' in a lazy unproductive way.
What I meant was more of what we saw in a photo (in Vogue magazine with Michelle dressed in the J Crew peach cardigan, blouse and skirt) where Michelle was on the sofa with her note pads, books, and a cup of tea. I agree that she has to prepare for her commencement speeches, etc. but I like the mental image that comes to mind of her in the sunny rooms of the WH residence writing and reading instead of being in the more dreary East Wing office. There is also a sunny solarium on the third floor above the second floor oval room. http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/Floor3.htm

That was all I meant by my previous comment.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

I knew you didn't mean it negatively, I just wanted to make sure it was out there that she has some things on her plate too.

I agree, I can picture her in a similar venue preparing for her upcoming projects.

On a side note: I just read on politico that Mrs. O was spotted walking the dog outside this afternoon and went over to the press to allow them a chance to pet Bo and she showed off how Bo sits on command.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterIVA

gbs - I think we're finally getting there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterPosh Tater

Thanks for the jewelry insight, Mrs. T! It's fascinating to read the history here, and it's nice to see what Mrs. O probably likes about costume jewelry. I've never been much a fan of costume, myself, but now I'm realizing how much there is to love about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterChicagoan

Mrs. T. your articles are always so amazing. Thank you so much for walking us through history. You are the best. Your bloggers are amazing as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaula

In her time, Hattie Carnegie was actually known for her fashions at least as much as her jewelry, if not more so. In the 1940s, her stores were almost like a mini department store where you could buy clothes, handbags, furs, hats, cosmetics and perfume, all from Hattie Carnegie. The list of famous fashion designers who worked for Carnegie before making a name for themselves includes Norman Norell, Galanos, Claire McCardell, and Pauline Trigere. Hattie's vintage fashions are as collectible as her jewelry.
If you'd like to see what I mean, go to vintagefashionguild dot org and click on "Search & Shop VFG member sites". The type "Carnegie" into the search box. All the VFG members have been vetted for good business practices, and there is some amazing eye candy to enjoy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Да как то так, лучше тут http://tutifruti.dax.ru/knigi-dlya-psp-skachat-besplatno.html" rel="nofollow">Книги для psp скачать бесплатно, спишимся еще.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMashulya

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