Nettie Rosenstein, a Multilateral Designer

2 Mar
thumb_category_nettie_rosensteinThe only portret of Nettie Rosenstein
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Years ago, on a flea market, I found a label that said: Nettie  Vogue model. Although spelled different from my first name (Netty), it’s pronounced the same and I treasured it for a long time.

I never knew what the label stood for untill this week. When starting to work on a new story for my blog, I stumbled on the jewelry by Nettie Rosenstein. Reading about this very talented designer, whose clothes were promoted by Vogue and designed patterns for Vogue, the mystery of the Nettie Vogue model was unravelled.

january-1955-vogue-14may13_btCoat, Nettie Rosenstein ph.Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue, 1955 

.

Nettie Rosenstein Bio

Born Nettie Rosenscrans in Salzburg, Austria in 1890, she and her family migrated to America in the 1890s and settled in Harlem, New York, where they ran a dry-goods store. She began making her own clothes when she was only 11 years old.  Her interest in and exposure to the fabrics in her parents’ store formed the backbone of her career. Nettie’s sister, Pauline, ran a millinery business known as Madame
 Pauline in the Rosencrans family house, next to the dry-goods store. Nettie began her career as a custom dressmaker for her sister’s clients.

In 1913 Nettie married Saul Rosenstein, who ran a women’s underwear business. In 1916, Nettie Rosenstein started a custom dressmaking business in her home on West 117th Street. By 1921, she employed fifty dressmakers and had moved her business to a more fashionable address at East 56th Street. During the 1920s, Rosenstein switched to selling wholesale. By the late 1920s, I. Magnin, Neiman-Marcus, Nan Duskin, and Bonwit Teller were some of the stores that carried her clothing.

Clothes by Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

28fc6574809d8ccc9286f3cf7d5a35bb

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

When Saul Rosenstein retired from his successful women’s underwear business in the late 1920s, Nettie tried retirement, too. Two years later, however, she began working for the dressmaking firm Corbeau & Cie. She started couture clothing around 1927 and a couple of years later, she reopened her own dressmaking firm on West 47th Street with her sister-in-law, Eva Rosencrans, and her former boss at Corbeau & Cie., Charles Gumprecht.  . In 1931 she moved to West 47th Street and in 1942 to Seventh Avenue.

“It’s what you leave off a dress that makes it smart.”

At her peak in the 1930’s, Nettie designed 500 models a year, preferring to work by draping material directly on the figure.  Her clothes were sold all over America, but only to one store in each city.  The store that featured her clothes by name in New York was Bonwit Teller.

In 1936 LIFE magazine profiled Nettie Rosenstein, as one of the most respected American designers, showing a photograph of one of her evening dresses.

In spite of the Depression, Rosenstein’s business flourished, grossing $1 million in 1937.

wedding ensemble 1944Nettie Rosenstein wedding dress
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Nettie was very well-known for her little black dresses and her evening gowns. Her wedding gowns were also very much admired. Her designs were among the highest-priced wholesale clothes in New York City. Because they were so widely copied, the influence of her work went far beyond those who could afford her clothing. The reasons for her high prices were her use of high-quality materials and construction techniques, and her precise fit process. Each of her designs was first conceived on a showroom model, and then adapted in fit and proportion five times to five different-sized workroom models that represented the average figure. Rosenstein, who was given a design award in 1938 by the department store Lord & Taylor

Together with old friend Sol L. Klein, who also came from Austria and moved to the United States in 1920, in the 1940s Nettie  founded Nettie Rosenstein Accessories Inc. The company manufactured costume jewelry and handbags.

Handbags by Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

She announced her second retirement in March 1942, inspiring a tribute in TIME Magazine. However, also this retirement did not last long, as she resumed fashion design a few years later, winning a Coty Award in 1947. She  contributed largely to the movement of the democratization of fashion in America during the first half of the twentieth century by making good-quality clothing of sophisticated design available for the ready-to-wear customer.

Commissioned by Neiman Marcus, she designed the pink brocade Inaugural gown shown here on the right for Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower in 1953 when her husband Dwight Eisenhower became President of the United States.  First Lady Mamie Eisenhower‘s style landed her on many a best-dressed list and made her a fashion icon to women across America.

Mrs. Eisenhower in 1953Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower in 1953
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Nettie was again called upon again by Mrs. Eisenhower in 1957.  She made a beautiful yellow gown for Mrs Mamie Eisenhower when he husband became President for the second time.

Mrs. Eisenhower in 1957.Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower in 1957
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Nettie cultivated excellent relationships with European fabric houses, so they made exclusive materials for her including shantung, organdy and taffeta gauze.  Lace, one of her favourite fabrics, went on sheer bodices of cocktail dresses or whole ball gowns. In 1957 she went into sportswear with maillots made out of Lastex.

Charles Kleibacker joined her house in 1958, and designed till 1961.  He was a master of bias-cut garments with a beautiful fall. In 1961 Nettie stopped making dresses, and concentrated on design of jewellery and accessories. Her jewellery is nowadays very much in demand and there are many sites on the net offering these pieces.

After Nettie retired from the fashion industry, her name was carried on by Sol L. Klein with Nettie Rosenstein Accessories Inc . He retired in 1975, at which time the Nettie Rosenstein brand closed too

Jewellery by Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

On March 13, 1980, after a long illness, Nettie died at the age of 90.

In 2000 the City of New York included the name of Nettie Rosenstein in a list of great American fashion designers, when considering whom to honour by a plaque on the pavement of 7th Avenue called the FASHION WALK  OF FAME.

models-are-wearing-dresses-and-matching-caps-by-nettie-rosenstein-and-jewelry-by-tiffanys-photo-by-horst-vogue-nov-1-1940

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Nettie Rosenstein

Info:
Wikipedia
http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/rosenstein-nettie

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4 Responses to “Nettie Rosenstein, a Multilateral Designer”

  1. Arlene Cocke 28 March 2014 at 18:37 #

    What a beautiful, informative coverage of a beautiful talented woman.
    It was a pleasure to discover Nettie.

  2. Emma Grace 29 October 2015 at 12:20 #

    Most illuminating thank you. One of our recently deceased mothers’ evening dresses is a Nettie Vogues and this is the first reference I have found to the designer

  3. Estelle 12 February 2016 at 08:47 #

    Thankyou so much for such an excellent article… I’m about to buy my first piece and this is very informative! Es

  4. d jones 28 April 2016 at 11:51 #

    Nettie was a woman’s best friend, she made such beautiful items.

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