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I wanted to share these stories from Hattie Carnegie's various interviews.

Hattie Carnegie's Words of Wisdom

Life Magazine-November of 1945

The article was talking about how Hattie Carnegie was so famous at the early half of the century, early 1920's thru early 1950's.
If she went into a fabric store or any store that dealt with fashion people around her would watch her purchases very carefully. As soon as she grabbed something, that same fabric would fly off the shelves and return just as quickly- if she for some reason decided to put it back.

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The Business Meeting

Many people asked her advice about business but this particular story was priceless.

One particular day, Hattie was under a lot of stress.  She was being asked so many questions, and had another meeting to deal with in just a few short hours.  She decided she needed some down time just to gather her thoughts and decided to go home for a little while.
She gave her housekeeper, Madeline, instructions to not let anyone bother her unless it was important.  She was tired and was going to take a bubblebath.
One of Hattie's employees had heard she was going home and went to her house looking for her.

The employee told the housekeeper that she had something important to discuss with Hattie regarding the shop.
The housekeeper told her Hattie was taking a bath and could it wait.
The employee persisted that she just had to talk to Hattie now.  It was important!  She knocked on the bathroom door and Hattie told her to come in.
A few minutes later a few more employees showed up at the door stating they had to talk to Hattie and being told the exact same thing, they too stated it was important and headed toward the bathroom. 
Hattie and about four or five of her employees ended up holding a business meeting in the bathroom while Hattie was still in the tub conducting a meeting like it was an everyday boardroom business meeting.
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Rivals

Hattie and her brother were rivals in everything.. Hattie once said that shortly after they arrived in New York, she and her brother were shouting German insults very loudly across the room at one another.


Hattie's father, not being able to tolerate the arguing any longer, told them, "Henrietta and Herman, You stop the arguing right now!" and continued "If you must argue, Practice your ENGLISH skills at the same time".

Hattie answered, "I can't do that Papa, I don't know how to say any of those words in English".

Hattie had this to say about her brother, "We always argued growing up, and now he works for me!" 

Hattie's brother had this to say when he was asked how he felt about her success in the fashion world.
"The entire family is really proud of Hattie, myself included. "It's just too bad that she never grew."  poking fun at Hattie's teeny tiny stature.

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Corset -vs- Casket

This story is from the Cosmopolitan Interview - June of 1942
Hattie would NEVER expect any of her customers to wear anything she herself wasn't willing to wear. Hattie was very tiny and petite only 4 ft 9 in tall and not even 100 lbs.

One of her customers once inquired, "Ms. Carnegie, have you ever worn a corset?”

Hattie answered her, "No way, I would never put myself through that torture!"

 Hattie was called out to Hollywood the following week to assist with the wardrobe for an upcoming movie.  Thinking about what her customer said, Hattie bought herself a corset, even though she had never worn one before. She thought she would give it a try.

 On the flight from New York City to Los Angeles, a mere thirty minutes after take off on a smooth flight, poor Hattie was beginning to turn three different shades of green and felt like she was either going to pass out or toss her cookies because of the intense pain.

Still trying to act so ladylike she staggered to the bathroom and summoned her secretary, Josephine. "Please help me get this thing off. It's really killing me!" 

Hattie, her secretary and a stewardess were finally able to get the torture device off of the petite designer. Hattie had it pulled so tight it was cutting off her circulation.

 Later, when asked what she thought about the corset, she commented that, "The proper name for this device,  should not be corset, but CASKET because after wearing something such as that , you'll wish you were dead".....and she added,  "That was the first and last time, I will ever wear a thing like that."

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Would the Real Ms.Carnegie, Please Stand Up?

Collier's Magazine from March 16th 1949 had this to say about Hattie.
Hattie Carnegie's comments were often clipped and very witty, her tiny stature and accent made her comments all the funnier to hear.
When a landscape architect once gave her an exorbinant figure on moving some trees at her Four Winds Ranch in New Jersey, she barked,

"Are you aware, my name is really Kanengeiser-Zanft, Who in the world, do you think I am......The REAL Mrs. Carnegie!!!"

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Temper, Temper!!

Little Hattie could, and most definately did, have a bad temper. When she was in a bad mood, Watch out.

An employee described Hattie in this manner:

"Working for Hattie is much like sitting on a powder keg. you never know when she is going to blow up. Hattie is 4 feet 9 inches, and 90 lbs of pure dynamite."
Hattie has the ability to transform herself from a charming, little thing with a sweet glowing personality to a shrew with spines. If something angers her, or if she is stressed about an important business deal,

Little Hattie seems tired and harassed. Severe nerves and stress make her stalk around like a caged lioness. She will quickly snap at even her closest family, friends or associates.   Her voice which is usually low and quiet, with a cute little accent  becomes sharp and hard. After the stressful situation is over, She calms down and apoligzes just as quickly as she blows up, Hattie can't understand why people are still on pins and needles in her presence. In Hattie's eyes, she was just blowing off steam.

Collier's Magazine-Hattie Carnegie 1949

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Hattie Carnegie Once Wore this Dress!

Some of Hattie's employees were discussing her and said that many people treated Hattie Carnegie with sort of a "Movie Star Status" and it could be very comical watching people walk into her shop, and not only buy clothes and hats with a "Hattie Carnegie Label", but actually ask to meet Hattie Carnegie herself. Hattie was usually very nice about this and was happy to meet with people who admired her. Yet she could never understand why as she was NOT an Actress, Politician, Singer, Writer or Movie Star, None of the above that usually granted celebrity status but just a businesswomen. Hattie was shocked that people even admired her.

Hattie's employees also said that Hattie was a very tiny women. Therefore tiny women thought Hattie catered to them in a sense, so they would flock to buy clothes at her shop.

Many of these "Little Women" who were Hattie's size when they would buy a dress, they wouldn't just merely take the dress home, but a few people actually asked Hattie,  if she herself would wear the dress that they just purchased out in public somewhere.

Hattie was shocked at these requests and taken a back, but she usually said,

"If you want, Give me a week." Hattie would do as she promised and wear the dress to some function or meeting that she had planned to attend.
 

When the customer would show up a week later to claim the dress or hat. Hattie would tell them to which function or event that she wore the particular dress. The customer could then tell all her friends that not only did their dress come from Hattie Carnegie's shop, It not only had her label been sewn into it, but Hattie Carnegie actually wore the dress as well.

I wonder if they ever got a signed affidavit from Hattie that stated this.
 

I laughed when I read that article, but it is totally 100% me.
I think if Hattie were alive today, and saw my closets full of her clothes and jewelry and that she technically has a New Hampshire branch of her shop. Also if she ever saw this site……. The poor woman would either be really honored or hire a bodyguard. 
 

Hattie Carnegie's Memory Lives On.

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She was Very Prideful

Occasionally someone will want to buy the dress that Hattie was wearing on a given day, so Hattie always made it a point to bring extra clothes to her shop and would often go home wearing something totally different than she was wearing that morning because the customers would buy the outfit she was wearing.


This situation was of great delight to Little Hattie,when she said,

 "I fitted that dress, That's one of my shop originals, and everyone in this place wanted to buy that dress, and that's the way it is,"

Then shaking her head forlornly will add, "I'm only one woman,and I have all these figureheads around here. Do you think anybody buys what they have on? It's all on my shoulders." -

Collier's Magazine-March 16th 1949

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What Type of Shop is this Anyhow?

One Afternoon Hattie's husband John went into the shop to ask her about something. He noticed that his wife was wearing yet another totally different outfit than she had worn that morning, and he saw her at lunch and she was wearing something different at that time as well

This time, John commented upon seeing his wife in a third totally different outfit within a span of a few hours,

"Hattie, Don't tell me you are taking your clothes off in the shop again!"

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"MAJOR" Differences

Hattie was once asked what the main difference was between her arranged marriage and her marriage to Major John Zanft whom she married for love and who happened to be her teenage sweetheart.

Her answer was, "Most definitely Romance. I ACTUALLY GET SOME ROMANCE NOW."

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Fashion Queen/Drama Queen

Hattie Carnegie always wanted to be certain that people loved her clothes and jewelry, so much so that she would inquire indirectly about customers purchases,  she would say to a woman she saw often,

"Dear, That dress or that necklace is so beautiful and it looks so fabulous on you, Could you tell me where you bought it?"

The woman would reply, "Ms. Carnegie, Remember I bought it here just last month."

 Hattie, the little drama queen,  would dramatically put her hand on her forehead, 

"Oh my, I must have forgotten."

 Customers would often play along to humor Hattie, simply because they knew that she loved compliements and they wanted to humor her.

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That Mannequin Certainly is Lifelike

Hattie had many customers that stopped into the shop each afternoon.

 One lady in particular was there each day at noon, thumbing through the clothing, hats and jewelry and admiring Hattie's collection

 Hattie went into the back room and commented to her employees,

 "That woman out there has seen each piece in this entire collection 1000 times over, Maybe we should just hire her to sit in the showroom every afternoon, What do you think, about that?"

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  This Girl Does Not Want to go to a Nightclub.

As much as Hattie adored the theatre and opera, she equally despised what the NEW generation loved and that was NIGHTCLUBS, she found them loud and noisy and wanted to avoid them at all costs.


At the height of The Big Band craze during World War II, Hattie just couldn't understand why everyone loved to go into those noisy nightclubs.


When her young fashion trainees, employees and models would ask Hattie if she and her husband Major John Zanft would like to go with them and their dates to the newest nightclub to open it's doors.

Hattie would always decline, stating that she was almost sixty years old and would kill herself if she attempted any of the new dances.

Hattie was a young teenager at the turn of the century, and a lot had changed since then, plus she perferred the waltz anyhow.
 

Hattie wanted to play classical music in her shop, but her employees wanted to play the latest Big Band Music.

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I was shocked at the speed of the mail system. I received that book today, "The Spy Who Wore Red" -by Aline Griffith.

It's the Autobiography of a former Hattie Carnegie turned spy for the allies during World War II
It's an audiobook and I listened to the first three chapter's. It will take awhile to listen to as the book is 10 1/2 hours long.
The author was talking about her early career when she worked for Hattie.

Because Aline Griffith was born in 1923, she obviously wasn't employed there at the same time Lucy was, so sadly no mention of Lucille Ball.
She did however mention Hattie a few times so far.


She talked about how beautiful Hattie's shop was, Very classy and fancy.
She said, On one particular day, she was extremely late for work,

Hattie told her because they were doing photo shoots to be there by 8 am in the morning, as it was going to be a long day for everyone to begin with.


She had been running late every day and this was the third day this week, and she knew Hattie was gonna be VERY UPSET at her this time, and was not in the mood to listen to any more excuses.
 

It was a damp, rainy, muddy March day.
Aline decided to take a cab to get there faster. She was trying to think of a way to explain the situation to Hattie and not paying attention as she was getting out of the cab. she lost her footing and fell face first in the mud.

When she walked in, Hattie was standing in the door, "She was shocked,

 "Aline, What in the h*ll happened to you?" and added, "In all my year's with this shop, I never had a model come to working looking like you."

Aline thought she was gonna get a stern lecture. Instead Hattie just broke out in hysterics, at the sight of her standing there covered with mud.

Also in this book, The author was saying they not only investigated her for months to see if she was suitable for the job.
 

They also did an investigation on Hattie and her husband to make sure they checked out okay, and wouldn't do anything to betray "The United of America or the Allies"


If they hadn't checked out okay, they wouldn't have chosen anyone from "Hattie Carnegie Inc."they figured it was a safe bet of their true patriotism because Hattie not only obtained her American citizenship, Also sadly many of her relatives were sent to death camps,  so Hattie had a extreme hatred for the Nazis and Hattie's husband was also high ranking military.
Aline, The author stated,

"Hattie and The Major checked out okay, They were NOT seen as threats.”
Hattie, and a few other close family members, were the only one who called her husband by his given name which was John.
The author and everybody else called him "Major" out of respect.
I noticed whenever she referred to them it was "Hattie and the Major." lol
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Lucille Ball also mentioned in her autobiography Love, Lucy that Hattie Carnegie had a fiery temper.

Hattie would get upset at young Lucille's antics, Hattie would in turn blow up at Lucille and she mentioned that she was fired by Hattie at least once a week, but Lucille would leave the shop laughing because she knew that Hattie would be calling to hire her back later that day.

Lucille Ball stated that none of the employees took Hattie's outbursts to heart and they all loved her because Hattie really loved all her employees and was really kindhearted and meant well but she had a terrible temper.
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Hattie Tells the Truth

I debated sharing this story on a “FAMILY SITE” but I decided it was far too priceless not to write about because it really is a classic not to mention hysterical Hattie moment.

The majority of the models that Hattie employed were aged nineteen to twenty-six. The oldest model that she ever employed was around thirty-five and the youngest ever was Lucille Ball at only seventeen.

Well shortly before the war broke across Europe. Hattie often took her young employees overseas, most of the time just the designers accompanied her on these trips, but on occasion she took a few of the models overseas.

European influenced fashion was very popular before the war, America copied Europe. The styles changed along with the times. Hems were raised in the 1920’s and the styles of the popular clothing was less restrictive and far less conservative. Than even a decade before.

Attitudes about a variety of controversial subjects were brought up in books, other publications and the theater. The Joy of Sex was first published in the 1920’s and it’s publication was a shocker. The public was lobbying for causes that a generation ago would have been considered taboo and they still were.

People protested, but the 1920’s was the first real revolution of attitudes and ideals.

This leads me to the story, One of Hattie’s models was engaged to be married. Hattie was very happy for her employee, and wanted to have a little bridal shower for her after hours.

Hattie thought that this was the perfect time to have a heart to heart with some of the girls who were in attendance at the party, in an informal and relaxed setting.

Hattie decided to share the wisdom that she had gained over the years, and offered the girls some unsolicited advice.

She told them that because they were beautiful girls, that they should be careful and make intelligent decisions, because they had promising futures, and she understood that most of them were looking forward to having a husband, house and family of their own. The advice she offered was make important events in your life special, she thought that none of them should ever choose to “LIVE” with a man until they were married. Surprised by this advice, they thought it would be fun and turned the focus of the conversation around and put Hattie on the spot because they wanted to know the “TRUTH” about their employer.

The girls decided to inquire if Hattie had ”LIVED” with John or as they referred to him the “Major” before they were officially united in marriage because it was common knowledge that Hattie and the Major were teenage sweethearts.

Hattie answered, “ABSOLUTELY NOT! It’s not accepted today, but back in my day, if you had LIVED with someone of the opposite sex , you were called some awful names, and you were shunned by your neighborhood. It was unheard of an unmarried women living with a man.

 Hattie added an unexpected shocker to her statement that she presented to her audience, “I HAD PLENTY OF PEPPERMINTS IN MY PURSE, AND I JUST MADE SURE THAT I NEVER WRINKLED MY BEAUTIFUL NIGHTGOWN IN MY OVERNIGHT BAG!”

She also made a comment at the same party, probably after having a drink or two that some of the wedding dresses she sold in her shop should have red sashes included.

Another CUTE story that Hattie told her audience was that when she arrived in America as a young teenager. She knew nothing about courtship or romantic love. She stated that dating or even holding hands was frowned upon in the Austrian-Jewish culture, and the future marriage is always decided by the parents and the matchmaker.

Henrietta had spotted her parents showing affection towards each other. The obviously eventually loved each other because they had seven children within their union. Her parents held hands, kissed and hugged each other in front of their children. Henrietta asked her parents about their show of love and affection

Helen wished to explain a little more to her curious daughter. Isaac stopped her and answered the inquiry,

Her father answered, “That only “MARRIED” couples were permitted to show affection.

The little girl knew she wasn’t going to get anymore information, so she remained curious but didn’t ask anymore questions. She would get most of that information answered later, by her American friends.

Years later, when she arrived in America. She knew that the answer her father provided was foolish because American teenagers dated, kissed and held hands.. Henrietta decided that she wanted to know what it was like to kiss and to be kissed.

Henrietta had a friend, in their neighborhood,  that she thought was cute, so she hid on the other side of the building, and kissed her friend when he passed by, and than she ran in the opposite direction, because she was embarrassed and hid from him for the next two days, because although she thought he was cute, he always teased her , now he was going to be impossible.

He called her name and she thought to herself, it’s now or never. time to be courageous and accept his teasing. When she walked over to him, he kissed her. The situation didn’t lead to a romance, but he liked her and this friend became her staunch defender.

When her brothers and her sisters, would direct the usual sibling insults toward her, the friend would yell, “Hey,. Leave Henrietta Alone!”

  

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

I wanted to place the 110th Birthday Tribute to Hattie Carnegie at the Fashion Institute of Technology on the Tributes Page

The website is currently having technical difficulties, so I have placed it on the Hattie-ism's page.   

           I am very sorry for the confusion.

 

 

 

Pictures from the 1996 Fashion Institute of Technology 110th Birthday Tribute to Hattie Carnegie

                  (F.I.T.)   New York City.

 

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is proud to pay tribute to Hattie Carnegie.

 For decades her shop at 49th off Park Avenue was a mecca for stylish women seeking

“THE CARNEGIE LOOK!”

While her name is remembered,her role is an enigma to many. This exhibition examines, for new generations, her important contribution to the history of fashion in the United States.

The Museum is most grateful to the many individuals and institutions that have helped with this project and to our donors who have bought, saved and finally gave their “Hattie Carnegies” to our collections.

 

Hattie Carnegie Exhibition- March-April 1996.

 

 

Picture 1.   The Little Carnegie Suit was Pure Perfection. It was the status symbol of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s worn by international celebrities and socialites. It fit the body nipped at the waist, rounded at the hips.

It was soft and feminine and always had “The Carnegie Look”

Suit, c. 1949, Wool. Hattie Carnegie. Gift of Ms. Rita Maza-Williams.

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

 

 

Picture 2.  Hattie Carnegie’s Shop at East 49th Street off Park Avenue was a paradise for ultra stylish shoppers from the ‘20’s to the ‘50’s. The luxurious store with it’s boiserie, paneled walls, exotic Coromandel screens and glittering mirrors, complimented the elegant clothes.

Suit, c. 1953, Wool, Hattie Carnegie.  Gift of Betsy Kennedy.

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

 

Picture 3. Carnegie’s Evening Dresses won a reputation for prettiness. As Vogue Fashion Editor, Bettina Ballard wrote in the ‘60’s in her splendid book,  In My Fashion, “They were always designed for a rather small, inclined to be pretty woman, with good  legs and arms, like Hattie, herself. They also bore Hattie’s hallmark: beautiful fabrics and excellent workmanship.”

Evening Dresses, c. 1950, left, silk faille. Norman Norell, sold at Hattie Carnegie.

Right,  Iridescent silk taffeta.  Hattie Carnegie Custom Made.

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

 

Picture 4.  From Hat to Hem- That is the way Hattie Carnegie dressed her chic clentele. Her hats both the custom and the  wholesale. They ranged in price from $14. to $360. In a season, she would present, 500 to 1000 models. Her millinery displayed Ms.Carnegie’s precise perfection, but always in a feminine way.

 

Hats- left: c, 1948. Straw with silk rose.

Right: c, 1949. Straw with silk ribbons.

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

Picture, 5. Hattie Carnegie Perfume came in unique bottles with 14K overlay. These remarkable containers shaped with a woman’s head were inspired by Hattie’s desire to enhance feminine beauty. Her fragrances had names like Blue, Pink, White, 49, among others.

Fragrance, Carnegie Blue, c. 1943.

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

 Picture, 6. Socialites such as the Duchess of Windsor,  Clare Booth-Luce,  Barbara Hutton and Broadway stars such as Constance Bennett, Tallulah Bankhead,  Joan Crawford,   Gertrude Lawrence and Norma Shearer were regular clients of Hattie Carnegie.

Miss Margarita Noble, Bride of Howard Serrell, 1938. Wedding gown designed by Hattie Carnegie.

Gift of Mrs. Howard Serrell and Family.

The Museum at F.I.T

 

 

Picture, 7.  The WAC uniforms designed by Hattie Carnegie won her the U.S. Army’s highest civilian award in 1952.

 

Uniforms for the Women’s Army Corps. Designed by Hattie Carnegie.

Officially adopted for wear on January 1, 1951.

Courtsey of the Women’s Army Corps. Museum, Fort McClellan, Alabama.

 

 

Picture, 8. Louise Dahl-Wolfe, the celebrated Harper’s Baazar photographer of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s pioneered the use of natural lighting in fashion photography. Her fresh American vision was perfectly conveyed in her presentation of The Carnegie Look.

“Model,  Mary Jane Russell wearing Hattie Carnegie.”  Harper’s Baazar,  March 1949.

Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe

The Museum at F.I.T.

 

My sincere thank you to Shoshana.

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