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Glamour and Innovation: Nettie Rosenstein

Known for her exceptionally tailored designs and her masterful take on the “little black dress,” Nettie Rosenstein learned dressmaking skills at a young age. In 1916, Rosenstein created a dressmaking business out of her home in Harlem, and by the 1920s, she employed over fifty different dressmakers in a new location on East 56th Street and sold dresses wholesale under the Nettie Rosenstein label.

Nettie Rosenstein

(c. 1890 - March 13, 1980)

Known for her exceptionally tailored designs and her masterful take on the “little black dress,” Nettie Rosenstein learned dressmaking skills at an early age. Her sister Pauline operated Madame Pauline, a millinery business next to the family’s dry-goods store on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue in New York City, so Rosenstein’s first job was working as a custom dressmaker for her sister’s clients. In 1916, Rosenstein created a dressmaking business out of her home in Harlem, and by the 1920s, she employed over fifty different dressmakers in a new location on East 56th Street and sold dresses wholesale under the Nettie Rosenstein label. On a fateful day in 1950, a private client arrived at the showroom to look at a few dress designers. The private client was Mamie Eisenhower, who was shown around the store by Eva Rosencrans, Nettie’s sister-in-law and designer under the Nettie Rosenstein label. This led to a relationship with the two designers, and Mamie Eisenhower later asked them to design her famous pink inaugural gown, embedded with 2,000 rhinestones. After the first gown was such a success, they designed the second inaugural look, this one a yellow dress for the 1957 Inauguration.