Category — Vintage Resources

Q&A with Vintage Costume Jewelry Maven Carole Tanenbaum

vintage art deco brooch

There is no doubt that our First Lady has brought style back to the White House. On inauguration day, all eyes were watching for what Michelle Obama would be wearing, oh and the inauguration of the President too of course. One woman was behind the dazzling brooch that set off the ensemble Isabel Toledo had created. That woman was none other than the dame of bijoux – Carole Tanenbaum.

Carole Tanenbaum has been in the vintage costume jewelry business for 25 years. Her online store, Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection, has been a mecca for high end, collectible vintage costume jewelry. She has accessorized everyone from Natalie Portman to Sarah Jessica Parker to First Lady Michelle Obama. Carole was gracious enough to answer a few burning questions I had.

People who have a passion for fashion always explain their infatuation by stating that fashion is art – another form of expression. Carole Tanenbaum proves this statement true. There is no doubt that her former life in art collecting and dealing was training for the small pieces of art she has so lovingly and passionately collected.


Meet Carole Tanenbaum…

DC: How did you know you wanted your life’s work to be in costume jewelry?

CT: Sometimes experiences in life dictate where you go and what you do. I have always been a collector – of art, vintage quilts, etc. My primary business was fine art consulting. It was when, on a trip to London, about 28 yrs ago, that I stumbled on a small but very select collection of Vintage Costume Jewelry and fell in love. As a collector, I made it my mission to purchase as many pieces as I loved, until a few yrs later, I amassed several thousand jewels. I had no intention of going into this business ,as I was very happy buying and selling art. But I approached Holt Renfrew, Canada to see if they were interested in doing a trunk show (1994). They were smitten, gave me my own dept (!) And that was the beginning of CTVC.

DC: You provide jewelry for so many celebrities, even First Lady Michelle Obama. Are the famous more daring when it comes to jewelry?

CT: Most stars are not daring in their tastes. They gravitate towards pieces that are “safe”. There are a few exceptions however. Sarah Jessica Parker is extremely creative, not only with her choices, but with the unconventional way she wears her pieces, her placements. Mrs Obama also makes unusual choices, and mixes vintage with contemporary.

DC: Michelle Obama has become quite the fashion icon. How did you feel being one of the people responsible for dressing First Lady Michelle Obama?

CT: Michelle has been wearing CTVC well before the election. But I was surprised and extremely proud that she chose one of our early, historical brooches for the inauguration, when she could certainly have worn Fred Leighton, Harry Winston, or anyone. It was a unique choice, and one fitting with the times.

DC: You have provided many pieces of jewelry to film and television productions, most recently Grey Gardens with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. What is your process when it comes to suggesting pieces for the screen?

CT: When we are selecting jewelry for film, we work with the stylist (s) in charge. They usually select in segments, as the film progresses. Each visit, they chose for a particular outfit(s) . They either give us very clear descriptions -color, scale, period etc, or they bring in the outfits. They generally over select, bring the pieces to the set and make a selection from there, within a day or two.

DC: When you are acquiring pieces for your collection, what do you gravitate to the most?

CT: When purchasing for my collection, I gravitate toward jewelry that shows imagination, creativity, and that is well made. I am interested in jewelry that is bold, and that makes a statement. High color; large scale, often small production.

DC: Are designer labels important when it comes to collecting costume jewelry?

CT: Designer labels do not affect my choices. My eye gravitates to the unusual. Many times an unsigned piece is more spectacular than a “ho hum” design by one of vintage’s icons.

DC: Who are some of your favorite costume jewelry designers?

CT: Some of my favorite Vintage designers are Schreiner, Early colored Haskell, Sandor, Coppolo e Toppo, Schibensky, Vargas,Bakelite, Dior, and early french pieces.

DC: You wrote a fabulous book titled Fabulous Fakes. Any plans for a follow up book?

CT: I was thinking of writing a book on Schreiner, my absolute favorite. We’ve done the photography,of about 450 masterpieces, but there is little information about the manufacturer. So, the book would lack the educational tool needed to make it more than a table top book. Otherwise nothing planned in the near future, but you never know!

DC: Are there any costume jewelry designers today that you feel will be future collectibles?

CT: There are so many great designers out there today. I have started to collect Larry Vrba, Robert Sorrell, a bit of David Mandel, Iradj Moini, Alan Anderson (ck my blog on him on, Marni, Missoni, Cavali. All these people have unique ideas, a small production and excellent workmanship – 3 things collectors looks for.
I also like many pieces by Alexis Bitar, Monies, Hendler.

DC: Any tips for aspiring vintage costume jewelry collectors?

CT: I would urge new collectors to educate their eye. There are dozens of bks today on Vintage Costume Jewelry. See what interests you. Buy pieces that are in fine, original condition, well made and that speak to your personal aesthetics. Whether it be a designer, a period, a type of jewelry that draws you in, make sure it’s authentic. As vintage becomes more and more popular, there are more fakes on the market, so trust whom you are buying from.

DC: If you had to exit the building to save your life and could only grab one item from your collection, what would it be?

CT: I can never answer that question, as we have over 20,000 pieces, all carefully selected by me . So, if I had to take one treasure with me I would probably take my favorite jewel, my husband!

vintage miriam haskell flower necklace

vintage bakelite cameo


art deco machine age earrings

June 10, 2009   8 Comments

The Business of Vintage – Photography as Marketing

vintage fashion marketing

The marketing savvy Andrea Merida was kind enough to let me contribute to her fantastic new site, I’ll be writing about marketing for vintage clothing businesses. My first article is up! It’s all about the importance of photography in selling vintage. There are some great tips for newbie and veteran sellers new to online selling.

I’m really excited about this opportunity. I love sharing information, so I hope that my contributions will be helpful to anyone in the vintage fashion business. Read. Enjoy.

May 30, 2009   5 Comments

Vintage Chanel Capers & How to Insure Your Vintage Fashion


Poor Rachel Bilson. The former OC star’s home was broken into this past Thursday, but it wasn’t her TV and computer that were stolen. It was her collection of vintage clothing and family heirlooms which included a collection of vintage Chanel. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be robbed of such items. A plasma TV can be replaced, just any other modern item, including designer clothing. But vintage? That’s it! It’s gone. And there probably not be another one like it. I wonder if any of it will show up on 

Whoever broke in knew what they were going for. No regular cat burglar
would know his vintage couture from a rag. Although, this could be like
the episode when Carrie Bradshaw was robbed of her
correctly-identified-by-the-mugger Manolos.

I just hope Miss Bilson
insured her collectibles, but in a case like this, home insurance is
not enough. If you collect vintage clothing and accessories, your
treasures can be insured, just like fine jewelry and antiques. “Some
may think that they’re homeowners insurance policy covers their
collectibles, but in most cases your homeowners policy is designed to
cover personal property and is not nearly enough to protect your
treasured collectibles,” said Dan Walker of Dan Walker/Debbie
Spilman-Collectibles Insurance Services.

photo via
has a very useful tutorial on how to obtain insurance for your vintage collectibles. I had never considered purchasing separate insurance for my vintage clothing and accessories, but as a seller, I have so much inventory its loss through theft or fire would set me back quite a bit of money.

Regardless of whether Rachel Bilson’s Chanel collection was ready to wear or couture pieces, the collection could’ve been worth a fortune, but even more tragic is the loss of these one of a kind treasures and the time and patience it takes to collect.

I can imagine the heartbreak she must be feeling right now. But if she had a collectibles insurance policy, maybe she can find some comfort in a vintage clothing shopping spree!

May 24, 2009   1 Comment

Vintage Roadshow – Fashion Reads & Summer Dressing


This week’s Vintage Roadshow round up is good for the mind and the eyes! Vintage bloggers are feeding their minds with vintage fashion history while others are looking for vintage inspiration for summer dressing. Check out the goods!

A Slip Of A Girl with vintage tips for laundering vintage girdles.

Couture Allure looks at vintage swimsuits from Tina Leser, Givenchy, and Polly Hornburg.
Glamoursplash takes note of Claire’s McCardellisms.

Here’s Looking Like You, Kid reviews Vintage Compacts & Beauty Accessories by Lynell Schwartz.
Kitsch-Slapped reviews Cinderella Nurse, a novel from the 1960s.

Things Your Grandmother Knew has FREE vintage slipper & scuff crochet patterns.

May 16, 2009   1 Comment

London’s Vintage Geography Guide

I am so very pleased to present Debutante Clothing’s London Contributor, Mademoiselle Robot! Equal parts cuteness, smarts, and style, Mademoiselle gives us the inside scoop on anything vintage and cool from the stylish streets of London. Enjoy! -Sandra

Coming from Paris, I am used to a very homogeneous & cyclical lifestyle, where one trend replaces another. So if you like a type of music or clothes that aren’t “in”, you can’t really find anything anywhere.

When I first moved to London, what struck me most is the sheer amount of coexisting trends. Not so much in Fashion, as people here have very individual styles and don’t are not overly trend led, but in music, nightlife etc.

What is interesting about London though is that those different “tribes” don’t really mix that much, and seem to stay put in their respective areas. You can pretty much divide London into four big sectors North, East, South & West.

East London – Late ’40s to Early ’60s


Even though the original “Swinging London” was found around Carnaby Street, it is now in East London that you can find most of the mid-century styles.

In the evenings, around Shoreditch, Bethnal Green & Old Street, there is a multitude of places to go to. A lot of people can be seen sporting prom dresses, checked shirts or bouffant hair dos. Nights like Grind A Gogo, the Birthday party or the Lady Luck club  are the best examples. A new night called The Blitz even features a ’40s style band in a World War II décor.

If you are in it for the shopping, there are lots of small vintage clothes shops around Brick Lane. Every time I go there, a new shop appears. For furniture, around Spitalfields Market is the best place to hunt.

Icons – The Broken Hearts DJs, Katy Perry

West London – Late ’60s and ’70s


Portobello market is well known for its vintage treasures. Not only from the Seventies, but from all eras, as far back as the Twenties. However, there is a distinct hippie vibe in this area. Walking around Westbourne Grove (a short 5 min walk from Portobello Market), you cross paths with a lot of Boho princesses. Not always authentic vintage style, it definitely stems from Seventies groupies. If you are a fan of the GTO (Girls Together Outrageously)  you will feel right at home there.

Icons – Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung


North London – ’80s

Camden is a strange area for fashion as it attracts such a wide variety of people. The area is mostly popular for 80’s fashion – especially heavily rock influenced styles. You also find quite a few 80’s does 50’s new rockabilly kids around there. The best illustration of this new rockabilly being Vivien of Holloway‘s designs .

Icons – Peaches Geldof, Kelly Osbourne


South London – ’90s

A lot of students live around New Cross and Camberwell and the style du jour seems to be Grunge. Doc Martens, lumberjack shirts, vintage denim and chunky knitwear is the local style. Sometimes a few VERY brights are thrown in for a bit of old rave style.

Icons – Agyness Deyn, M.I.A.

Don’t take this as a London guide though, it is only my humble interpretation of London’s vintage geography. Someone else’s personal experience of the city might lead to completely different conclusions.

-Mademoiselle Robot

Parisian expat in London, Mademoiselle Robot is a magazine Editor turned fashion blogger.  On, she offers style tips, interviews of artists and designers, outfit ideas and she even launched her own TV channel!  Her blog has been featured in the Independent, A nous Paris, Modepass and many others.


Alexa Chung credit to
Agyness Deyn credit to
Katy Perry credit
Peaches Geldof credit

May 5, 2009   4 Comments

Hobnobbing With Vintage Fashion Bloggers


As much as I love wearing and collecting vintage clothing, discovering the history behind the fashion is my favorite party. Unearthing and saving vintage fashion from death by landfill is my equivalent of finding fossilized bones in Hollywood – and my discoveries are prettier!

Because there is such an academic side to vintage clothing, I try my best to associate myself with people who are very knowledgeable. I belong to two organizations that really are the upper echelons of vintage clothing – Vintage Fashion Guild and Costume Society of America. In their Spring newsletter, CSA published a great list of bloggers to note and I was thrilled to see some of my faves on the list.

Liebemarlene Vintage Look Book – if you don’t follow Rhiannon’s blog, go there NOW! She is too cute too ignore.

A Dress a Day – This blog is a fun read. Nothing but vintage dresses and patterns with lots of eye candy.

Worn Through – This blog is a highly intelligent read with really insightful blog posts about fashion history and vintage influence. Written and edited by fashion historians and academics, one read will give your IQ a bit of a boost.

– The famous celebrity vintage hot spot blogs about current inventory.

A couple blogs on the list that I hadn’t read before, but plan to be a regular subscriber:

Jewel History – Lori Ettlinger Gross is the author of Brooches: Timeless Adornment. She blogs about jewelry and fashion, both vintage and contemporary.

Paula Baxter’s blog – New York Public Library;s Curator of Exhibitions and Coordinator of Education has a blog. Get ready for some serious fashion history lessons.

March 12, 2009   4 Comments

Are Your Vintage & Past Season Clothes Auction Worthy?

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Abigail Rutherford of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. As covetable as her job is, I envy Jeanne Suica even more. Jeanne jets sets across the world hunting through people’s closets and spying collectible, auction worthy treasures. Check out this article she wrote just for Debutante Clothing!


I’ve been a part of the auction world for the past few years and it is probably my favorite part of my clothing business which is based in Europe.


We all have a story of a special piece that we’ve found and mine was a Jean Paul Gaultier dress that I picked up at Goodwill in New York City. The dress which was labelled Jean Paul Gaultier Maille was a long acid green net fabric with a gold metallic overlay print which resembled body contours. Not in perfect condition but for $40.00 I thought that I had found the perfect Halloween costume.

A few months later I decided to send a photo to an auction house in London that I had consigned with a few times. Imagine my surprise when I received an estimation of £300-£500 and learned that it was from 1996 and part of a major museum collection in Japan. A few months later and £500 richer I decided that I wanted to learn more about what made an item collectable and realized that I enjoyed sitting in the library day after day doing research as much as hunting for a great vintage find at my favorite yard sale.

I provide a range of services for clients selecting items that might be auction worthy, providing estimations in conjunction with one of the leading auction houses in Europe, scheduling large collection or estate evaluations worldwide and coordinating the logistics of putting their fine collectables up for auction. My clients are worldwide and diverse, from Parisians cleaning out their storage units, vintage dealers worldwide who may not have found a client in their local market for specialty pieces they need to sell, clients who want to remain anonymous or modern day fashionistas who don’t have the time to handle the details of consigning their items.

Below are some general guidelines that auction houses follow in deciding if a piece might be suitable for auction:

Label and Design

Not everything that has a famous label is auction worthy. I think that all of us have seen pieces by our favorite designers and wondered “What were they thinking?” Pieces that usually attract attention are the pieces that speak to us and convey the message of the period and trademark of the designer. A very simple example is that of Emilio Pucci, his colorful prints are much more desireable than his solid colored clothing and because the fabric is signed throughout on most pieces there is usually not a doubt as to authenticity.

Design of course plays an important part. You may find an eyecatching piece at an estate sale without a label. Pieces without labels but that are well constructed or have a historical value may be desireable for auction houses. You may even get a wonderful surprise and have your unlabelled item attributed to a major designer or find out that it is much more valuable than you ever imagined.


In a perfect world everyone would take care of their clothing but we all know that while collectors generally want an item to be in perfect or near perfect condition there are many desirable items out there that have been enjoyed and well worn by their owners. Items which are strong examples of a particular period, designer or collection may still be auction worthy and bought but never worn by designers who are looking for inspiration, museums, or private individuals who are looking to complete a segment of their collection.


Do you have a piece that was featured in a fashion publication, a film or owned by someone famous? If so and you can provide proof your item it may certainly increase the “desirable factor” with bidders.


Most of us know that a Schiaparelli dress would probably bring a fantastic price at auction but do you know that many newer items (up to the year 2000) are also appearing on a regular basis at auction houses worldwide? Fashionistas who love mixing old and new styles are now clamouring for front row seats at some of the major auction houses hoping to snap up a bargain Cheap & Chic cocktail dress or a gently used Hermes handbag.

My advice is to always deal with a reputable auction house. Not all auction houses will accept the same items and fees and charges vary. Estimations for consignment are free of charge and I can honestly say that most people that I have met or worked with at the major auction houses have been wonderful professional and knowlegable. There is no need to be initimidated by auction houses so clean out your closet and turn those unwanted items into cash and one of your treasures just may end up in a museum!

For a free evaluation of you items please don’t hesitate to contact me at:

February 13, 2009   5 Comments

Q&A with Director of Vintage Couture at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

When it comes to vintage clothing, couture and designer finds are the treasures that entice us to check one more thrift, visit one more estate sale, rummage through one more church bazaar. But when you find something so amazing that Ebay might be too small potatoes for your vintage find, it’s time to hit the auction circuit.


Abigail Rutherford is the Director of Vintage Couture and Accessories at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, one of the premier auction houses in the US. Located in Chicago, Ill., Leslie Hindman hold vintage couture and accessories auction three to four times per year. Rutherford is currently seeking lots for their upcoming couture auction April 19.

Abigail was gracious enough to take a few moments from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about couture and auctions…

How did you get your start in vintage couture?

Here at Leslie Hindman- My background was in Art History so this seemed like the perfect liaison between my two loves, fashion and art!

What’s the best part of your job?

Uncovering the treasures that people bring in and learning the history behind each one, it is fascinating!

When it comes to designer and couture vintage, what do you look for in auction consignment pieces?

There are two categories that I look for- collectability and wearability. Both categories sell equally as well.

What are hot sellers right now at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers?

Evening and cocktail as well as Chanel and Hermes accessories.

What’s been the highest closing auction you’ve come across?

Hermes crocodile Birkins always garner the highest price, they can be comparable to prices of Picassos!

What’s been the strangest auction piece you’ve seen?

A see-through mesh evening gown from the 40s that sold for $4000 against an estimate of 200-400, I was stunned watching it go up at auction.

How does Chicago’s vintage marketplace differ from New York?

New York has a very strong retail market, but is without an auction resource. Leslie Hindman is the premier auction resource in the country catering to clients worldwide. It should also be known that when buying at auction you are paying fair market value, which is closer to a wholesale value rather than a retail value, therefore the vintage couture at auction is less expensive than a retail venue that would be marking up these garments.

What types of bidders come to Leslie Hindman auctions?

There are a huge variety of bidders from all over. They are generally associated with museums, institutions, retail venues, or just private individuals looking to collect.

What should one do if they are interested in selling a vintage piece at a live auction?

Go to our website at and there are instructions for the consignment process!

Any tips for vintage bidders?

Always request more information on the piece, whether it is measurements or general condition, this information will better equip you when you go to bid!

leslie hindman auctioneers

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
1338 West Lake Street

Chicago, Illinois 60607

January 30, 2009   4 Comments

Vintage Roadshow – Raquel, Peggy, Coats & Vogue


Couture Allure shows how to recycle a vintage coat.

Debutante Clothing digs through the vintage Vogue archives and finds wisdom on handkerchiefs and reputations.

Here’s Looking Like You, Kid shows off retro platform shoes that Raquel Welch could “Fathom”.

Market Publique gives you an inside look at their Listing Page.

iKonic Vintage visits the swinging 60’s with the first fashion video starring Peggy Moffitt wearing Rudi Gernreich.

January 18, 2009   No Comments

Lessons from Edith Head – How to Dress Your Family for Success

In the last chapter of How to Dress for Success, Edith Head gave us the perfect formula for dressing to get and keep a man. But what about him? What about what we want our man, and our offspring, to look like? They are a direct extension of us.

“The woman who is always elegantly coiffed, meticulously dressed and fashionably turned out while her mate and offspring look like orphans of the storm deserves, and gets, little credit for her sparkling appearance.”


Clothes Make the Man

Miss Head acknowledges that if your husband is a Dapper Dan, you needn’t worry. However, if your guy is a Sloppy Joe, you may need to take matters into your own hands. She advises you pick out his clothes and lay them out for him. Especially if you want Sloppy to climb the career ladder.

She also suggests you get him a subscription to Esquire “for the articles”. He won’t be able to avoid the fashion so hopefully picks up a fashion cue or two. Give him advice on what looks good on him, but be gentle and tender. Don’t take my approach – “You’re going to wear THAT?” It doesn’t work.

Formula for Having a Better Dressed Husband
1. Take an active interest in how your husband looks and in his wardrobe. Analyze both him and it.

2. Learn about men’s fashions. Know about fabrics, styles, features and prices. Shop men’s departments and men’s magazines.

3. If your husband’s wardrobe concept needs improvement, work with him (rather than on him) to educate his tastes, change habits and turn his indifference into enthusiasm.

4. Shop with him and for him to make sure his clothing i becoming, well-fitted, flattering and properly coordinated.

5. Most important of all, help to keep his wardrobe in condition – clean, pressed and mended. A well-groomed man looks successful and has the best chance of being successful.

Tomorrow…children and teens!

December 9, 2008   4 Comments

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