In the Lobbies: Neiman Marcus Serves Up Flags and Fashions at Obama's Hotel

I almost bought one of these framed antique flags, which were remarkably affordable.

Photo: BizBash

It’s obvious to me why Barack Obama picked the Hay-Adams hotel (or maybe it was Michelle?) as their temporary home while waiting for the Australians to clear out of Blair House.

Within steps of the White House, the Hay is small, pretty, and old, with wood-paneling, portraits, brass hardware—you get the idea. Downstairs at the Off the Record Bar there’s an ornate plaster/gesso ceiling that defies description (also photography, try as I might).

Up a short flight of stairs, in Neiman Marcus’s temporary store, things were bustling. It was a tiny department store in one-windowed meeting room that miraculously featured David Jurmain Jewelry, Judith Leiber minaudieres, crocodile evening bags by Nancy Gonzalez, and bigger, bedazzled (dare I say gaudy?) totes by Prada and Gucci. There were Loro Piano Scarves and men’s outerwear with vicuna-blend coats, which I didn’t think was legal in the U.S., but the label assured me it was okay. (Legend has it they used to kill this cousin of the llama to get the fur from their chins.)

There were gloves, cummerbunds, and shirts. There was a rack of fur accessories, with that new kind of woven fur that is light as a feather and frankly doesn’t look like it would help one bit on a cold, cold day like this.

The store manager pointed to a big box of what looked like the remains of small dead animals but were actually fur earmuffs in lots of different pelts. Two pairs sold while I stood there.

There was also a tiny Chanel makeup counter where makeup artist Mary booked appointments and gave tips. (Take note: This year’s look is nude lips and smoky eyes.)

There are vitrines, t-stands, even stools, just like a real store, and the effect can be dizzying.

In the back they were selling framed antique flags. They look old. How old?  Some of them only have 13 stars. They’re old yet remarkably affordable ($125-$450). I desperately wanted one but wondered how I’d walk around in the cold with a frame, so I decided against it.

In one area there was a Steuben Glass display, which seemed odd. What’s the story here? “It’s an occasional piece bowl with diamond pen.”


Apparently, you take this diamond stylus, write your name, and it is permanently etched in the bowl. So let’s say you’re hosting a group for the inauguration and you want to mark the occasion with a memento, you just buy this bowl with the diamond pen (for $2,100), have everyone sign it, neatly, briefly, and you’ve got a memento for life.

Can I use the diamond pen on anything else?

“Whatever you like.”

Thinking of marking my name on windows of friends’ houses after dinner as a way of leaving my mark, I started to take the concept more seriously.

“The diamond wears down eventually, though.”

Of course.

The gloves were expensive. Do you sell collar stays? No, they do not. But they did offer to call the store and messenger a set in the morning. All I have to do is get back there and pick them up, which has yet to happen.

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