All The Rage

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Madeleine Albright broaches Michelle Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s style at St. John

October 29, 2009 |  5:11 pm

-2 Madeleine Albright dropped by the St. John flagship in Beverly Hills on Wednesday to chat about one of her favorite hobbies besides foreign policy -- brooches.

The former Madame Secretary has penned a book "Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box” (Melcher Media), in which Albright expresses her life journey as mother, public servant and diplomat through jewelry. 

Albright, who was in L.A. for Maria Shriver’s women's conference, said that when matters got heated during her tenure as President Clinton’s secretary of State, she was prone to practice retail therapy -- and her favorite prescription was pins, the more elaborate the better.

Over the years, Albright has amassed boxes and boxes of brooches from family, friends, fellow politicos and foreign dignitaries. Her collection is now part of a touring exhibition organized by New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, also called “Read My Pins.”

Albright broke the ice with the mostly ladies-who-lunch audience by telling them she had told Hillary Clinton that being secretary of State is better than being president: “Because you don’t have to deal with healthcare.” Clinton responded, “But I like heathcare.”

Albright, who was wearing a black St. John dress and a ginormous brooch that looked like a gold Maltese cross featuring an American bald eagle, sat down to chat with All the Rage.

-1 All the Rage: Did you wear mainly St. John suits when you were secretary of State?

Madeleine Albright: I started wearing them before that.

Because they convey ...

No, because they are very practical for somebody who travels and has to look good.

Do you pack just one suit?

If it’s black [laughs].

You started collecting pins as a young girl?

A few. This is something that developed later, and it’s a lot of fun.

Which pins are your favorites -- any of those given to you while you were secretary of State?

I got a pin that I liked very much given to me by [former] British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the British lion.

Which one are you wearing today?

This is a new pin; it’s called 'America.' It was given to me by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili -- he is a very good friend.

What do you think of First Lady Michelle Obama's style?

What she has managed to do is adapt her style to her life and vice-versa. And she gives a good image of what a young American mother and someone who is on the road a lot wears. She has her own flair. She is a great model for young American women.

Has Hillary Clinton asked you for any style advice?

We don’t talk about style; we talk about diplomacy.

I was ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick, who had the job before me, said, 'You need to go out and get some elegant clothes.'

Secretary Clinton has been first lady and after that a senator. She has been in public life a long time.

Jeane Kirkpatrick’s style seemed kind of business-like?

I do have more fun. I try to mix business-like with a little bit of fun.

I decided my niche is explaining foreign policy to people with making it less foreign. The book is a great vehicle to talk about foreign policy with a spoonful of sugar.

Were the pins really a cue to leaders about your moods?

It started when Saddam Hussein called me an unparalleled serpent at the U.N. So I wore a snake pin, and that started the whole thing. When I was negotiating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Russians, I had a pin that looked like an arrow that also looked like a small missile. The Russian foreign minister said, ‘Is that one of your missile interceptors?’ I said, 'Yes, we make them very small.'

--Max Padilla

Photos: Crowd at St. John, Beverly Hills (top);  St. John Chief Executive Glenn McMahon, co-founder Marie Gray, Madeleine Albright and Bruce Fetter, St. John president. Credit: Courtesy St. John