Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich is a true original. A tough broad who could have stepped straight out of Stephen Sondheims repertoire, she has spent nearly forty years as the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where she works with socialites, stars, and ordinary women off the street. She has helped many find their true selves through clothes, frank advice, and her own brand of wisdom. She is trusted by the most discriminating personsincluding Hollywoods top styliststo tell them what looks best. But Halbreichs personal transformation from a cosseted young girl to a fearless truth teller is the greatest makeover of her career.
A Chicago native, Halbreich moved to Manhattan at twenty after marrying the dashing Sonny Halbreich, a true character right out of Damon Runyon who liked the nightlife of New York in the fifties. On the surface, they were a great match, but looks can be deceiving; an unfaithful Sonny was emotionally distant while Halbreich became increasingly anguished. After two decades, the fraying marriage finally came undone. Bereft without Sonny and her identity as his wife, she hit rock bottom.
After she began the frightening process of reclaiming herself and started therapy, Halbreich was offered a lifeline in the form of a job at the legendary luxury store Bergdorf Goodman. Soon, she was asked to run the stores first personal shopping service. It was a perfect fit.
Meticulous, impeccable, hardworking, elegant, andmost of alldelightfully funny, Halbreich has never been afraid to tell it to her clients straight. She wont sell something just to sell it. If an outfit or shoe or purse is too expensive, shell dissuade you from buying it. As Halbreich says, There are two things nobody wants to face: their closet and their mirror. She helps women do both, every day.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Perhaps your first reaction to the opening pages of Betty Halbreichs Ill Drink to That: Life in Style, with A Twist, will be something like mine: I want this woman who practically invented personal shopping 40-plus years ago to come to my house, analyze my closet and retool my wardrobe, and, thus, my life. And that would be great but you can learn almost as much about style (and sanity) by reading on in this opinionated, glamorous, and yet somehow likable womans memoir of a life that might bear absolutely no resemblance to yours. The daughter of well-to-do German Jewish parents in 1930s Chicago, Halbreich grew up pampered, for sure, but she was also lonely and desperate for approval, from her fashion-plate mother (in whose closet the young Betty played, amid bottles of Joy perfume), her glamorous father, and ultimately a way-too- charming husband who put me in mind of Nicky Arnstein, the husband of Fanny Brice played so memorably in Funny Girl by Omar Sharif. Two decades of matrimony in New York, a couple of children and who knows how many betrayals on both sides later, Halbreich finally managed to leave her marriage, suffer the requisite nervous breakdown (complete with requisite stay in fancy mental ward) and emerge to reinvent herself as the ultimate working woman, first as a kind of stylist for such legendary designers as Geoffrey Beene and finally at Bergdorf. To say this is an Everywoman story is pushing it; in fact, the pitch perfect idioms and cultural references channeled, presumably, by co-author Rebecca Paley, make it absolutely particular to Halbreichs era and station. But thats the point, and the fun: let Halbreich take you back to a time when women wore brooches, men donned hats and everybody had a guiltless cocktail before dinner. Sara Nelson