Photo cred: The Woman’s Room. From the Bergdorf Goodman And Michael Kors Celebration of Betty Halbreich’s New Memoir, “I’ll Drink To That: A Life in Style with a Twist” on September 4, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
I first heard of Betty Halbreich, the director of the Solutions Department at Bergdorf Goodman’s (otherwise known as the legendary personal shopper of Bergdorf Goodman, even though she abhors that title) through the documentary “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s“. Ms. Halbreich (it seems only fitting to refer to her as Ms. at the age of 86!) initiatied the personal shopping department at Bergdorf’s and has become known for her no-nonsense way of fitting and shopping for clients – and for giving honest, no-holds-barred truths about dressing.
I closely watch their reactions as I show them things they would never put on themselves. That’s what I’m here for – to open them up to new worlds. – Betty Halbreich, I’ll Drink to That
This book is now in my personal collection and I’m so glad to have a piece of fashion history. It’s a very easy read and is something you can pick up and put down and not loose the story line. Before this book, the only things I knew about Ms. Halbreich was her fame as one of the first personal shoppers. I’ll Drink to That was a fascinating revelation of a real human: one who grew up in Chicago to a well-off family comprised of mother and stepfather and a biological father she never knew; a hard and rocky marriage that ended in separation; a cry for attention that ended in a mental hospital; and a bout with cancer. While she herself never relied on clothes as a means of altering her own mood (not that she didn’t love her clothes, she did! but dressing was a careless and effortless process), she knew the inherent power of clothes: “In my business I have witnessed how the superficial cover of clothes can become essential in trying times.”
As a stylist, and when I work with all of my own clients, I strive for them to find love: “That was the magic word. Love. I wanted them to love themselves instantly when they put on a new coat, dress, or whatever.” Having and buying mounds of clothes to purchase a new outfit doesn’t mean all that much – what changes the perspective is when an outfit is chosen with care and someone’s face lights up at that perfect dress, the pants that flatter or the top that brings joy.
One of my favorite realizations from this book is the fact that Ms. Halbreich started the Solutions Department in Bergdorf’s at age forty and is still running it today. How many times have we felt the career or professional pressure to have it all together at 20 or even 30? How encouraging is it to know that we can enjoy life and its twists and turns and still have room for changes.
Should you read this book? Absolutely! If you love fashion, you will find a fun peek into the manner and style of dressing in the mid-1900’s as well as her more modern interactions with the rise of movies, TV shows (hint: Sex and the City) and wardrobe stylists. If you like documentaries, I would also recommend this book as it provides a unique perspective into the world of fashion.
Want a little taste of what the book is like? Read this great interview in Vanity Fair.
PS – Want more reads? Check out the first installment.