For almost 40 years, Betty Halbreich has changed people's wardrobes and their lives, while working as a personal shopper in one of New York City's most exclusive stores. She's worked with everyone from First Ladies to A-list actresses, and some of the fashion industry's biggest names. Now, her life and career will be the basis for a new HBO series. She is telling the story of her work and life in the new book, "I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist."
Read an excerpt below:
I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist
by Betty Halbreich
The pieces I pulled the day before were lined up in my dressing room with military precision in the order I planned to present them to my client—a very tailored woman who typically wore extremely expensive clothing—were a cashmere double-breasted jacket, various tops in crisp white percale, cropped khaki pants, and dresses separated by ones for day and others for night. All lined up, they told a story.
To have a closet fully packed and presented to you is a gift. That is not to say the women I work with adore all of the items I choose, but the experience of walking into my dressing room for an appointment makes for something individual and special. The clothes I work with as a personal shopper (a title I have never particularly favored) are an extravagance unto themselves—the price tags on many are often too rich for my midwestern sensibilities. Yet the true luxury of what I do is the knowledge my client has as I slip a sweater over her shoulders or zip a dress up the back that I was thinking only of her when I selected the garment.
Many women are nervous when they first step into my office. I am the antidote to the intimidation of shopping, but it is difficult here at Bergdorf Goodman, probably the most beautiful store there is because of the years on it. Even the location of its elegant, mansard-style building on the site of the former Vanderbilt mansion is venerable.Even though it has been my place of work for thirty-seven years, I understand its effect.
It’s beautiful, but the store itself is not all that my clients are seeking. Often, their need runs deeper. I put a lot of myself into the heads and bodies of my clients whom I want to dress as well as I would myself.
When gathering for a client, I can have only one woman in mind. The approach takes longer, but I’ve never been much of a multitasker. Having grown up around and lived with beautiful clothes and fabrics, it is sometimes difficult to see the new and appreciate it. But I romance the clothes in my mind. Instinctively, I feel the fabric, see the allure.
Like most of my clients, I had known the woman I was seeing today for a long time. Her mother-in- law was one of my first friends when I moved to New York and has been dead twenty-seven years; I don’t believe in disposable fashion or people.
Reprinted from I’ll Drink to That by arrangement with Penguin Press. Copyright Betty Halbreich, 2014.