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I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist Paperback – August 25, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Perhaps your first reaction to the opening pages of Betty Halbreich’s I’ll 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 woman’s 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 Halbreich’s era and station. But that’s 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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for I'll Drink to That:
“Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s Girls, is now developing a series inspired by Ms. Halbreich’s life. The impatient, however, can satisfy their curiosity more immediately with I’ll Drink to That, the long-anticipated memoir in which Ms. Halbreich chronicles her life in the dressing room and beyond.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Charming… An inspirational feminist tale.” —People Magazine
“Tart, funny.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Sartorial style becomes a philosophy of life in this spirited memoir…Halbreich comes across as sage and gracious as she narrates a life full of incident, taking us inside the fashion industry and one of its great institutions.” —Publishers Weekly
“Every woman has a piece of clothing that she can’t live without, because in it, she feels most like herself. Betty’s memoir has that effect on a reader. Authentic style is a form of self-knowledge. And in that respect, I’ll Drink To That is like Betty's famous three-way mirror. She sizes up her own life fearlessly, and in the process, not only helps you to diagnose your own flaws, but to embrace your own beauty." —Judith Thurman, author of National Book Award-winning Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller and Los Angeles Times Book Award-winning Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette
"Betty was born to sail through people's lives telling them what to wear (and even what to do). The other day I overheard her chatting with a client, 'Oh, she's been my friend for thirty-five years, and she's only thirty.' Lines like that are good enough for George Cukor. The whole scanrio is. Maybe she's known that all these years. Fashion is not only about necessity but also a form of entertainment—and that is what Betty sells." —Isaac Mizrahi, fashion designer
"I would trust this woman with my life—closet!" —Joan Rivers, television personality
"...she's the go-to celebrity. She's also the most fun." —Patricia Field, costume designer for Sex & the City
"There's a pragmatic principle behind the way Betty dresses people. It's very inclusive. There's room for everyone in her process. [Betty] is able to be in the fashion world, but also take it down a peg at the same time." —Lena Dunham, writer and actress
"The fashion doctor is in....Even as designers and editors seem to be conspiring to lure women into their latest whims, Betty Halbreich is a scrupulously practical truth-teller. She considers it her job to protect women from clothes that are wrong for them. She takes pride in pushing the least expensive items she can find, when it’s appropriate...A brassy Chicago native with a manner that’s part Angela Lansbury and part Lucille Ball, Halbreich believes in taking chances with color and accessorizing lavishly." —Bob Morris, New York
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While I may not be inherently riveted by books about fashion or celebrities, I AM drawn to memoirs which focus on the unique personalities and talents of men and women who have created a special place for themselves in the world. And Betty Halbreich has certainly accomplished that feat. At 86, she is still a personal shopper for Bergdorf Goodman, a job she created for herself 40 years ago. She describes that part of her life in detail and yes, she also dishes about celebrities and reveals some of their quirks and insecurities.
But she also spends a fair amount of time remembering her childhood, a very lonely childhood. This was the part of her memoir which pulled at my heartstrings and set the stage for everything else. The rest of the book fell into place after she described so poignantly how "clothes were my playmates." I ached for her when I read of the parents who were rarely there and even of Christmas holidays where she opened a wealth of presents - but all by herself.
That was when I understood why she was drawn to a career in fashion, not as some trivial pursuit, but as a way to create a deeper meaning for both herself and other women. Clothes were her comfort. Clothes represented security and perhaps a refuge (or at least that's how it appeared to me as I read this memoir). No wonder becoming a personal shopper was a natural fit for her. And no wonder she could share some of her passion with other women who could benefit from her gift for finding the perfect dress or ensemble.
While this memoir did hold my interest most of the time, there were sections where I felt impatient and wanted to move on to the next part. To be fair, this may have been because I couldn't relate to long descriptions of designer fabrics, the type of clothing that accommodates various body shapes or the demise of anything larger than sizes 4, 6, or 8 when there are plenty of women who need attractive clothing in other sizes. Perhaps many other readers will find these topics more in line with their interests. But as noted above, reading this book was a reach for me, not the type of book I generally buy.
Even so, I did finish this one with an appreciation for Halbreich's honesty about the woman she ultimately became and in facing perhaps her greatest challenge: learning how to be alone. She calls this her "last step" so I think it is fair to consider it quite an accomplishment for her. She also notes that "the terrible fear of loneliness kept me from knowing myself, but now I am happy, because I do know myself." As for me, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to have gotten a glimpse of her life.
I want to note that I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My reviews are never affected or altered by having received review copies
The author was painstakingly honest, which always endears me to the writer. Her early life was one both of privilege and neglect. She was truly the stereotype of the pre-feminist era housewife for many years--not working, dependent on her husband for her weekly allowance, living in a small world of shopping, making herself pretty, and attending social events. I would have been popping pills like crazy. My mother was close in age to the author. When she was accepted to the University of Chicago, she was offered a great job (during WWII) which ultimately gave her a career. I feel lucky my mom had that opportunity and was brave enough to do the unconventional. I grew up thinking women were as smart and strong as men. But my friends' mothers were more like this author--living in the 1950's world of dependency on men.
It seems to me Ms. Halbreich's soul journey in this life involved learning to be independent because ultimately, in New York, she had to. She was so brave!!! And became such a cool person, an artist really, and helped a lot of people. She became multi-dimensional and ultimately whole. Right on sister!!
It’s not so much about the world of fashion as it is about a very plucky lady who sleepwalks through her early (privileged) life, endures a bad marriage (albeit filled with glamor), but eventually making lemonade from the lemons he is given.
Betty Halbreich’s life was filled with a passion for fashion, inherited from her mother, and somehow, again, sleepwalks through various difficulties of her life and ultimately uses her fashion sense to become personal shopper extraordinaire to the swells who shop at Bergdorf Goodman; she had no skills worth anything except how to dress stylishly, and ultimately, a good heart. Utilizing these – or shall I say, having no other skills – she ends up doing the only thing she knows: how to dress and how to help others in that (frivolous) profession.
Trust me, if you go beyond the surface, you'll learn Betty's secret to a happy life – or find the secret to living life happily: work at something you love. At eighty-six (!), she puts in a full day at Bergdorf’s and has a good time doing it without having the time to realize her age and aches and pains.
I sleepwalked through two careers and the age of fifty, found my passion, directing theater. For the last twenty-one years, I have no time to get old, feel old, and cluck about all the wasted years. Betty Halbreich’s story – especially her summing up her life in the last chapter – is my story.
I loved this book and I became very fond of her after sharing her story.
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Felt as though I was getting a real glimpse of the everyday lives of famous people who...Read more
I've recommended this book to dozens of people, all who loved it.