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I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist Hardcover – September 4, 2014
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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
“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 ColettePraise for Betty Halbreich:
"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 magazine
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781594205705
- ISBN-13 : 978-1594205705
- Product Dimensions : 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Publisher : Penguin Press; 1st Edition (September 4, 2014)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 1594205701
- Best Sellers Rank: #438,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
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!!
but delves deeper into the emotions of the author and her clients at Bergdorf Goodman. She is a good
observer of people and analyzes what fashion means to women. She is also critical of herself, but wise
because she has gone to therapy and sincerely wants to live a happy life. The clothing aspect and how
women obsess about what to wear is fascinating - and true (I see parts of myself) but the up close and
personal writing is very intimate and it is a good read. Wonderful little book!
This is not the kind of genre I would normally choose, but the reviews intrigued me and I was not disappointed.
From a lonely youth she marries into money but not great happiness. Betty always seems to have had enough money, but as the old adage says, money does not bring happiness. Mainly Betty has to contend with her loneliness. Sometimes I thought this was exaggerated, as she probably had a lot of friends -- but in the circles she moved in, one could probably never be sure how loyal those friendships were. She does find happiness, if not a deep new love, with Jim, but they do not marry, and have a great relationship until he dies. She is shattered -- and feels isolated again.
Some people might find the long descriptions of her views on clothing, materials, and related matters a bit tedious, but I was quite interested, especially as Betty in her long career as private shopper sees the world of couture and clothes change -- and not for the better. How I agree with her! The sizes are confusing, much is imported and of bad quality, and there is the tendency to create summer clothes with low-cut decolletages and without sleeves -- not what the older women want -- absolutely correct.
In the end Betty is a chic and headstrong lady who (seems) at last to accept her solitude, and she is feisty and knows her own mind at last. I salute her! She is one brave and smart lady.
Top reviews from other countries
But even with her privileged life she was miserable but at least in comfort. I totally agree with her view on fashion today and the lack of style and quality and the obsession with designer labels with terrifying price tags. I envy her job, because there are many out there who would love her job, but don't have the right 'connections' to make it become a reality, yet they have the style and knowledge. I admire her honesty and found the book interesting, and I loved the fashion detail and the admiration she has for the late great Geoffrey Beene. Style hopefully will never go out of fashion.