Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: ‘I'll Drink To That’

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Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue is the most important department store in New York City.

That makes 86-year-old Betty Halbreich, the legendary woman who works on the store's third floor, the grand dame of personal shopping in the city, and perhaps even the world.

In the nearly 40 years Betty has worked at Bergdorf's, as she details in her new book "I'll Drink To That," she has dressed everyone: Cher, Lauren Bacall, Meryl Streep, Betty Ford, Babe Paley, Joan Rivers, the characters of "Sex and the City" and countless rich and powerful women who need to impress daily at ladies' lunches or in the corner office.

But lots of personal shoppers have good taste. What makes Betty Halbriech exceptional isn't simply her exquisite eye, but her empathetic ear. Extra requests for appointments seem to coincide with divorces or bouts with cancer, new relationships or big birthdays. It's no wonder she calls her clients her "patients."

Reading the book, it's easy to see why these women keep coming back.

"I don't flatter or make nice-nice," Ms. Halbreich writes.

She tells women when a dress looks awful before they even have a chance to zip it up. Some of her clients don't even look in the mirror, they look at Betty instead, trusting her judgment and honesty more than their own reflection.

Ms. Halbreich's frankness extends even to her beloved Bergdorf's where she overlooks brands and trends in favor of classics. Of the shoe section, she writes that "each pair of shoes is more unattractive than the next. A platform bootie in red water snake under a spotlight looked like an artifact on display from an ancient culture that took perverse pleasure in deforming people’s feet. A leopard-print stiletto with a heel topping out at six inches, on a platform as well, would have made a drag queen blush. Whenever I walked behind women wearing these shoes, which was unfortunately quite often, I was struck by the strange, Frankenstein-like gait they produce. Legs in those shoes simply can’t support the height and weight."

Next year, someone smart should hire Ms. Halbreich to review Fashion Week.

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