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Bergdorf Blondes

Bergdorf Blondes

3.5 234
by Plum Sykes

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Plum Sykes’s beguiling debut welcomes readers to the glamorous world of Park Avenue Princesses, the girls who careen through Manhattan in search of the perfect Fake Bake (tan acquired from Portofino Tanning Salon), a ride on a PJ (private jet) with the ATM (rich boyfriend), and the ever-elusive fiancé.

With invitations to high-profile baby showers and benefits,


Plum Sykes’s beguiling debut welcomes readers to the glamorous world of Park Avenue Princesses, the girls who careen through Manhattan in search of the perfect Fake Bake (tan acquired from Portofino Tanning Salon), a ride on a PJ (private jet) with the ATM (rich boyfriend), and the ever-elusive fiancé.

With invitations to high-profile baby showers and benefits, more Marc Jacobs clothes than is decent, and a department store heiress for a best friend, our heroine known only as Moi is living at the peak of New York society. But what is Moi to do when her engagement falls apart? Can she ever find happiness in a city filled with the distractions of Front Row Girls, dermatologists, premieres, and eyebrow waxes? Is it possible to find love in a town where her friends think that the secret to happiness is getting invited to the Van Cleef and Arpels über-private sample sale? And how is she going to deal with the endless phone calls from her mother in England demanding that she get married to the Earl next door?

With enormous wit and an insider’s eye, Sykes captures the nuances of the rich and spoiled in a heartwarming social satire, featuring a loveable "champagne bubble of a girl" who’s just looking for love (and maybe the perfect pair of Chloé jeans).

About the author:

PLUM SYKES was born in London and educated at Oxford. She is a contributing editor at Vogue where she writes on fashion, society, and Hollywood. She lives in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Into the blender go Bridget Jones, Anita Loos, "Sex and the City" and "Clueless"; out comes a diabolically amusing concoction. Ms. Sykes somehow manages to treat this as satire while also playing it nearly straight in a book that boasts as many flagrant product plugs (Michael Kors, anyone?) as it does funny one-liners. — Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
They're ravenous. They're ruthless. They live in a strictly hierarchical, alpha-dog, eat-or-be-eaten world. No, it's not a rerun of Wild America; it's the world of dressed-to-the-nines Park Avenue heiresses, aka Bergdorf Blondes, botoxed to within an inch of their barely-into-the-third-decade lives. Our unnamed London-born heroine is New York's favorite "champagne-bubble-about-town" and just as effervescent and exhilarating as a fine bottle of Dom Perignon. Blissfully self-interested and flush with the cheeriness that comes from being, well, flush, Miss Disposable Income 2004 sashays her way through New York society in search of the perfect P.H. (Potential Husband)-"Have you any idea how awesome your skin looks if you are engaged?"-and the perfect butt-shaping pair of Chloe jeans. Despair occasionally strikes when her latest prince turns into yet another toad, but it's nothing an invitation to an uber-exclusive Hermes sale and a gallon or so of Bellinis can't fix. She's got the creme de la creme along with her for the ride, including her best friend, the fabulously wealthy heiress Julie Bergdorf, who is tres supportive of her nervous breakdown-"You'll be able to dine out on how crazy you went in Paris for months"-and a posse of chattering, Harry Winston-bedecked clones with whom to limo around New York. Tacky? Absolutely. But it's impossible not to be massively entertained by a woman who refers euphemistically to oral sex as "going to Rio" in memory of the first man who suggested she get a Brazilian bikini wax, considers vodka a food group and who holds up glamour as the first of the commandments. This is a savvy and viciously funny trip into a glittery, glitzy world we sure wouldn't want to live in-but by which we're more than happy to be vicariously consumed for the length of a book. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sykes, a contributing editor at Vogue, got an advance of more than $600,000 for this roman fluff about thin, chic, Botoxed, waxed, wealthy, and designer-clad blondes. The two main characters, "Moi," the narrator, and her best friend, Julie Bergdorf (who occasionally gets off on shoplifting from her family's famous department store), are both on the hunt for a P.H. (that's Prospective Husband-"The only sexually transmitted disease I wanna contract is fiance fever," says Julie). Moi scores first, snagging a handsome if mystifying celebrity photographer. However, after he breaks off their engagement, Moi attempts suicide via Aleve and gin, then moves on in short order to other P.H.s, until she ends up with-surprise!-the perfect man. Sykes's intermittently humorous first novel will delight or repel readers depending on their tolerance for innumerable brand names (Chlo butt-hugging jeans, Manolo Blahnik shoes), thrilling glimpses into a lifestyle few can even aspire to, and vacuous characters who make the Sex and the City gals and good old Bridget Jones seem like rocket scientists. Be aware of the publicists' hype, and be prepared for demand.-Nancy Pearl, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Yet another tale of New York girls with more room on their credit cards than thoughts between their ears-but not in a bad way. There may come a time in the future when a scholar of literature will come across a copy of this debut novel and shudder, thinking it one of those post-millennium Manhattan books that worship Vera Wang and Harry Winston as deities, regard Us Weekly as a holy text, and treat reality like a sexuality transmitted disease. That would be a shame, because if books of this sort must exist-and the publishing powers-that-be seem to have decided that they must-they should all go down as smoothly as this one. Vogue contributing editor Sykes has a frightening insight into the mindset of unemployed, label-addicted blonds. When she's not working (which appears to be 99% of the time), our fashion journalist narrator/author stand-in is being dragged around Manhattan by Julie, her Upper East Side PAP (Park Avenue Princess, one of the story's less inspired acronyms, of which there are plenty). They shop, they spa, they obsess over food allergies and hair highlights. The narrator hooks up with a photographer whose Jude Law looks are belied by his Freddy Krueger personality; their engagement goes to pot pretty spectacularly, but it's nothing that a round of Bellinis and a fake bake (tan) can't cure. There are more romantic contretemps and even a suicide attempt (with Advil: these girls aren't too bright), but by the close everything gets wrapped up prettier than a Tiffany's gift box. Be assured, this is all as ungodly shallow as it sounds, but at least Sykes knows how vain and ridiculous her characters are. She makes no attempt to redeem them and in the end really does want the girlsjust to have fun, which lets the reader come along for a guilt-free ride that's akin to being let loose on Fifth Avenue with Donald Trump's platinum card. Like a dozen Paris Hiltons bombed on champagne, but funny. Author tour. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman/Elaine Markson Agency; film rights handled by CAA

Product Details

Miramax Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bergdorf Blondes

By Plum Sykes


Copyright © 2004 Plum Sykes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4013-5196-4

Chapter One

Bergdorf Blondes are a thing, you know, a New York craze. Absolutely everyone wants to be one, but it's actually très difficult. You wouldn't believe the dedication it takes to be a gorgeous, flaxen-haired, dermatologically perfect New York girl with a life that's fabulous beyond belief. Honestly, it all requires a level of commitment comparable to, say, learning Hebrew or quitting cigarettes.

Getting the hair color right is murder, for a start. It all began with my best friend, Julie Bergdorf. She's the ultimate New York girl, since glamorous, thin, blonde department-store heiresses are the chicest thing to be here. Someone heard she'd been going to Ariette at Bergdorf for her color since high school, because apparently she told her personal shopper at Calvin Klein who told all her clients. Anyway, it was rumored in certain circles that Julie got her blonde touched up every thirteen days exactly and suddenly everyone else wanted to be Thirteen-Day Blondes. The hair can't be yellow, it has to be very white, like Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's was. She's the icon, the hair to worship. It's beyond expensive. Ariette is like $450 a highlight, if you can get in with her, which obviously you can't.

Inevitably, Bergdorf Blondes are talked and gossiped about endlessly. Every time you open a magazine or newspaper there's another item about a BB's latest romantic drama or new obsession (right now it's fringed Missoni dresses). But sometimes gossip is by far the most reliable source of information about yourself and all your friends, especially in Manhattan. I always say why trust myself when gossip can tell moi the real truth about moi?

Anyway, according to gossip I'm this champagne bubble of a girl about town - New York being the only town that cares about having girls about it - living the perfect party-girl life, if that's what you think a perfect life is. I never tell a soul this, but sometimes before the parties I look in the mirror and see someone who looks like they are straight out of a movie like Fargo. I've heard that almost all Manhattan girls suffer from this debilitating condition. They never admit it either. Julie gets the Fargos so badly that she's never able to leave her apartment in The Pierre in time for anything she has to be in time for.

Everyone thinks the party-girl life is the best life you can lead here. The truth is that combined with work it's completely draining, but no one dares say that in case they look ungrateful. All anyone in New York ever says is "everything's fabulous!" even if they're on Zoloft for depression. Still, there are plenty of upsides. Like, you never have to pay for anything important like manis or pedis or highlights or blow-outs. The downside is that sometimes the freebies wreak havoc with your social life - believe me, if your dermatologist's kid can't get into Episcopal he'll be on the phone to you day and night.

To be specific, last Tuesday I went to my friend Mimi's townhouse on Sixty-third and Madison for her "super-duper-casual baby shower. Just the girls getting together," she'd said. There were three staff per guest, handmade pink cookies from Payard Patisserie on Lexington, and chocolate booties from Fauchon. It was about as casual as the inauguration. No one ate a thing, which is standard protocol at Upper East Side baby showers. I'd just walked through the door when my cell rang.

"Hello?" I said.

"You need highlights!" yelled a desperate voice. It was George, my hairdresser. I use George when I can't get in with Ariette which is almost all the time because she's permanently booked with Julie.

"Are you in Arizona?" I asked. ("Arizona" is what everyone says instead of "rehab." A lot of hairdressers in New York visit Arizona almost every month.)

"Just back," he replied. "If you don't go blonde you are going to be a very lonely girl," continued George tearfully.

Even though you'd think George, being a hairdresser, would know this already, I explained that a brunette like me can't go blonde.

"Can in New York," he said, choking up.

I ended up spending the present-opening ceremony in Mimi's library discussing addictive personality types with George and hearing all the one-liners he'd picked up in rehab, like "Say what you mean and mean what you say and don't be mean when you say it." Every time George goes into rehab he starts talking more and more like the Dalai Lama. Personally I think if hairdressers are going to offer deep insights they should be exclusively on the subject of hair. Anyway, no one thought George's behavior was odd because everyone in New York takes calls from their beauty experts at social occasions. It was lucky I was out of the room when Mimi opened my gift, which was a library of Beatrix Potter books. She totally freaked because it was more books than she'd ever read. Now I know why most girls give fashion from Bonpoint rather than controversial literature at baby showers.

Sometimes the hairdressers and their addictions and the parties and the blow-outs take up so much time it starts to feel like work and you can't focus on your real career. (And I do have a real career to think about-more of which later.) But that's what happens in Manhattan. Everything just kind of creeps up on you, and before you know it you're out every night, working like crazy and secretly waxing the hair on the inside of your nose like everyone else. It's not long before you start thinking that if you don't do the nose-hair-wax thing your whole world's going to fall apart.

Before I give you the rest of the goss from Mimi's shower, here are a few character traits you might want to know about me:

1. Fluent in French, intermittently. I'm really good at words like moi and très, which seem to take care of just about everything a girl needs. A few unkind people have pointed out that this does not make me exactly fluent, but I say, well, that's lucky because if I spoke perfect fluent French no one would like me, and no one likes a perfect girl, do they?

2. Always concerned for others' well-being. I mean, if a friendly billionaire offers you a ride from New York to Paris on his PJ (that's a quick NY way of saying private jet), one is morally bound to say yes, because that means the person you would have been sitting next to on the commercial flight now has two seats to themself, which is a real luxury for them. And when you get tired you can go sleep in the bedroom, whereas however hard I look I have never found a bedroom on an American Airlines 767. If someone else's comfort is at stake, I say, always take the private jet.

3. Tolerant. If a girl is wearing last season's Manolo Blahnik stilettos, I won't immediately rule her out as a friend. I mean, you never know if a super-duper-nice person is lurking in a past-it pair of shoes. (Some girls in New York are so ruthless they won't speak to a girl unless she's in next season's shoes, which is really asking a lot.)

4. Common sense. I really am fluent in it. You've got to recognize it when a day is a total waste of makeup.

5. English lit major. Everyone thinks it's unbelievable that a girl who is as obsessed with Chloé jeans as I am could have studied at Princeton but when I told one of the girls at the baby shower about school she said, "Oh my god! Ivy League! You're like the female Stephen Hawking." Listen, someone that brainy would never do something as crazy as spend $525 on a pair of Chloé jeans, but I just can't help it, like most New York girls. The reason I can just about afford the $325 jeans is because the aforementioned career consists of writing articles for a fashion magazine, which say that spending $325 on a pair of jeans will make you deliriously happy. (I've tried all the other jeans - Rogan, Seven, Earl, Juicy, Blue Cult-but I always come back to the classic, Chloé They just do something to your butt the others can't.) The other thing that helps fund my habit is if I don't pay my rent on my Perry Street apartment. I often don't, because my landlord seems to like being paid in other ways, like if I let him come up for a triple espresso he reduces my rent by over 100 percent. I always say, waste not, want not, which is a terrible cliché the British invented during the war to get kids to eat their whole-wheat bread, but when I say it I mean, waste not money on boring old rent when it can be un-wasted on Chloé jeans.

6. Punctual. I am up every morning at 10:30 AM and not a minute earlier.

7. Thrifty. You can be frugal even if you have expensive tastes. Please don't tell a soul, because, you know, some girls get so jealous, but I hardly pay for a thing I wear. You see, fashion designers in New York love giving clothes away. Sometimes I wonder if fashion designers, who I consider to be geniuses, are actually thickos, like lots of mean people are always saying they are. Isn't giving something away for nothing when you could sell it for something a bit stupid? But there is something really, really clever about this particular form of stupidity because fashion designer-type people all seem to own at least four expensively decorated homes (St. Barths, Aspen, Biarritz, Paris), whereas all the clever people with regular jobs selling things for money only seem to own about one barely decorated house each. So I maintain that fashion designers are geniuses because it takes a genius to make money by giving things away.

Overall, I can safely say that my value system is intact, despite the temptations of New York, which, I regret to say, have made some girls into very spoiled little princesses.

* * *

Talking of princesses, Mimi's shower was packed with the Park Avenue version. Everyone was there except - oddly - Julie, the biggest princess of them all. The most glamorous girls were all working the $325-Chloé-jeans look. They looked deliriously happy. Then there was another group who were working the Harry Winston engagement ring look and they seemed what I can only describe as beyond radiant. Jolene Morgan, Carl Phillips (who had the biggest ring, but then she'd gotten a deal because her mom was a Winston), and K.K. Adams were in this group. Soon they abandoned the main party for an engagement-ring summit in Mimi's bedroom, which is so big an entire dorm could sleep in it. Everything in there's upholstered in dove gray chintz, even the insides of her closets. When I finally got poor George sorted out and off my cell, I joined them. Jolene - who's curvacious and blonde and pale and worships Sophie Dahl because she heard she's never sunbathed in her life - has been engaged twice before. I wondered how she could be sure this latest fiancé was the right one.

"Oh, easy! I've got a new, watertight method of selection. If you use the same criteria to choose a man that you would when choosing a handbag, I guarantee you will find one that suits you perfectly," she explained.

Jolene's theory is that a man has many wonderful things in common with a handbag, like the fact that there's a wait list for the best ones. Some are two weeks (college boys and L.L. Bean totes), some are three years (funny men and alligator Hermès Birkin bags). Even if you are on the list for the whole three years, another woman with a superior claim can jump the line. Jolene says you have to hide a really sexy one or your best friend will borrow it without telling you. Her main concern is that without one, a girl looks underdressed.

"... which makes it completely understandable that a girl may need to try out several styles of fiancé before she finds one that really suits her," concluded Jolene.

Maybe I had misjudged Jolene Morgan: I secretly used to think she was one of the shallowest girls in New York, but Jolene has hidden depths when it comes to relationships. Sometimes you go to a baby shower expecting nothing more than a conversation about the advantages of a scheduled C-section (you can pick your kid's birth sign), and come away having learned a lot about life. The minute I got home I e-mailed Julie.

To: JulieBergdorf@attglobal.net From: Moi@moi.com Re: Happiness

Just got back from Mimi's baby shower. Darling, where were you? Jolene, K. K., and Cari all engaged. Have detected glaring difference between Chloé jeans happiness and engagement ring happiness this afternoon. I mean, have you any idea how awesome your skin looks if you are engaged?

* * *

Julie Bergdorf has been my best friend since the minute I met her at her mother's corner apartment in The Pierre Hotel on Fifth and Sixty-first. She was an eleven-year-old department-store heiress. Her great-grandfather started Bergdorf Goodman and a whole chain of stores around America, which is why Julie says she always has at least $100 million in the bank "and not a dime more," as she puts it. Julie spent most of her teens shoplifting from Bergdorf's after getting out of Spence each day. She still finds it hard not to see Bergdorf's as her walk-in closet even though most of it was sold to Neiman Marcus years ago. The best thing she ever stole was a Fabergé egg encrusted with rubies that was once owned by Catherine the Great. Her excuse for her childhood hobby is that she "liked nice stuff. It must have been so icky being a Woolworth kid, I mean they used to have to shoplift, like, toilet cleaner, but I got to take really glam stuff, like handmade kid leather gloves."

Julie's favorite words are icky and glam. Julie once said she wished there was no ickiness in the world, and I said to her, if there was no ickiness there wouldn't be any glamour. You've got to have the ickiness just for contrast. She said, oh, like if there were no poor people then no one would be rich, and I said, well, what I actually mean is, if you were happy all the time, how would you know you were happy? She said, because you'd always be happy. I said, no, you have to have unhappiness to know what happiness is. Julie frowned and said, "Have you been reading The New Yorker again?" Julie thinks The New Yorker and PBS are completely evil and boring and that everyone should read US Weekly and watch the E! channel instead.

Our mothers were both mainline Philadelphia WASPs who had been best friends in the seventies. I grew up in England because my dad's English and everything about England is "better" according to Mom, but you don't get department-store heiresses in England and Mom was very concerned that I should have one as a friend. Meanwhile, Julie's mom thought I would be a civilizing influence on her daughter.


Excerpted from Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes Copyright © 2004 by Plum Sykes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Plum Sykes was born in London and educated at Oxford. The author of the novels Bergdorf Blondes and The Debutante Divorcée and the Kindle Single memoir Oxford Girl, she is a contributing editor at American Vogue, where she writes about fashion, society, and Hollywood. She has also written for Vanity Fair. She lives in the English countryside with her husband and two daughters.

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Bergdorf Blondes 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 234 reviews.
readernoire More than 1 year ago
This book was awful.... few funny lines, but several awkward reading moments... find something else to read by the pool!
JKReilly More than 1 year ago
There is nothing charming or witty about any of these characters. The idea that there might be people out there who can relate to this trite, spoiled, whinny, entitled, idiot of a main character makes me weep for humanity. The only reason I was able to get through what is basically a pampered teenager's diary was the hope that surely, by the end of the book, the main character will grow up, grow a brain and show even the slightest redeeming quality... NOPE! There aren't even any decent fashion insights - it was like a commercial for the same brand of blue jeans (I hope Plum Sykes at least got a free pair for all of the shameless plugs).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was perhaps the worst book I have ever read in my life.  Had this book been written ironically, or as a joke making fun of the characters, I could get that.  But this was miserable.  THe characters were  the dumbest, most ignorant messes I've never had the horror of meeting in real life.  I mean TRULY TRULY awful.  The way they made fun of the chubby girl at the gala; trying to "kill herself" with advil.  The narrator just trying SO HARD to fit into that life with her absurd usage of a few key french words.  Seriously, this was terrible.  I couldn't even finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A chick fict dated already and not funny read sample if this is what you like to read you will like this. Proust!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers are apparently seeing things in this story that I didn't. I hated the characters. Vain, shallow, pretentious, self-important, stupid.... All words that describe them. No character grew or learned anything. They were all those same things at the end. The abbreviations were too cutesy, the ads for designers grating. The plot was cliche. I had to force myself to read past page 10, all in the hopes that they'd learn something or develop some sort of redeeming qualities. The author tries too hard to channel 'Clueless', missing the mark by miles. This book was not funny, the 'jokes' seemed forced, & the idea that there could possibly be people like these characters makes me weep for humanity. I won't be buying any more books by this author.
bookloverfl12 More than 1 year ago
Oh to be rich and living in New York! This book gives you the high society girl's life in your hand. Oh, the dramas of the rich and fabulous! I would consider this book a 'fluff' book in the sense that you can read quick and it doesn't require you to pay much attention, which I very much appreciated. I recommend you read this book if you have a busy life since it was light and enjoyable.
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DebDD More than 1 year ago
I Thought the book was really good and some parts were funny. It was as if she was making fun of these girls that were a part of this world as well as her trying to embrace it!
Lindsie More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be quite funny- if you can get past the two-faced, spoiled rich girls. Although it is hard to imagine that females are this egotistical, the book does show how super rich society girls may act- they know no better! All in all I enjoyed the book. It takes readers into the glitzy world of the high fashion, fifth avenue "princesses". It is sweet, satirical, and funny. I do recommend it to fans of the Chick Lit genre. B+
bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
CD/abridged/Chicklit: If you like Devil Wears Prada or the Shopaholic books, you will like this. My BFF loved it and lent it to me. Like her, I have seen the scorching reviews on this. It may be different with audio, but I loved it too. Moi, her name never said, lives in NYC, wears designer cloths and is pretty shallow. She got it honestly. She gets into situations only a debutant could get into. Yes, there is a ton of designer and products named. But it is a fun book. Take it for what it is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very simple plot thst just doesnt flow. Language is simple and it doesnt intice you. After elements of style this book is simply bad written.
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MrsMcB More than 1 year ago
I love chick lit, and books about spoiled rich girls, but this was not one of them. I felt the switch into French every so often was an odd touch and interrupted the flow of the novel. I found parts interesting, but would probably have put the book down if I was one to do that, but I don't. So I pushed through. Even though I wasn't a fan of any of the characters, I found myself rooting for them. I was pleased with the end of the novel though.
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