Secrets of a Fashion Therapist: What You Can Learn Behind the Dressing Room Door

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Overview

With simple instructions and witty asides, Betty Halbreich takes her experience out of the dressing room and puts it into readers' hands. Follow her through the years and through the stores as she sheds light on such fashion conundrums as how to break up with the color black, what to wear on "Casual Friday," what "black-tie" really means, and how to wear just about any accessory. Betty elevates shopping and dressing to an art form, yet she makes you realize how simple it really is to look fabulous. She is truly a...
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Secrets of a Fashion Therapist: What You Can Learn Behind the Dressing Room Door

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Overview

With simple instructions and witty asides, Betty Halbreich takes her experience out of the dressing room and puts it into readers' hands. Follow her through the years and through the stores as she sheds light on such fashion conundrums as how to break up with the color black, what to wear on "Casual Friday," what "black-tie" really means, and how to wear just about any accessory. Betty elevates shopping and dressing to an art form, yet she makes you realize how simple it really is to look fabulous. She is truly a fashion therapist, dispensing wisdom, wit, and advice on how to enhance your natural beauty, build a more confident self-image, and, most of all, have a little fun while doing it.
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Editorial Reviews

Joan Rivers
Who better to write a book on style than Betty, on of the chicest and best-dressed women I know! I would trust this woman with my life... I mean closet!
Bobbi Brown
Walking across the threshold into Betty's office, I get a warm, comfortable feeling—ready to play dress-up!
Isaac Mizrahi
Behind every successful man is a woman and behind every successful woman is Betty Halbreich.
People
Since 1978, Betty Halbreich has been helping women wrestle with their vanity, insecurity, self-esteem and compulsiveness...at Bergdorf Goodman...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.
Susan Lucci
Betty knows exactly what a client's wardrobe needs before the client even knows she needs it.
Michael Kors
Betty can help a woman see herself differently from what she has always perceived herself to be.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060794194
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.36 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Betty Halbreich was born and raised in Chicago, where she started playing dress-up as soon as she was able to rummage through her mother's closet—and she hasn't stopped experimenting with clothes ever since. In her thirty-plus years as director of Solutions at New York City's famed Bergdorf Goodman specialty store, Betty has helped make the world a better-dressed place by working with countless designers and showing generations of women how to create their own style.

Sally Wadyka made her first fashion statement at age six, stubbornly refusing ever to wear a certain red Lacoste dress. Over the years, her taste has expanded. She has written about fashion and beauty for such magazines as Mademoiselle, Elle, Self, and Vogue.

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Read an Excerpt

When the snow was still up over my head in our hometown of Chicago, my mother would appear in a hat made of cherries. From the neck down she'd be in her winter fur coat, but her head would be like a harbinger of spring. And in the fall, it was the same thing: Before the leaves had even begun to turn, out would come the first felt hat of the season, always with a feather. I remember getting in the car with her and watching her fight with that hat--the feather was so long she actually couldn't get it into the car! That was just her way of announcing the change of seasons. My mother was known all over town for her style and her wit--not to mention her crazy hats. Of course, it would be hard not to be known around town when you're wearing flowers on your head in the middle of a Chicago snowstorm.

Thinking back, it's little wonder I ended up where I am now. My fashion education started in her bedroom when I was just a little girl. I'd sit mesmerized, watching her get dressed in sequined dresses, fox-trimmed suits, a cocktail dress with feathers lining the hem. One Christmas the photographer Victor Skrebneski gave my mother a white marabou jacket. Not many women could get away with wearing something so outrageous, but she wore that jacket to death--trailing feathers all the way. My mother has the best taste of any human being I've ever met, so who could blame me for trying to keep up? I think I started dressing up in my mother's clothes from the day I knew how to dress myself. The minute she left to go out for the evening, I'd slip into her closet and drape myself with her most lavish velvet negligees, high heels, and dazzling jewelry.

As a child, I loved playing dress-up morethan anything. And in a sense, that's what I'm still doing today. Only now, instead of my mother's closet, I have all of Bergdorf Goodman to play with--seven floors filled with designer collections, glamorous evening gowns, and unique accessories. And instead of just dressing myself (or my little dolls), I now outfit some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world. And just as I never got bored in my mother's closet, the daily challenges of dressing all sizes, shapes, and types of women still gives me a little thrill. When I find just the right dress for the mother of the bride, create a movie character's entire wardrobe, or calm a nervous young woman before her first job interview (while dressing her in a knock-'em-dead new suit), I can shut my dressing room door at the end of the day and call it a success.

My mother always claimed that I walked to a different drummer when it came to dressing. Whatever my peers were doing, I deliberately went the other way. Even at summer camp, when we all had to wear a uniform, I'd find a way to put my own stamp on it. I cuffed the shorts, rolled my sleeves a certain way, tied a sweater around my neck. I'm not saying I always looked great. Maybe I even looked ridiculous at times, but that is exactly what's so much fun about fashion: taking a style risk here and there just to see what happens.

Sometimes it doesn't work at all, but then you know not to do it again, and eventually you build confidence in your ability to make smart fashion choices. That's the real secret to dressing well: It's all about attitude. The attitude of the clothes, but also what's in your head. It's about walking into a room, knowing that you look and feel good, and projecting that attitude out to everyone who sees you.

When I first started my career as a fashion consultant in 1976, the phrase "personal shopper" didn't exist yet. But the customers were desperate for help. Bergdorf Goodman, which has always been New York City's most chic department store, had just about everything anyone could possibly want, but the women who ventured through the revolving doors on Fifth Avenue were often intimidated, overwhelmed, or too frightened to try anything new.

That's where I came in. From the beginning I think people came to me for reassurance and for an objective eye. When one of my customers puts something on, instead of looking in the mirror, she looks at me. I was born with a good eye, I admit. And it's a blessing. I can't deny that there is something intuitive about dressing well and knowing what works and what doesn't. But that doesn't mean you can't learn to do it yourself. It just takes a little practice and a lot of looking in the mirror.

I have customers who have been coming to me since the day I first opened my dressing room door. Over the years, they've brought in their friends, their mothers, their daughters, and even their granddaughters. When I first worked with Betty Buckley (who has been a customer for twenty years), she was on Broadway in Cats. And she's called me before every audition since then. By now, I think it's almost a superstition. I find her an outfit, she gets the part. Some of my customers think I perform miracles. I think I'm just honest. A woman who steps into my dressing room is more likely to hear "Take it off, that looks awful" than "Oooh, that's fabulous!"

Most days my office bears more resemblance to a three-ring circus than it does to a chic fashion show. There's a constant parade of women in all shapes and sizes: actresses, powerful executives, society types, housewives, young mothers, and regular working women. But regardless of who they are and how much they have to spend, in the end, they keep coming in because shopping and dressing is about much more than clothes. It's something you do to make yourself feel good. It should be fun. And sometimes even funny. Because if you aren't enjoying your clothes, then you really are missing the point. I always maintain that no one walks into my office--or into any store anywhere--unless she is ready for a bit of a change. I have yet to meet a woman who can walk past a store without her nose pressed to the glass. She's desperate just to pass through. Show me a person who doesn't like new things--whether it is a frivolous adornment or a necessity--and I say she isn't a woman!

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Ch. 1 Going Shopping for the Truth 1
Ch. 2 Wardrobes Aren't Built in a Day 21
Ch. 3 Why Basic Is Boring 49
Ch. 4 Black Is Beautiful 81
Ch. 5 Stepping in, Stepping Out 99
Ch. 6 The Dressing-Down Dilemma 121
Ch. 7 The Inside Story 139
Ch. 8 Clothes - An Owner's Manual 157
Ch. 9 Taking the Store by Storm 185
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