For 40 years, Halbreich (Secrets of a Fashion Therapist: What You Can Learn Behind the Dressing Room Door, 1997) has created fashion magic as a personal shopper with Bergdorf Goodman. Her revealing memoir chronicles her career and personal life.
The author, 86, details her privileged upbringing in an affluent Chicago suburb during the 1930s. “From childhood to child bride to a childish mother, I had always been taken care of,” she writes. An early marriage transplanted Halbreich to the more competitive East Coast, and New York, she writes, “was an introduction to an aggressive pursuit of fashion I had never before known.” When the author’s 20-year marriage crumbled, she spiraled into depression, ultimately requiring psychiatric hospitalization. However, she commenced a new life when a friend convinced her to seek employment at Bergdorf Goodman. The author’s sense of style trumped her lack of sales talent, and the novice sales clerk’s attire drew comment from fashion icon Carla Fendi. “I never had to look for work or even make a résumé for that matter,” writes Halbreich. “My appearance, the way I paired a print or tied a blouse, gave the illusion of confidence and mastery.” After more than a year without making a single sale, Halbreich suggested to management that she change her role to that of personal shopper. The author meticulously analyzes her role in her wealthy clients’ lives, a role that encompasses more than finding the perfect cashmere sweater. “I wanted to give my ladies fortitude in all things, and in that they felt better for just having asked,” she writes. “Like lighting a candle in a church, coming to see me was a ritual of comfort.” Halbreich describes her growing independence while an unlikely romance brought stability and happiness.
An intimate sojourn through the dressing rooms of one of America’s most luxurious department stores.