10 Things You Need to Know About the World’s Most Famous Personal Shopper


The chic Betty Halbreich (Photo: Ruven Afandor / Courtesy of The New Yorker via Style.Com)The chic Betty Halbreich (Photo: Ruven Afandor / Courtesy of The New Yorker via Style.Com)
If Betty Halbreich is not yet a household name in your world, just hold on, because she will be any minute. The supercool octogenarian—a personal shopper at NYC's high-falutin' Bergdorf Goodman since 1976—just had her new memoir optioned as a series by HBO, and, in a stroke of cross-generational genius, the ubiquitous Lena Dunham (along with "Girls" executive producer Jenni Konner) is writing the script. The show, based on her memoir All Dressed Up and Everywhere To Go, will be a window into the fashionable world of famously witty Halbreich, 85. But first, a preview:

1. She's basically a fancy shrink. "My work is like lay therapy," Halbreich told New Yorker writer Judith Thurman in a . "You listen, you prescribe—clothes are a fix-and you hold up a mirror. Most people can't see themselves."

2. She's not into high-pressure sales. Though she says she sells $2 million to $3 million worth of clothing annually, "I'm not a commission lady," Halbreich told New York Magazine writer Bob Morris, who in 1997. "The other day, Mrs. Astor came in and I watched a senior saleswoman on the floor go after her. I couldn't bear it. I hate when a salesperson tells a customer she looks fabulous. What does that mean? And I really hate when they say something is only $1,000. That's a lot of money. I don't even know how to ask customers how much money they want to spend. It's too embarrassing. Nice people don't talk about money."

3. She doesn't read fashion magazines. Because of this, says, she walks all eight floors of Bergdorf's every morning to inspect any new merchandise.

4. She helped dress Carrie Bradshaw. The clothing pro shopped with stylist Patricia Field to dress the cast of Sex and the City, and would reportedly a hundred thousand dollars worth of clothes for a single episode from time to time. Other clients have included Joan Rivers, Estee Lauder, Betty Buckely, Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and the cast of early Woody Allen films.

5. Her mother was very fancy. As a girl, she wrote in her 1997 memoir Secrets of a Fashion Therapist, she would watch as her mom got dressed in "sequined dresses, fox-trim suits, a cocktail dress with feathers lining the hem." One Christmas, the photographer Victor Skrebneski gave her a white marabou jacket. Halbreich would often play dress-up, her favorite childhood game, in her mother's well-stocked closet.

6. Her children know style, too. Halbreich's daughter Kathy is the associate director of the Museum of Modern Art; her son works in fashion for a women's sleepwear manufacturer.

7. Her apartment's décor is charmingly outdated. The bedroom in her oversized Park Avenue rental has gingham walls and needlepoint rugs, according to the New Yorker profile.

8. She wound up at Bergdorf's by chance. Halbreich met former CEO Ira Neimark while lunching with her mom in Chicago. As she told the New Yorker: "He thought I was chic. 'Get that girl,' he said." Her first position was as a salesperson at Geoffrey Beene's in-store boutique.

9. She's no label whore. She also isn't into the color black, and frequently goes for bold colors over dull hues (but always in a sophisticated cut, as evidenced by what she wore in the New Yorker photo shoot, above left). "Deluxe prison garb," she said about a rack of Prada raincoats during a Bergdorf walk-through with the New Yorker.

10. She originally wanted to be an artist. Or a cartoonist. But the Chicago native, née Betty Stoll, instead got married at 22, to Sonny Halbreich, who owned a garment district business that manufactured bathrobes. And the rest is herstory.