Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Beginning of the End?

Betty will get the treatment

There has been style-obsessed television (think Sex in the City) and obsessive television about stylists (as in Rachel Zoe and It's a Brad, Brad World's Brad Goreski). Now comes word of an upcoming HBO scripted comedy "about the life and work of a personal shopper in New York City".  The proposed series is not a reality show (all to the worse). Will this mean personal shoppers— like fashion designers, recording star wanna-bes, and aspiring chefs before them— will look like anyone can do that and does?

Lena will be making the point

What gives this some credence is the person tapped to write the pilot is none other than Lena Dunham, the wunderkind behind (and in front of) HBO's smash series, "Girls".  Also worthy is that the series will be based on a forthcoming memoir by Betty Halbreich, 85, a real-life career personal shopper for Bergdorf Goodman.

A personal shopper is probably best defined as a stylist for a non-celebrity who actually must pay for what she wears. In Betty's case most of her clients have high-powered careers and/or are socially prominent with little time to putter through masses of retail offerings. And who wouldn't love a fairy godmother to do that for us? Betty has been in the business since 1976. She well knows that it ain't just about the clothes.

Her previous book, "Secrets of a Fashion Therapist"", published in 2000, is one of  my favorites. Aside from great advice such as "Ten Ways to Liven Up Your Basic Black", she also tells us "How to Know When You've Had Enough (Black)". From "The Dos and Don'ts of Mix and Match" to "The One Dress Evening Wardrobe" and a great chapter, "Clean Up You Room", this is advice to take to heart and heed. I can hardly wait for the new book, "All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go". I'm just not so sure about the sit com.

I worked for two years as a personal shopper for a Major Department Store and have a few stories of my own. There was the call I got from a lawyer whose client's husband had left her for another woman and was suing for the divorce. The lawyer was seeking the house in the settlement but feared the husband's lawyers would claim the wife didn't need it "because she looked like an old hippy who could be happy in a garret". In fact the wife, in a shapeless mu-mu and sandals, with no makeup and no hairstyle, did look as if she were left behind at Woodstock.

My job was to get her a sharp outfit for the court appearance and arrange for anything else to whip her into a woman who deserved a nice home in an upscale neighborhood. From foundation garments out, including a hair appointment and a trip to the Estee Lauder counter, the client was transformed. Yes, she got the house. More importantly she changed her outlook on life and became a regular customer. Oh, and the lawyer came in for some personal shopping as well.

Maybe that story isn't funny enough for television, but I sure would have liked to see the husband's face when he realized his goose was cooked.

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