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Betsey: A Memoir

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A memoir by the internationally famous fashion designer and style icon Mention the name "Betsey Johnson" and almost every woman from the age of 15 to 75 can rapturously recall a favorite dress or outfit; whether worn for a prom, a wedding, or just to stand out from the crowd in a colorful way. They may also know her as a renegade single mom who palled around with Edie S A memoir by the internationally famous fashion designer and style icon Mention the name "Betsey Johnson" and almost every woman from the age of 15 to 75 can rapturously recall a favorite dress or outfit; whether worn for a prom, a wedding, or just to stand out from the crowd in a colorful way. They may also know her as a renegade single mom who palled around with Edie Sedgwick, Twiggy, and The Velvet Underground, or even as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Betsey is also famous for her iconic pink stores (she had 65 shops across the US) and for her habit of doing cartwheels and splits down the runway at the close of her fashion shows. Throughout her decades-long career, she's taken pride in producing fun but rule-breaking clothing at an accessible price point. What they might not know is that she built an empire from scratch, and brought stretch clothing to the masses in the 80s and 90s. Betsey will take the reader behind the tutu and delve deeply into what it took to go from a white picket fence childhood in Connecticut to becoming an internationally known force in a tough, competitive business. The book will feature Betsey's candid memories of the fashion and downtown scene in the 60s and how she started her own business from the ground up after designing successfully for multiple other companies. She will discuss that business's ups and downs and reinventions (including bankruptcy), and her thoughts on body image, love, divorce, men, motherhood, and her bout with breast cancer. Betsey will be richly illustrated with many of her landmark clothes, fashion sketches, and personal photos--making the book the perfect memento and gift for every girl (of any age) for whom Betsey is, as a recent New York Times profile noted, "a role model still."


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A memoir by the internationally famous fashion designer and style icon Mention the name "Betsey Johnson" and almost every woman from the age of 15 to 75 can rapturously recall a favorite dress or outfit; whether worn for a prom, a wedding, or just to stand out from the crowd in a colorful way. They may also know her as a renegade single mom who palled around with Edie S A memoir by the internationally famous fashion designer and style icon Mention the name "Betsey Johnson" and almost every woman from the age of 15 to 75 can rapturously recall a favorite dress or outfit; whether worn for a prom, a wedding, or just to stand out from the crowd in a colorful way. They may also know her as a renegade single mom who palled around with Edie Sedgwick, Twiggy, and The Velvet Underground, or even as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Betsey is also famous for her iconic pink stores (she had 65 shops across the US) and for her habit of doing cartwheels and splits down the runway at the close of her fashion shows. Throughout her decades-long career, she's taken pride in producing fun but rule-breaking clothing at an accessible price point. What they might not know is that she built an empire from scratch, and brought stretch clothing to the masses in the 80s and 90s. Betsey will take the reader behind the tutu and delve deeply into what it took to go from a white picket fence childhood in Connecticut to becoming an internationally known force in a tough, competitive business. The book will feature Betsey's candid memories of the fashion and downtown scene in the 60s and how she started her own business from the ground up after designing successfully for multiple other companies. She will discuss that business's ups and downs and reinventions (including bankruptcy), and her thoughts on body image, love, divorce, men, motherhood, and her bout with breast cancer. Betsey will be richly illustrated with many of her landmark clothes, fashion sketches, and personal photos--making the book the perfect memento and gift for every girl (of any age) for whom Betsey is, as a recent New York Times profile noted, "a role model still."

30 review for Betsey: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    eyes.2c

    Betsey Johnson's reality. Don't get me wrong, I love Betsey Johnson designs. I own jewelry, shoes, sunglasses and my particular passion these days, watches. I loved her zany mixture of fabrics. So who was this woman with such ingenious designs! I did watch a TV series about her that I enjoyed, but for some reason I didn't connect as I thought I would with this title. Some of her reasons for doing things seemed unconventional, even when wrapped up in conventionality. Like marriage. Her reason for ma Betsey Johnson's reality. Don't get me wrong, I love Betsey Johnson designs. I own jewelry, shoes, sunglasses and my particular passion these days, watches. I loved her zany mixture of fabrics. So who was this woman with such ingenious designs! I did watch a TV series about her that I enjoyed, but for some reason I didn't connect as I thought I would with this title. Some of her reasons for doing things seemed unconventional, even when wrapped up in conventionality. Like marriage. Her reason for marrying burger flipper Jeff? Well it's ... really, I have no words. Possibly it was the times, the 60's. Still Betsey's reasoning maybe says it all. As she tells it, it was 'because that’s what I was designing at the time—a collection for an entire wedding party: the bride, bridesmaids, the hot ex-girlfriend, and of course, the flower girls.' The thought of capping off a new collection with a high profile occasion seemed liked a good idea. Maybe it was just part of going with the flow, seeking new experiences, the fantasy of it all. Who knows? Betsey doesn't seem to either. The marriage lasted three months. This look into Betsey's colorful life is inviting, where she came from, her various struggles including health issues, her rise in and the challenges she faced over years in the fashion/design industry, her relationship with her beloved daughter Lulu, and her many friendships. Always ready to look in new directions! BTW you just have to love her book cover. Betsey the design icon! As I said' I love her work, and I do admire her ability to tell it how she saw it--Betsey being ... well, Just Betsey! A Penguin Viking ARC via NetGalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Betsey Johnson’s career spans 50+ years of highly creative fashion design. This is a breezy memoir of her eventful life. While her style is unique and breakthrough, Johnson writes of it as merely adding color, using new fabrics and changing hemlines. She writes of (her months long) marriage to John Cale of the Velvet Underground and of hiring neighborhood prostitutes as models (she says this is all she can afford), but does not note that these - the Warhol Factory and seedy street culture - as m Betsey Johnson’s career spans 50+ years of highly creative fashion design. This is a breezy memoir of her eventful life. While her style is unique and breakthrough, Johnson writes of it as merely adding color, using new fabrics and changing hemlines. She writes of (her months long) marriage to John Cale of the Velvet Underground and of hiring neighborhood prostitutes as models (she says this is all she can afford), but does not note that these - the Warhol Factory and seedy street culture - as major influences on her style. If you didn't know her clothes and just read the text, you wouldn't understand the niche her clothing line dominated for years. There is no introspection in this book. There is no discussion of the growth of her “brand” from a commercial version of the underground (drug) style to that of a whimsy and fun nor is there any reflection on her choice of not just men, but husbands. Why Betsey and Chantel (presumably Betsey’s father had been bought out by this time) decided to not just sell the company, but to surrender full control is not at all clear. The most interesting sections, for me, were • the “Mademoiselle” Guest Editorship • how, after buying her company, the new MBA types hired by the owners tried to determine the direction of the company through charts and analysis • the chapter on breast cancer The career part of the memoir essentially ends with a bankruptcy in 2012, leaving unexplained her active web site, and Betsey Johnson stores that were still in business (as far as I know) in 2018. You can read it in hours. As with any summary, a lot (besides introspection) is missing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Pollock

    Disclaimer: I generally don't care for memoir, and when i do read a famous person's memoir, i also read a lot of other books/articles about them, because I don't believe you can know your own life's truth and tell it without personal bias and aggrandizement. I've long been a fan of Betsey Johnson's fashion designs and have owned several of her dresses, boots, and bags. Her aesthetic tends to jive with my own personal style, or has at various times in the past. So, it was as a wearer of her desig Disclaimer: I generally don't care for memoir, and when i do read a famous person's memoir, i also read a lot of other books/articles about them, because I don't believe you can know your own life's truth and tell it without personal bias and aggrandizement. I've long been a fan of Betsey Johnson's fashion designs and have owned several of her dresses, boots, and bags. Her aesthetic tends to jive with my own personal style, or has at various times in the past. So, it was as a wearer of her designs that i came to this memoir. Johnson is not a writer. I mean, yes, she has written this memoir which reads like it was dictated to her phone; it actually might have been since she claims she was briefly married to the original inventor of voice-to-text. She's led a wild and interesting life, but she doesn't tell her own story in an engaging way. I was carried along by the events and circumstances of her story, but it feels like when a small child tells you about a dream they had in exhaustive, circuitous detail. Very much a feeling of, "and then this happened and this happened and digression and wacky wacky and cool cool." She's remarkably devoid of introspection when it comes to the lives of anyone around her. For example, she gushes about how hot Edie Sedgwick looked wearing her clothes, but doesn't even make note of the fact that Edie was an anorexic junkie about to die at the time. She's fairly clueless about her abusive exes and her own battles with health challenges like breast cancer are recounted with a similar shallow perspective. The last section of the book is a defense of her decision to enter into a corporate partnership in which she tried to absolve herself of any responsibility for why the brand/chain then imploded and failed. It was interesting to see all the photos, and particularly to see one of her and Bill Cunningham, whose recent posthumous memoir was similarly vapid. I don't know, i didn't hate it. I don't wish I had the hours of my life back i spent reading it. But, don't go into it thinking it's anything beyond an admittedly talented designer bragging about her mostly-awesome life. I received a copy of this book from #netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Fun read! Betsey does a great job with the audio too. Aside from picking all the wrong men, Betsey’s life has been pretty charmed and it made for a light and delightful listen. She’s a trailblazer with a positive attitude that can’t be squashed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bree

    “I wore a Betsey dress to ...( fill in the blank) ‘Did you have a great time?’ The answer is always ‘YES?’” My love for Betsey Johnson started in my early 20s because not only is she fun, fearless and has the most whimsical designs around, she has good construction and design concept. Betsey broke the way in the 70s from stepping away from polyester garments and introduced us to lycra! That is huge. This memoir is a god mix of her personal life & creative journey. I loved finding out that she st “I wore a Betsey dress to ...( fill in the blank) ‘Did you have a great time?’ The answer is always ‘YES?’” My love for Betsey Johnson started in my early 20s because not only is she fun, fearless and has the most whimsical designs around, she has good construction and design concept. Betsey broke the way in the 70s from stepping away from polyester garments and introduced us to lycra! That is huge. This memoir is a god mix of her personal life & creative journey. I loved finding out that she started in Fine Art School in Surface Design and Textiles and garment making came later. She’s had ups and downs with men, being a single mother, health and her business and is a power house to come out on top. Also a shout out to Betsey because she was my FIRST designer purse I ever bought on my own. Even if I left the house in a total mess, I’d toss my Betsey Gold chain and black quilted leather purse on and I felt like a million dollars. Thank you Betsey! XOXO

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Zoomed through this in one day. LOVE IT. Maybe it's because I love her. Betsey is telling about all the pains and perks of being the phenomenon that she is. I truly love this woman. I'm a huge fan, so it will be hard for me to criticize anything here. Also, I've met this woman many times, and though we've had personal conversations, it was wonderful to read stories I already knew and finally hear some more background details. This is an authentic peek into the fashion world, and then a little s Zoomed through this in one day. LOVE IT. Maybe it's because I love her. Betsey is telling about all the pains and perks of being the phenomenon that she is. I truly love this woman. I'm a huge fan, so it will be hard for me to criticize anything here. Also, I've met this woman many times, and though we've had personal conversations, it was wonderful to read stories I already knew and finally hear some more background details. This is an authentic peek into the fashion world, and then a little snippet on the art world, the music world, the NYC scene in the 70s, 80s, and more. This does not examine or dive into the recognizable names and events in her orbit. This is her story about herself and her decisions and what she is choosing to tell. Because she certainly lived a serendipitous life, her story is one of inspiration and hope and possibility. You don't have to be into fashion to appreciate Betsey's story. Knowing Betsey, though, she is even more spunky than this reads. I wish a little more of her personality came through. I never heard of this author nor do I know his credentials, so I'm not sure if he owns the lack of spark on the pages that does not do justice to Betsey. The tone is a bit flat for a woman who is anything but. There is NO other designer that even comes close to Betsey's creativity, boldness, effusiveness, unabashed expression. Betsey is truly incomparable. No one has her guts, her spunk, her exuberant expression. If you don't know this woman, get to know her, and this book is a good place to start. She is a treasure and an inspiration. Betsey is truly a fabulous, fun, frenetic force. Betsey is human glitter. When and if Betsey does a book signing or a store appearance, do yourself a favor and go. Meet her. Discover what spirit is. I recommend this even though I gave more a review on the woman than I did on the book. Oh, and I so totally love the cover. Xox

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christen

    I enjoyed this because she doesn't divulge everything. It was a "simple" memoir, and there weren't pages upon pages of deep thoughts. She wrote about her life and the ups and downs but didn't dwell. It sounds like she doesn't dwell on the past, so why should she in the book. I didn't know anything about her than her brand. So I was coming to this memoir pretty blind about the person, and I didn't mind that lack of details, it was more than I had to begin. I enjoyed the photos of the book. It was I enjoyed this because she doesn't divulge everything. It was a "simple" memoir, and there weren't pages upon pages of deep thoughts. She wrote about her life and the ups and downs but didn't dwell. It sounds like she doesn't dwell on the past, so why should she in the book. I didn't know anything about her than her brand. So I was coming to this memoir pretty blind about the person, and I didn't mind that lack of details, it was more than I had to begin. I enjoyed the photos of the book. It was short, under 300 pages and I found it a fast read, I read it in a few hours total. I received an arc from Edelweiss and Viking for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    An interesting look at the life of one of my favorite designers!

  9. 5 out of 5

    FamousLeslie

    This was fabulous! I will own a copy. Her story is not perfect but she didn't hesitate to share her struggles. 💝 This was fabulous! I will own a copy. Her story is not perfect but she didn't hesitate to share her struggles. 💝

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I was thrilled to see this book on the “New Books” shelf at the library. I have a large interest in fashion (despite being completely unfashionable myself) and am a fan of Betsey’s work. I settled in with it, expecting insights into her life and creative process, as well as learning more about how the fashion world worked during her heyday. I read the book over one night. At the end, I was kind of sad. The book did not live up to my expectations. I figured it would be a really exciting tale. Part I was thrilled to see this book on the “New Books” shelf at the library. I have a large interest in fashion (despite being completely unfashionable myself) and am a fan of Betsey’s work. I settled in with it, expecting insights into her life and creative process, as well as learning more about how the fashion world worked during her heyday. I read the book over one night. At the end, I was kind of sad. The book did not live up to my expectations. I figured it would be a really exciting tale. Parts were, of course, but a lot of the story was oddly flat. I don’t know if this was a result of two people telling her story (perhaps her style and that of Vitulano didn’t mesh? I don’t know), or if Johnson was under a time crunch to get the book done, or what. But there were very few places where I felt her emotions, her creative fire. Her early life at school and home came across well; there is a good deal of detail in that section. The part where she moves to New York and is working for Mademoiselle have a sense of exhilaration; how could it not when things move as fast as her early career did? Her professional life seems to have always been moving fast, leaving the reader to wonder if Johnson can keep up with it. Her private life also moves fast; she admits that she was in love with the idea of love and falls fast- sadly, for the wrong men. Her first three husbands are emotionally abusive (and sometimes physically so), which led me to thinking “RUN NOW” and being amazed at how long she stayed with a couple of them. Given how open she is about it being abused, I think she’s learned her lesson. She’s been with her current husband for 23 years now (she does not mention this man in the book) so things seem calm from the outside. Her professional life was one of ups and downs; her clothes exploded on the fashion scene, different from what anyone else was doing. Trying to get out from under working for others, she had trouble borrowing money to start her own store- and paid it back in record time. At one point she had 66 retail stores. Then some bad business decisions were made, the economy went down the tubes, and she lucked out when Steve Madden bought her company. She is still creative director, so her fashions still live for yet another generation of girls. Sadly, I can only give the book 3 stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane Greenhalgh Weinkrantz

    This is a fun romp through the 60s and 70s. Betsey was dedicated to her craft above all else and this memoir tells the story and how she evolved from a junior designer to an icon.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    an incredibly interesting memoir of an entrepreneur living in NYC during the 50s-90s. I still have a Betsey dress that I am saving for my daughter! Fun stories about NYC during the time of Warhol. Interesting business insights as well.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Yingling

    3.5 stars A fresh, breezy account of a woman who knew what she wanted in life and was willing to work hard and to be persistent in achieving her goals. I liked her honesty in talking about her life, including the ups and downs of her romantic adventures, but most of all in her determination to become a successful clothes designer, and in not letting setbacks deter her from her goals.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeaninne Escallier Kato

    I love Betsey Johnson. I wear her clothes and feel fabulous in them, even as a middle-aged woman; but, her memoir leaves me wanting much much more. I realize Betsey is not a writer, yet she wrote her story, with the help of her co-writer, Mark Vitulano, to paint her journey of many ups and downs throughout her exciting life. I don't know if there was a time crunch to get it to the publisher, but for every main event, only a cursory, very short chapter was given mention of what should have been fl I love Betsey Johnson. I wear her clothes and feel fabulous in them, even as a middle-aged woman; but, her memoir leaves me wanting much much more. I realize Betsey is not a writer, yet she wrote her story, with the help of her co-writer, Mark Vitulano, to paint her journey of many ups and downs throughout her exciting life. I don't know if there was a time crunch to get it to the publisher, but for every main event, only a cursory, very short chapter was given mention of what should have been flushed with detailed descriptions. There were few sensory details to bring the reader into the story. Presented in a such a literal way, from birth to present, Betsey's co-writer could have played with so many available literary tools for creating a fascinating story. I felt as though I was reading a book proposal used to sell the eventual story. Likewise, I didn't feel any emotional changes in how I reacted to many of Betsey's life events --- of which there were many. There simply was no story arc to take us in and out of important events with all the inherent feels. What I did like about this fun little book were the colorful pictures of Betsey's fashions. Once I perused these glossy pages, I went online to buy a frock or two. This book works as a brochure for Betsey's amazing talent and vision. I also like that I know a bit about her life, which adds more interest to her clothes. I could say this was a fun read to a certain extent, but it left me flat as a literary event. However, I will always love Betsey's fashions and wish her well in life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from PENGUIN GROUP Viking in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I am very familiar with the designs of Betsey Johnson and the unique empire she built from the ground up and everyone loved her designs because they are all about pops of color and using unique materials that no designer has ever thought to have used before such as beads, barrettes and costume-esque wear for the main materials of the de This book was received as an ARC from PENGUIN GROUP Viking in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I am very familiar with the designs of Betsey Johnson and the unique empire she built from the ground up and everyone loved her designs because they are all about pops of color and using unique materials that no designer has ever thought to have used before such as beads, barrettes and costume-esque wear for the main materials of the design. My favorite part was the beginning when Betsey really went in depth of her upbringing and high school/college career and how she admits that looks are not everything and fade over time and that she was popular because people embraced her fun personality and it showed throughout her clothing which she believes was the rise of her clothing empire. I remember her on Dancing with the Stars and have been to a couple of her stores and remembering how fun the clothing was and having the pink mixed with the leopard as her signature look. Knowing where she came from and the work she took to build her empire will make you a fan even more and I know a lot of people will be remembering her for a long time. We will consider adding this title to our Biography collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Reading this was kind of like meeting up with your contagiously enthusiastic, positive-thinking, impossibly cool aunt at her favorite old school Italian restaurant (checked tablecloths, chianti bottle candleholders with decades of melted wax attached to them) and letting her reel off her life story (the good, the bad, the ugly- no regrets) over the course of the evening. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be surprised, and you'll lose track of how much wine you drank while you listened. And you'll Reading this was kind of like meeting up with your contagiously enthusiastic, positive-thinking, impossibly cool aunt at her favorite old school Italian restaurant (checked tablecloths, chianti bottle candleholders with decades of melted wax attached to them) and letting her reel off her life story (the good, the bad, the ugly- no regrets) over the course of the evening. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be surprised, and you'll lose track of how much wine you drank while you listened. And you'll root for her every step of the way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Torres

    Disappointing. Such an interesting life be she shares nothing but a few facts.

  18. 5 out of 5

    MJ Beaufrand

    Wow. Just wow. I've always wondered what kind of mind could be behind all those wonderful quirky fashions. Now I know! Wow. Just wow. I've always wondered what kind of mind could be behind all those wonderful quirky fashions. Now I know!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dru

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Betsey's designs have inspired me for decades. Her business philosophy of "if i want to wear it, there are other people who also want to wear it" was right on the money. I loved that she never followed trends and that her style stayed loud, proud and uniquely Betsey. That's exactly what this book is: uniquely Betsey. The writing style is conversational. She picks which things she thinks the audience wants to hear, not necessarily the parts she really cares about. She then apologizes and derides h Betsey's designs have inspired me for decades. Her business philosophy of "if i want to wear it, there are other people who also want to wear it" was right on the money. I loved that she never followed trends and that her style stayed loud, proud and uniquely Betsey. That's exactly what this book is: uniquely Betsey. The writing style is conversational. She picks which things she thinks the audience wants to hear, not necessarily the parts she really cares about. She then apologizes and derides herself as she's telling her own story as if she's assuming you're judging her. The story is linear but not quite. I was often lost as to what year it was, how old she was and what the fashion scene was at the time. Her life story is interesting; she lived a full life. She's very insecure about her weight and beauty and sadly this echoes throughout the entire book. I come from an old family; I'm a millenial and she is the same age as my aunts so the "put the blinders on and smile through it" attitude that seems to be her life's philosophy is definitely how people in that time were raised and is the source of her successes and of her pitfalls. She mentions her mother acknowledging her first divorce by mailing her homemade cookies. This type of "we don't talk about those types of things" mentality is also spot-on for the times and echoes to how she handled a lot of rash decisions and her own cancer: she kept most things to herself, confided in one person and grin n' beared it to the rest. She's a workaholic, assertive businesswoman who does self-reflect when it comes to anything or anyone in the fashion world. She thinks back to how she was naive in thinking cheerleading and sororities would be a ubiquitous way to make instant friends, to how lucky she was to have her own name on a label so early in her career, to how she wanted to give a personal thankyou note to anyone buying her wares, to how she thought everything in her life should be handed to her/fall into place naturally, to finding design inspiration from anything and everything (chairs, teapots, book illustrations, people watching, seeing fabrics as their potential not their current use), to how she sometimes mistreated her business partner. I was hoping for more information on her brand bankruptcy and sale to Steve Madden, those chapters feel like an explanation to her former workers not really a digested telling of events. She's not introspective about her love life and why she was so addicted to creating an image through marriage rather than having a loving partnership. Throughout the book, it seems that upholding a false image of coupledom was more important to her than her own wellbeing. She clearly writes the men in her life as abusive, violent and manipulative but doesn't say outright or maybe even recognize that she was abused. She sort of shrugs that they were evil and how unlucky she is in love. I hope she can find healing and a stronger sense of self-love to stop the cycle. This book is an overstuffed suitcase of Betsey's life. A bit here, a bit there, whoops I forgot to mention. It's electric and bright and can get a little confusing and overwhelming but I think writing a book about your entire life is difficult. If you're looking for a glance into Betsey's personal life, a large handful of points in her career and her retrospective opinions (which might be one big shoulder shrug), this book is for you. You might not understand or approve of her carpe diem life, but it's still her life and she has no real regrets.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Lordy Lord.... I started this book thinking I would just sit back & enjoy this journey of an upward climb through flowers, bows, fishnets, baby doll dresses, x's & o's...until the great recession hit, of course. In some ways that is the case in the beginning of the book as she takes off at Mademoiselle and as a designer. I also assumed that the reason for the decline of Betsey Johnson's stores was merely due to the recession, but Jesus Christ if like a dozen men were eliminated from Betsey's sto Lordy Lord.... I started this book thinking I would just sit back & enjoy this journey of an upward climb through flowers, bows, fishnets, baby doll dresses, x's & o's...until the great recession hit, of course. In some ways that is the case in the beginning of the book as she takes off at Mademoiselle and as a designer. I also assumed that the reason for the decline of Betsey Johnson's stores was merely due to the recession, but Jesus Christ if like a dozen men were eliminated from Betsey's story entirely, maybe things could have gone a different way. It was so devastating to read of her husbands, all three of them were not particularly shining stars (I will say I do see how #1 was her favorite). Let's just say they dimmed her light so dim, that by the time a group of corporate exec banker ppl came walking up she basically just up and gave her store away.... it was so painful to read of such an seemingly empowered, inspiring, strong-willed, joyous woman continuously diminish herself for men who were undeserving of her talent, charm, time, energy, love, and her presence at all, really. The way it sounded like she used to run her stores sounded genuine and honest (though not sure how the clothing was manufactured? uh oh, sweat shops?) and I would love to have had the chance to try to work there if they were still around and running the way they did back when it was just her and Chantal. The ending was beautiful in that she is joyful in all the many successes she did accomplish and her original goal to simply see her work being worn out in public and to create pieces meant to have a good time in. There was certainly a sadness to this story, and I remember hearing her say that she mainly attributes luck to the launching point for all her successes. Maybe to some extent she took out her own personal responsibility for things happening in her life. How else to justify going out with these awful guys and selling away your company to these awful corporate types who basically drove it to the ground. It sounds like Betsey has plenty of money, and her reputation far exceeds anything she has ever been through. She is a total icon!! An inspiration. Her work speaks for itself. All those other things that have happened to her are insignificant to the person she really is, and it seems her designs and core personality are linked. I am very happy for her that she has a good relationship with her daughter and grandchildren, and if Betsey deserves anything it is a beautiful, healthy relationship! She mentioned she dedicates the book to her "lover" , so I hope it is true! And I know plenty of women see themselves in Betsey's story with men and I hope we can all find the commonality with her that, like Betsey, at our core is always all the magic and beauty that is just as innovative and fun as Betsey's designs themselves.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paul Sutter

    I suppose you could say it is better to have a colorful life than no life at all. Betsey Johnson has certainly had a most interesting life. If you are not into the world of fashion, chances are you will not be familiar with her. But if fashion and names in fashion are your cup of tea, Betsey will certainly be on your radar. She was born in 1942, and it was her over the top sort of personality that set her apart from others. Fashion was always a part of her life and she eventually got a job at Ma I suppose you could say it is better to have a colorful life than no life at all. Betsey Johnson has certainly had a most interesting life. If you are not into the world of fashion, chances are you will not be familiar with her. But if fashion and names in fashion are your cup of tea, Betsey will certainly be on your radar. She was born in 1942, and it was her over the top sort of personality that set her apart from others. Fashion was always a part of her life and she eventually got a job at Mademoiselle magazine. Betsey made her own sweaters in her apartment, and when her co-workers saw them, they wanted them as well. So she made a few dollars doing that, but it was when she decided to create her own label that life definitely took a turn for the more adventurous. Famous people such as actress Julie Christie saw her designs and became a fan of hers, wearing her creations, bringing them to the attention of others. She went to work at Paraphernalia, a clothing boutique that had its own ideas of what was trendy. Such designers as Daniel Hechter and Paco Rabanne were part of that stable, going on to become household names in their own right. The Velvet Underground, a popular band in the sixties and seventies, saw her designs and gave her the job of becoming their clothing designer. She also married band member John Cale, though the marriage did not last long and there were some not so memorable moments she recalls. Johnson went on to create her own label, then opened a number of stores, making her designs the sort of clothing celebrities and the common person were more than excited to wear. She also talks in detail about being a single mom to daughter Lulu. When she was pregnant she was told to expect twins, but there was only one child to be born, Johnson never sure why a doctor thought there were twins about to arrive. Johnson talks in details about her bad marriages she had, that barely last a week or so. She had a way of attracting bad choices in men, but made the right choices in fashion. Honest and open, and filled with her little sketches, there is much insight into the world of this lady, including dealing with breast cancer, bankruptcy and being a survivor.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Klein

    I've always been curious about Betsey Johnson since my style couldn't be farther from hers, but this book is disingenuous. It is a memoir of what she wants us to know. A peephole into her life. For example, She makes no mention of her current husband, her fourth, to whom she has apparently been married for 17 years. The information in the public record makes no mention of her third marriage and describes this one as her third. But it ain't so. Further, she married men several times who were abusi I've always been curious about Betsey Johnson since my style couldn't be farther from hers, but this book is disingenuous. It is a memoir of what she wants us to know. A peephole into her life. For example, She makes no mention of her current husband, her fourth, to whom she has apparently been married for 17 years. The information in the public record makes no mention of her third marriage and describes this one as her third. But it ain't so. Further, she married men several times who were abusive to her and who her only child hated, and did what she wanted anyway. Finally, her sale to the hedge fund group was an unmitigated disaster. She says she doesn't know why she did it, but the reason is obvious - greed. She enjoyed living the jet set life w/ her third husband and wanted to keep it up, but knew she had to pay for it on her own. The sale of the business afforded her a house in the Hamptons, one in Malibu, and one in Mexico, a, lifestyle she was not living before the sale. Unfortunately, allowing her company to be taken over meant bankruptcy, the shuttering of her stores and hundreds of people who lost their jobs, not too many years down the road. She says numerous times that she only looks forward and never back, so I would doubt she has enjoyed much personal growth from these events. As is so often the case, the world really is not all that rosy behind Betsey's rose colored glasses.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    Reading a memoir offers only one side to a life story, but Betsey Johnson's life has been pretty interesting. At times her telling seems to lack the sparkle she surely has, but she gets the job done, taking us from a happy childhood in Connecticut where art and dance were her passions, to her early days when she designed and sold sweaters for $20 each to the girls she worked with. She says several times that her early breakthrough with Paul Young and Paraphernalia was not how things were suppose Reading a memoir offers only one side to a life story, but Betsey Johnson's life has been pretty interesting. At times her telling seems to lack the sparkle she surely has, but she gets the job done, taking us from a happy childhood in Connecticut where art and dance were her passions, to her early days when she designed and sold sweaters for $20 each to the girls she worked with. She says several times that her early breakthrough with Paul Young and Paraphernalia was not how things were supposed to work--that young designers should not expect to see their name on a label until after many, many years of slogging. Her lack of formal education in her field holds her back, later on down the road--she lacked the credentials design houses sought. She bemoans her struggles with her weight, and her weakness: dysfunctional men; she describes the 60s drug-fueled fashion scene and includes plenty of intriguing photos of models of the day wearing her dresses, which are all amazing. This is a romp of a book; one-sided it may be, but it is entertaining, inspiring, and empowering as a story of a woman in business; there surely could not be a more courageous, tenacious personality than Betsey Johnson.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Yaritza

    Betsey has been my fashion icon for many years. I truly loved her story and I am super sad I finished the book in two days. I wanted more pictures, more details, more stories. I love the 1950's and to be able to feel like I was living those years with Betsey through her book was fantastic. Betsey wrote her story by sharing everything with us without holding anything back. She shared her good times and bad times. Betsey talks about boyfriends to weddings, family love, new career opportunities, fa Betsey has been my fashion icon for many years. I truly loved her story and I am super sad I finished the book in two days. I wanted more pictures, more details, more stories. I love the 1950's and to be able to feel like I was living those years with Betsey through her book was fantastic. Betsey wrote her story by sharing everything with us without holding anything back. She shared her good times and bad times. Betsey talks about boyfriends to weddings, family love, new career opportunities, fashion shows to Betsey Johnson stores, to health scares and happy times. She is super brilliant, smart, unique and a hard worker. Luck was on her side and I am happy she was able to bring us her wonderful fashion. She is so down to earth and love that she lives a simple life but funky and colorful. I wish I had her skills and courage to go off and do what makes me happy. Fashion has been my best friend for many years. To be able to put pieces together that ordinary no one would wear makes me happy. It makes people smile especially when I wear my fun Betsey Johnson purses. Thank you Betsey for sharing your amazing story. I wish you all the best and looking forward to more fashion fun.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angelle

    I was on the hunt for a new memoir to read, and the cover of Betsey by Betsey Johsnon popped out at me. I’m not super in tune with the fashion world, but her vibrant, playful style has always caught my eye over the years. Betsey starts the book off with a few stories from her childhood growing up in a family that was “apple pie to the max.” She discusses her early influences and introductions to dance, art and eventually fashion. Where the book really took off for me was when she starts an inter I was on the hunt for a new memoir to read, and the cover of Betsey by Betsey Johsnon popped out at me. I’m not super in tune with the fashion world, but her vibrant, playful style has always caught my eye over the years. Betsey starts the book off with a few stories from her childhood growing up in a family that was “apple pie to the max.” She discusses her early influences and introductions to dance, art and eventually fashion. Where the book really took off for me was when she starts an internship at Mademoiselle, a now defunct women’s lifestyle magazine. Fun fact: Sylvia Plath had won a writing contest at the same magazine years earlier, and her experience there was partly the inspiration for The Bell Jar (one of my favorite books!). Betsey is filled with stories of the iconic designer’s rise in the fashion industry, victories and triumphs, relationships, motherhood, her experience with breast cancer and more. She covers a lot of ground, and as a bonus, there are a bunch of great photos sprinkled throughout the book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    meghann

    I've always been a fan of Betsey Johnson. I have a collection of her amazing handbags and always get complimented on them. And her jewelry as well! And shoes! Pretty much everything of hers I own. She has always felt like she was a soul twin, but I did not really know all that much about her. This memoir was enjoyable, and it really drove home the point that every setback can be an opportunity. Being open to seeing where the journey takes you and never giving up were keys to Betsey's success. He I've always been a fan of Betsey Johnson. I have a collection of her amazing handbags and always get complimented on them. And her jewelry as well! And shoes! Pretty much everything of hers I own. She has always felt like she was a soul twin, but I did not really know all that much about her. This memoir was enjoyable, and it really drove home the point that every setback can be an opportunity. Being open to seeing where the journey takes you and never giving up were keys to Betsey's success. Her personal life had a lot of struggle, and some of her relationships were just so toxic. I'm glad she made it through those and the health issues and seems to be in a really good place now. Some of my BJ handbags xox

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tia

    In typical Leo fashion, Betsey Johnson breezes through life mostly doing her own thing whether it's her way of designing clothing, motherhood, or her love life. Rarely compromising on her beliefs and views, I found her to be refreshing and honest despite her obvious "flaws". Most women have made bad choices with men so her experiences were not unique, she simply was in love with the idea of love and the potential that the man had, even if they never lived up to it. As I read this memoir I saw so In typical Leo fashion, Betsey Johnson breezes through life mostly doing her own thing whether it's her way of designing clothing, motherhood, or her love life. Rarely compromising on her beliefs and views, I found her to be refreshing and honest despite her obvious "flaws". Most women have made bad choices with men so her experiences were not unique, she simply was in love with the idea of love and the potential that the man had, even if they never lived up to it. As I read this memoir I saw some of my own life choices or lack of choices as well in her words. Betsey is able to accept her mistakes and keep moving and creating the fashion we all know and love no matter what occurs in her life with only a blip to her timeline, and I found that to be commendable. I also share her love of leopard print, pink, black lace etc., and think she's pretty amazing being Betsey.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    An entertaining read. Betsey sure has led a colorful life and it seems like a lot of it was being in the right place at the right time. Except for husbands - she definitely was in the wrong place for a couple of them (I'd love to know who #3 is, she won't even say his name!). I had a silk slip dress of hers for the longest time. I loved that dress. There were a couple of discrepancies. She claimed that she and her friends played with Ken Dolls when they were 14. Well, that would have been in 1956 An entertaining read. Betsey sure has led a colorful life and it seems like a lot of it was being in the right place at the right time. Except for husbands - she definitely was in the wrong place for a couple of them (I'd love to know who #3 is, she won't even say his name!). I had a silk slip dress of hers for the longest time. I loved that dress. There were a couple of discrepancies. She claimed that she and her friends played with Ken Dolls when they were 14. Well, that would have been in 1956. Mattel didn't introduce Ken until 1961. And she said she left Paraphernalia in 1969 because the 60s were over and Jimi and Janis were dead. Well, no, they weren't. They both died in 1970. Kinda made me wonder about some of her other stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Hasty

    One of the things I loved learning about Betsey Johnson the individual was her very middle class, somewhat conservative, good girl childhood. This definitely does not match the bright, colorful, crazy personality of her brand and makes Betsey Johnson the individual so much more interesting. I also loved that she never really wanted to lose that part of her. As much as she loved NYC, she was always a city girl from a small town. If you love reading memoirs, particularly about creative people, as One of the things I loved learning about Betsey Johnson the individual was her very middle class, somewhat conservative, good girl childhood. This definitely does not match the bright, colorful, crazy personality of her brand and makes Betsey Johnson the individual so much more interesting. I also loved that she never really wanted to lose that part of her. As much as she loved NYC, she was always a city girl from a small town. If you love reading memoirs, particularly about creative people, as much as I do. You’ll love Betsey: A Memoir.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mattie

    This book was just OK, kind of a Cliff’s Notes version of what must have been a spectacular life. The book is entertaining for a library check out not the cost of a new hardcover. As a fan of her fashion from the 80s and 90s, I was looking for insight into her design aesthetic and inspiration but this just fell flat. It was a skim over of many areas of her life and career but you don’t finish the book feeling like you know Betsey any better when you finish the book.

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