Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

First line: Dora had a rhythm going, or if not a rhythm, a pattern, and it went something like downshift, wipe tears away with back of hand, sob, upshift, scrub running nose with horrible crumpled fastfood napkin, stab at the buttons on the radio, and then downshift again.

From the back cover: Do the clothes make the woman?

Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She's fallen into a job at the campus coffee shop and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary...but has no idea what she's going to do next.

When Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke, Dora rushes home to Forsyth, NC and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. Surrounded by regal gowns, sexy sheaths, and Jackie-esque suits from decades gone by, Dora makes a curious discovery: Mimi had been secretly writing down and giving away stories about the dresses in her shop. Soon the clothes, her grandmother's legacies, and a handsome young contractor names Conrad begin to make her wonder...She can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

My thoughts: I loved this book - it was a fun, whimsical story that has made me want to run to the nearest vintage shop to find some shirt dresses to wear! Upon learning that her grandmother, Mimi, has suffered a stroke, Dora picks up and heads home to see Mimi and to take over the running of Mimi's vintage clothing shop. During this time, Dora comes to learn many things not only about Mimi, but about herself and her family. Watching Dora grow from an immature young girl with no real ambition, who takes life as it comes, into a mature, confident lady with a plan and a vision, was quite an emotional adventure. There were times when I was quite envious of Dora, getting to work in this vintage clothing shop - a shop with history and filled with interesting people.  

I absolutely loved finding out the histories of the dresses, told as each dress is bought/worn - it was so easy to picture the people who previously owned these garments as we learned the story. I only wish there were photos of the dresses. The cover is absolutely beautiful and was one of the things that drew me to this story - the other being that it was about vintage clothing! I am quite eager to now go check out the Erin McKean's web site, A Dress A Day which was the inspiration for this story. While this is Erin's first book, I hope it is not her last...I would love to see more about the histories of different vintage clothing pieces!

(I purchased this book.)


  1. I'm so glad to see you liked this book! I've seen mixed reviews, but I can't help but want to read it! In fact, want is too weak... I can't wait to read it! It seems like such fun :)

  2. @JP It was a fantastic book and I really hope the author writes more!!!

  3. Interesting, not something I would normally pick up. Awesome.

  4. I absolutely love the cover art! Your review makes me want to read it too.

  5. I love the review and it makes me want to read the book even more now - on the TBR list on Goodreads!

    Have a great week and please stop by if you get a chance and let me know what you think!

    Happy Reading :D


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