With a swish and a tart sashay, Erin McKean rustles and sways into our lives with The Secret Life of Dresses. This novel brought the swirly tulle out in me – pink tulle like a ballerina’s tutu. And I wore it all day, wondering about its secret life!
Erin McKean’s novel presents a gift – a tart and saucy novel that starts on the page and ends in the heart. Uplifting, heartfelt and downright adorable, the novel is big on good plain fabric with a twist of silk thread!
Dora leaves behind Lymond College in a rush from her summer job in a coffee house managed by Gary, who titillates her heartstrings. She’s ready to graduate early and has applied to grad school, when her Grandmother Mimi’s housemate, Gabby, calls her home. Mimi has suffered a debilitating stroke and lies in the hospital, unresponding.
As Dora takes over Mimi’s beloved vintage store while Mimi lies unconscious, she remembers how much she loved working with Mimi all through her childhood. The store is in her pores. Dora’s parents died when she was just a baby in a car accident, and Mimi is her only parent. Dora has always resisted any sense of fashion, as well as any direction in her life. She is a Liberal Arts major at a college where she feels totally unmoored and disinterested. But now she has to meet Mimi’s friends, and all the small town people she left behind. And as she does, she understands the legacy Mimi has left her.
Maux, who works in the store part-time, is raucous, joyous and as uncontainable as the vintage clothes themselves. Confident Maux quickly becomes Dora’s best friend. Con, who is working for tenants of the building where the store resides, woos her. However, it is the dresses themselves that mesmerize Dora. Mimi has taught her all her life that certain dresses belong on certain customers, that they must be introduced as carefully as bride and groom. And it’s Dora’s job to make the match. Another secret unfolds itself when Dora learns that Mimi keeps envelopes on many of the dresses. And that the envelopes contain stories written by each dress. The stories carry the lives of their owners and mistresses. As Dora, Maux, Gabby and Con attend to the needs of their customers and their lives, Mimi dies. Dora decides to quit school and work at the store – but Mimi’s will designates the store to Dora’s evil Aunt Camille who wants to turn the store into Rodeo Drive.
As Dora meets her challenges, she finds her way. Mimi has never spoken of her parents, and when she finds out that Mimi’s son, her father, has written the stories for her beloved dresses, Dora finds the strength to fight for what she wants. As she, Maux and Gabby find love in the aisles, we all cheer them on.
In a lovely novel reminiscent of Fannie Flagg, we become entwined and enfolded in the pleats and folds of Mimi’s dresses and Dora’s life. Entrancing and delightful, this novel is like wearing a beautiful vintage gown – with its own story! Great job Ms. McKean, and thank you for signing my copy of this book. I treasure it.
The Secret Lives of Dresses can be purchased on Amazon.com and at other bookstores nationwide.
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.
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