Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

The Secret Lives of Dresses
The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

Release Date:
February 10, 2011
Publisher: 5Spot/Hachette Book Group
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 290
Source: ARC for review from Publisher
Challenge: 111 Challenge
Buy the Book: Book Depository

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 falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.

Just when she's about to test Gary's feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora's life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman's spirit.

While working there, Dora befriends Mimi's adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down--and giving away--stories of the dresses in her shop?

When Mimi dies, Dora can't get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?
I asked for this book because it looked interesting and I thought it would be a cute read. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the characters and get so emotional while reading it. The Secret Lives of Dresses is an absolutely fabulous read: you have such great description of the vintage dresses, mixed with the crazy emotions that an unexpected romance can bring and add a little dash of humour and voila you have the perfect story for a hopeless romantic like myself.  There were also some great pop culture references for my age group: The Princess Bride and Buffy! How did Ms. McKean know to mix those into the story at just the right times? 

I absolutely loved Dora from the start. She has a great sense of humour and a longing to be loved, but seems to fall for the wrong guys. It's wonderful to see her grow, learn what she wants to do with her life and be so brave and courageous to fight for what she believes in. I don't think she really knew what she wanted to do until she came back to the dress shop. It's like she has found the sense of home that she was looking for all along. Add in a seriously cute and dreamy contractor, a quirky and eclectic store clerk, a gossipy elderly friend and you have a recipe for some great reading.

The best part of the entire novel was reading the secret lives of the dresses. As each dress was sold from the store a secret life was given away with it. They were so eloquently written and honestly I wish there were pictures of the dresses to go with the stories, though the author does do a great job with describing the different dress styles throughout the book. It actually makes you want to go find your fanciest dress and get all dolled up for the afternoon just to wonder what your dress would say about you or where it had been before.

I have already recommended this book to a few of my friends and will be sending my copy off to my best friend for her to read, because I know it is right up her alley. I already know that I will be buying a finished copy of this book when it comes out in February. It is going to be added to my favourites list.


  1. I'll be waiting by the mailbox until it arrives! Can't wait to read it :)

  2. First time I hear of this book but it sounds really good! I'll add it to my wishlist ;)

    Thanks for the review!

  3. I'd like to award you the Stylish Blogger award, congratulations! Keep up the great work. You can find out about the award here: Feel free to pass it on or just know your blog makes me happy. :)
    Katie x

  4. I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds great!
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog


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