Book Review: The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

Thursday, January 13, 2011 Posted by Dina N

Book Description
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?

My Review 
Dora, the heroine of The Secret Lives of Dresses, has always been a go-with-the-flow kind of gal. Having lost her parents as a young child, she has learned the hard way how little control we have over life. She is smart and does well in school but her decision to start a graduate program has more to do with her crush on her boss at the college coffee shop rather than with her interest in her studies. Then her grandmother who had raised her is rushed to the hospital, and Dora goes back home to revisit her past and contemplate her future in more ways than one. There she finds out that the key to sorting out her complicated emotions over the loss of her parents, the passion of her grandmother for vintage clothing she never quite understood, and the path she seeks in her own life may just be hidden behind the racks of those old dresses...

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, as well as the atmosphere of the small North Carolina town. The Secret Lives of Dresses is a charming book about a girl who finally finds where she belongs - a place that's always been hidden in plain sight.

The Secret Lives of Dresses will be available from 5 Spot, a division of Hachette Book Group, on February 10.

Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Pricilla said...

    Sounds like another good one!

  2. G said...

    Thank you for your review! If I had just read the book description, I would never have known what the book was about.

  3. Patty said...

    Really sounds like something I'd like to read.

    patricia [dot] mariani [dot] esq [at] gmail [dot] com

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