Review: The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: February 2011
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Format: Paperback , 292pp
  • Sales Rank: 107,002


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 Thoughts

I love the cover of this book, it drew me in, and I think that even if the blip from the back of the book didn’t draw me in I would have had to have read it just because of the cover.  Kudos to whom ever chose this design!

Okay, on to the book.  I enjoyed the story of Dora but also found a couple of things just a little confusing.  I feel like I may have missed something or that it is just missing in the story. 

Things I enjoyed about this story.  Erin McKean did a great job of telling the reader exactly who Dora was and how she got to where she was in life.  Dora grew up in her grandmother’s care after her parents died when she was very young and she knows very little about them.  She is a college student who has taken the “vagueness of studies” and is working at a coffee shop where she has a crush on her boss, Gary, who only dates graduate students and flirts with everyone, much to Dora’s dismay.  I felt that I could connect with Dora right away as she is racing home when she finds out her grandmother has suffered a stroke.  Needless to say, her life is about to change.  While she is home, she starts to wear that clothes that her grandmother has been putting aside for her for years and working in the vintage clothing store her grandmother owns, where she discovers the secret stories her grandmother has written and begun to give out about certain outfits.  I love these stories, they are wonderful and painful all at the same time.  I love “watching” Dora grow up in this short amount of time while her grandmother is deathly ill.

This is where I get confused.  As Dora is working in the shop one day, in come an attractive man named Con, who is a contractor working on the apartment above the store and friends with Dora’s grandmother, Mimi.  What I cannot figure out is the age of this man.  Is he an older man perusing Dora or is he closer in age and was just friendly with Mimi.  It is just odd and I could never really figure it out.  Anyhow, Con and Dora begin to spend time together and Con helps Dora to deal with the stress of her sick grandmother. 

What happens from here has great flow but if I was to say any more it would spoil the book and that would be no fun.  I will say that my favorite part of this story was reading the stories that have been written for the different dresses.  They are amazing and written from the perspective of the dress itself and what it “sees” and “experiences”.  I think that this was a great idea it really makes this book unique, which I love!

My Rating

3.5 of 5 stars. I would recommend this book, but I do not think it is one that I would reread.

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