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The Secret Lives of Dresses Paperback – February 10, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: 5 Spot; 1 edition (February 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044655572X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446555722
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blogger McKean's retro fashion-forward coming-of-age debut follows Dora Winston as she sashays toward a degree in "vagueness studies" while engaged in a fruitless flirtation with her coffee shop boss. She's got no idea what to do with her life, and then her adored grandmother, Mimi, has a stroke, and Dora is whisked back to Mimi's vintage clothing store, where she learns more about Mimi, thanks to the secret (and ploddingly overwritten) stories Mimi has stashed away on pieces of paper stuck in the pockets of her most intriguing inventory. Flashbacks flesh out Mimi's wisdom and wit, while store workers Gabby and Maux complete the trilogy of strong and funny women who run the business and help Dora find her way. The prose hovers somewhere below lackluster, however, and Dora's journey is as comfortable and unsurprising as a favorite sweater. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

College junior Dora drops everything, including her iPod, to rush home after hearing that the grandmother who raised her, her beloved Mimi, has had a stroke. Once there, she runs Mimi’s, a vintage clothing store, to honor her love for the hospitalized owner. Romance abounds in this fun novel set in western North Carolina. The story gets its suspense from Dora’s crushes, the dippy Gary she left back at college and the newly met Con. Whom will she choose? And, of course, there are the greedy relatives who try to take over the store. But she has wonderful friends to support her as well as a considerable amount of pluckiness of her own. This book originated on McKean’s blog,A Dress a Day, which is currently archiving volumes about the secret lives of 18 dresses from the dresses’ points of view. Those “biographies,” given to the new owners of vintage outfits, are amusing and intriguing additions to the plot. Romance readers and fans of small-town fiction will love this positive and enjoyable book. --Ellen Loughran

More About the Author

Erin McKean is the founder of Wordnik.com. Previously, she was the editor in chief for American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, and the editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2E.

Her books include Weird and Wonderful Words, More Weird and Wonderful Words, Totally Weird and Wonderful Words, and That's Amore (which is also a collection of words). The Secret Lives of Dresses is her first novel, and really, her first book where the words are arranged in something other than alphabetical order.

Erin lives in California south of San Francisco and spends her free time reading, sewing, blogging, roller-skating, and arguing about whether robots or zombies would win in a fight (lasers optional). She loves loud prints, quiet people, long books with happy endings, and McVitie's Milk Chocolate Hobnobs.

Customer Reviews

What a lovely, wonderful story with great characters.
Kelly Williams
There was little character development, and I felt that the story was a little too predictable.
An
I highly recommend it, especially for a beach read or vacation read.
Annie Downs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children on February 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
Erin McKean's book, The Secret Lives of Dreses, is a book about love and embracing who you are. Her female characters transcend stereotypes, going beyond the typical catty females represented in the book, to include some interesting, believable women who have a bond of love and support not often seen in the literary world. Just as the women are more than what they appear, so too are the dresses in the story - a journey to finding one's self and embracing it.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By redside on January 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
In this engaging and uplifting book, a young woman finds her life's calling and identity by examining the power of clothing to change lives. This is a must-read for all of those interested in vintage fashion!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lori Caswell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dora was brought up by her grandmother, Mimi, after losing her parents when she was a child. After graduating high school she just seemed to be going through the motions, she attends the college that offered her a scholarship with a major of liberal studies, unsure of what she truly wanted to do in the future. Her planned summer job falls through, but then a job at a coffee shop with a hunky boss just falls into her lap. She is thinking of graduating early and attending grad school, but still is moving through life just day to day.

Then she receives a call, she has to return back home, her grandmother has suffered a stroke. Dora drops everything and returns to Forsyth, North Carolina with just the clothes on her back. This is't a problem though because she has a full closet at her grandmother's house, but it not your typical closet full of clothes, the closet is full of vintage dresses. Mimi runs a vintage dress shop and she has always brought home dresses she thinks would look great on Dora. As a child Dora played "dress up" with these clothes, but now with Mimi in the hospital, Dora must take over things at the dress shop and Mimi requires employees of the shop wear vintage clothing so she gets to wear the dresses out in public. Dora had been brought up being taught that a vintage dress can life a woman's spirit no matter the problem.

While working at the store she meets Mimi's friends and selfish relatives seem to appear out of the woodwork. But the best thing about working at the store was learning that some of the dresses came complete with their own story. Mimi had been writing the stories and giving them away to the customer who purchased the corresponding dress.

I LOVED IT!!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Loves to Read on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after reading all the good reviews. I am really surprised that so many people liked this book. I thought the premise was good but the actual story line is boring. The stories about the dresses would have been good if there was actually some truth to the stories rather than make/believe.
The character development is also weak--how old is Con? There are so many unanswered questions and no suspense. I found myself skimming toward the end of the book.

Read A Vintage Affair instead--it is much more entertaining.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Casto on February 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dora has lived with her grandmother Mimi, since the age of one when her parents were killed in a freak accident. Dora is in college, but really she has no idea what she wants to do with her life, she chose her college based on the fact that they offered her a scholarship. When a planned summer job falls thru, an on campus coffee shop job falls in her lap. She is kind of crushing on her boss Gary, a grad student, but since he flirts with everyone she isn't sure how he feels about her.

When Dora gets a call from back home informing her that her grandmother Mimi has suffered a stroke, she drops everything and heads home, not even taking time to pack. Mimi runs a vintage clothing store and has always brought home dresses from her store for Dora, hoping that Dora would one day wear them. Due to the severity of Mimi's condition Dora needs to step in and take over the running of the clothing store.One of the neatest things Dora discovers is that her grandmother had been giving some of the dresses in her store personal histories and passing them on to the customer when they purchased the dress.

When Conrad, a friend of her grandmothers who is also a contractor renovating the apartments above the shop starts popping in Dora finds a friend as well as a strong shoulder to lean on. Dora finally comes to the realization that she wants to run Mimi's shop permanetly but dreaded relatives swoop in and want to change everything.

I can't say enough good things about this story! I loved Dora, she starts out as a girl with no true direction in her life, but when her grandmother needs her she doesn't hesitate.While her backstory was sad, I didn't feel sorry for her because she had Mimi and Gabby.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. N. on March 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
I was hoping that this would be like A Vintage Affair, however it was not nearly as good.

The premise behind the book was solid. Dora was orphaned as a young girl and raised by her grandmother. As such, they are quite close. Despite this fact, Dora and her grandmother have had their problems. Dora has always insisted on living her own life, dancing to her own tune. When her Grandmother gets sick, Dora moves home to take over her Grandmother's vintage dress shop. Obviously she learns some things about herself during the novel, and eventually comes to the conclusion there her Grandmother was right all along.

As said, the premise was solid. The execution was a little off though. I liked the main characters, and the secondary characters were interesting without being distracting. I liked the fact that her Grandmother had a vintage dress shop, although little was actually said about the clothes. What I didn't like though was the dress stories.

One of the twists the author threw in was these little stories about the dresses, about the former lives of the dresses. While this could have been really cute, I felt like the stories interrupted the flow of the novel and added nothing to the plot or character development. Further, while the rest of the novel was well-written, these little stories felt disjointed. The novel would have been significantly better without this extra little stories.

So, I find myself not able to really recommend this book. It was simply ok.
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