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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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The Secret Lives of Dresses Paperback – February 10, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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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: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yeah, it's mediocre chick-lit. I could say more but really that is all you need to know. If that's what you're in the mood for then read it and if not pick up something else.

Hmm, I am not known for my terse reviews so I'll go a bit further. The novel starts out with the protagonist lacking style, purpose and direction and as the story progresses she gains all three. Sadly the story itself seems to have the reverse progression. The basic idea behind the story that clothes have lives of their own with back stories that influence the present day wearer is interesting and I actually liked the little vignettes that were interspersed throughout the story, but I never felt they were a part of the story. There is a reason that people say that "the clothes make the man" (or in this case woman). It is true that we feel different when we dress differently and every morning when we awake we generate a new person by the simple choice of what to wear, but that is only touched upon in the lightest way. The main character seems to almost accidentally generate her new persona as opposed to it being a true journey of discovery.

I'd really rather it just have been about the secret lives of dresses or about recognizing and discovering oneself through adversity. Either of those could have been good books, but together it just didn't quite jell.
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If you liked the Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff and the Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen then you'll like this book. This is a coming of age story about a girl about to graduate college who is trying to figure out where she fits in. The book is filled with beautiful dresses, some southern charm, and good writing. It's a lighthearted book (despite the fact that the story line about her grandmother's stroke is more serious). Upbeat enough to be escapism, but written with enough skill to be very enjoyable and leaving you feeling satisfied.
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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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Dora is in college, and has been somewhat aimless in her goals in life. She has a crush on the graduate student manager of the coffee shop she works in and effectively runs. Her parents died when she was young and she was raised primarily by her grandmother Mimi who has a vintage clothing store. When Mimi has a stroke, she heads back home and takes on running the store while waiting for her grandmother's condition to change. She is surprised to find that some of the clothing articles have "secret lives" written up by Mimi and is intrigued by the stories. As she tries to figure things out, she meets Con, a contractor who is good friends with her grandmother and starts to develop feelings for him. When things start to fall apart, she must decide which way her future will go; to graduate school and possibilities with Gary, or to stay with the shop. A few roadblocks happen along the way, twisting the story before its inevitable conclusion. I was intrigued by the secret lives idea and wish it had been more developed. Some of the secondary characters were rather cartoonish, but there was fairly good development of the primary group. A fun, if not deep book, that was a pleasant read.
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