The Secret Lives of Dresses, by Erin McKean

It seemed only natural that I The Secret Lives of Dresses, by Erin McKean, would fall into my lap. Recommended to me because of my recent reading of A Vintage Affair, I was immediately drawn to the idea of a young woman who takes over her grandmother’s vintage dress store and discovers that many of the dresses have “secret lives,” stories about them written from the point-of-view of the dress. Each dress has it’s own story, though it can only tell the parts it “sees” while it is being worn or, at the very least, when it is out of the closet.

Dora, the main character, returns to her hometown from her last semester at college when she finds out the grandmother who raised her has had a stroke. While Mimi, her grandmother, is in the hospital Dora initially goes into the store to give herself something to do to take her mind off the hospital stay. She ends up falling in love with the store, and with wearing the vintage clothing her grandmother has saved for her as kind of a dowry (and a wardrobe I would kill for, if the descriptions were accurate). During this time Dora learns to love the vintage store, and to want to continue running it, she meets the man of her dreams (but isn’t aware of it at first, of course), and finds a family among the people around her.

Though it was interesting to read about Dora and her adventures, I was truly fascinated by the idea of the secret lives of the dresses. I found it particularly interesting how it seemed that the more mundane the dress, the better story it seemed to have (this was not something that got explained, but my theory is because your everyday-wear “sees” more light than anything else, and therefore has more stories to tell).

After reading this book, I was really happy to find The Written Wardrobe, a feature of Modcloth in which people tell stories about the clothes they’ve worn. I’m sure I’ll spend many hours reading all about them.

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