Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker” as Want to Read:
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  14,365 ratings  ·  2,345 reviews
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Dutton (first published January 5th 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Seduction by M.J. RoseThe Aviator's Wife by Melanie BenjaminThe Firebird by Susanna KearsleyThe Midwife's Tale by Sam   ThomasThe White Princess by Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction 2013
52nd out of 611 books — 2,405 voters
Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenMe Before You by Jojo MoyesThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2013: What the Over 35s Have Read So Far
202nd out of 2,653 books — 323 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
What an excellent subject for a book, but the execution was too dry, too much telling, not enough dialogue and direct character interaction, and too much listing off of Civil War events and leaders. I wanted to get more into the internal thoughts and motivations of Elizabeth and Mrs. Lincoln, but it felt more like reading a textbook than a novel. I felt kept at a distance from the primary focus of the book. Not bad, but not my favorite.
Disclaimer: This review is based on an ARC edition of the novel I received from NetGalley.

Having never read Chiaverini before, I was free of most expectations but one. I thought the story was going to be about Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley. And, while ostensibly she narrates the novel, her personality and experience are almost non-existent.

The novel could rightly have been named "Mrs. Lincoln's Story, as Told by Her Dressmaker". The focus is so much on Mary Lincoln that Elizabeth'
Redundant and unnecessary book; most of the content consists of verbatim quoting of Mrs Keckley's memoirs, with no new original research to expand her character. Only the last 10% contains anything different from the memoirs, and it feels rushed and incomplete since the last thirty years of her life are condensed in the retelling. Very disappointing. As I read this book I kept thinking how much stronger the novel would be if it was written from the perspective of one of her apprentices. As it is ...more
I found it interesting to read the reviews of this book on Goodreads -- many say this book was too dry, and too unlike Jennifer Chiaverini's other books. This is exactly why I liked it. The book was more about history than dress making. And I love reading history books, the more true to history, the better. The first half was almost like watching the movie "Lincoln". This is how I visualized Mrs. Lincoln -- as Sally Fields played her in the movie. I've not read other biographies of Mrs Lincoln, ...more
The Book Maven
To me, historical fiction is like a Chinese buffet--for the most part, I will devour it. And sometimes it will be really, really enjoyable; usually it will be satisfying. And every once in a great while, it will leave--not food poisoning, but at the very least a bad taste in my mouth, and a feeling of bloat, and a frustration of "I wasted my calories (time) on this?"

With grody Chinese food, it's usually lo mein noodles. And with historical fiction, it's this book. It has been a very long time si
Sidney Hartley
I loved the idea of the book. But I just didn't feel the characters. I found it quite dull to read. It would have been much better had it focused on Elzabeth's past and then took us to her successful days as a dressmaker.
Karen Wyle
This book is called a novel, but it doesn't read like one. I was quite surprised to find, at the end, that the author has written many novels. This is "her first stand-alone work of historical fiction," and it is far more historical than fictional. It's essentially a historical account, sprinkled with occasional dialogue and superficial third person POV. It's almost all "tell," with only the occasional "show." Whatever structural characteristics a novel usually has, this book doesn't. (There are ...more
Nathalie S
I've read nearly all of Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek books so I was really looking forward to reading this new one, about Elizabeth Keckley, who was Mary Todd Lincoln's modiste or in other words, her dressmaker. This book did not disappoint. Jennifer has a real talent of bringing history alive. Elizabeth was born into slavery but through sheer hard work and determination, she was able to buy, not only her own freedom, but also the freedom of her son. I was very impressed by her and by her ama ...more
The long and the short of it

The short of it

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker was well written, kept my interest and introduced me to a period of history I knew very little about. For that reason, I am not in a position to comment on its historical authenticity. I found the book well researched and the author, Jennifer Chiaverini, provided an interesting and pretty extensive list of reference materials and books – some of which I hope to read at a later date.

Where I thought the book really shone was in
I found the book to be disappointing. I was expecting to hear the details of the former slave who was closest to the Lincoln family during their turbulent years in the white house. What I got was a mostly about Mrs Lincoln and the Civil War than about the life of Elizabeth Keckley. I would assume that a woman with the talent and ability to purchase freedom for herself and her son, would not have allowed her life to be wind up in shambles supporting Mrs Lincoln's whims instead of attending to her ...more
Three and a half stars: An interesting peek into the lives of two very different historical women.

Life hasn't always been easy for Elizabeth Keckley. She is a former slave who managed to buy her freedom and her son's as well. She is middle aged, estranged from her husband and building a dressmaking business in Washington D.C. Despite her difficulties, she endeavors to work hard and make the most of her opportunities. Her skills with the needle have landed her some prestigious clients, including
This story tells of the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley. Lizzie, a slave who bought the way out of slavery for both herself and her son did so using her sewing talents. She went on to sew for some of the elite woman in Washington D.C. When Mrs. Lincoln moved to The White House she chose Lizzie over many applicants to be her her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in th ...more
I have quite a fascination with Mary Todd Lincoln (I even have a shelf dedicated to her) and by default, have read about Elizabeth Keckley. One can imagine my excitement when Jennifer Chiaverini announced her stand-alone historical fiction novel, “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” depicting the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth from “Lizzie’s” point of view.

“Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” immediately dives into the storytelling of Elizabeth Keckley and the Civil Warm era in the US. One doesn’t have t
Had to give up, sorry to say! Chiaverini obviously did her research, unfortunately, there is little in terms of original story going on, at least up to the point I have reached. Not for me, I'm afraid.
While this book was a perfectly pleasant read, it lacked a certain amount of power that kept me up and reading until the wee hours of the morning. Instead of a historical fiction revealing the intimacy between Mrs. Lincoln and her dressmaker, Mrs. Keckley, the reader simply gets another side of Mrs. Lincoln and her extraordinarily difficult life.

It took some patience to work my way through this book. While Chiaverini paints a charming portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, the "main" character Mrs.
Kathy Pratt
I'm conflicted about writing a one star review. I'm an author, though none of my books are on the bestseller list. Still, I know how difficult writing can be and I appreciate all the effort that goes into writing a book. In the past, I haven't written bad reviews even when I didn't care for a book. My criticism isn't about how well the book is written, or about it being a good story. I'd rate it higher on both those counts. My criticism is because I feel that Ms. Chiaverini basically plagiarized ...more
Graham Crawford
I just finished Gore Vidal's Lincoln a few weeks ago and wanted to read more about the fascinating Mrs Keckley. Alas "Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker" was the wrong book for me. From the first page I could see the writing was not just simple (simple can work well in a mythic way), it was simplistic. Normally I would not waste my time writing a review for hack pulp like this, but I persevered with this book and my irritation turned to loathing. Mrs Keckley's story is an important one, and someone still ...more
Maureen Timerman
This is not the first, nor will it be the last book, that I have read by Jennifer Chiaverini. This story is a about the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley.
Lizzie was very skilled with a needle and became very much in demand in Washington DC. She offered to be almost exclusive to Mrs Lincoln, and they formed a very personal relationship. We travel with them through the beginning of the Civil War and beyond the assassination.
I felt like I was living right there, as
What an interesting book! Elizabeth Keckley was born a slave in 1818. She was impregnated by her owner and bore a son. After being a slave for almost 38 years, she was able to save enough money to purchase freedom for herself and her son. She moved to Washington City (D.C.) and set up a business as a modiste (dressmaker). She was a very fine seamstress and was soon in demand to make dresses for the cream of Washington society. One of her favorite clients was the wife of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Mr ...more
Becky Loader
I came to this book with an acknowledged bias: I am an admirer of Mrs. Lincoln. I am also a Civil War re-enactor, so keep those two items in mind when you read my review.

I have read two of Chiaverini's Elm Creek quilt series. This is a stand-alone book.

The book has a slow start, then it picks up when the author brings in the larger picture of the War and how it is impacting the characters' lives. The author has done her research, and the incidents she uses are factual and verifiable in reliable
Jane Buchbauer
I enjoyed Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. It was a gentle glimpse into the world of an unlikely friendship. In the midst of a world where race made interpersonal relationships so complicated, it was interesting to see Elizabeth Keckley's roll as dressmaker and confidante to an increasingly unstable Mary Lincoln, first, develop, then, fall to pieces over, sadly, poor decisions. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in historical fiction based in this time period but not an especially enterta ...more
Mar 08, 2013 Christine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans
I enjoyed every minute of Chiaverini's first foray into non-serial historical fiction. It is an intimate, well-researched look into the Lincoln White House and the life of Mrs. Lincoln's close friend and confidante Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave. Particularly fascinating was Mary Todd Lincoln's life after her husband's tragic assassination. Now I need to read Keckly's real life memoir, which caused such an uproar when it was published--Behind The Scenes. Nobody believed at the time that a form ...more
Elizabeth Keckley was a freed slave and talented dressmaker living in Washington before and during the Civil War. As Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, she had an inside view of the Lincoln's and life in the
White House. I liked the details and the way people viewed themselves. For example, the hope was that free successful black men could receive the vote before others. It was an interesting read but a little slow in parts.
Skip this book and read Elizabeth Keckley's own words in "Behind the Scenes" which is available for free at Google Books. This novel is heavily based on Keckley's book and if Keckley were still alive I think she could sue for copyright infringement.
This is a novel based on the book, "Behind the Scenes" written by Elizabeth Keckley. The historical facts of Keckley's life are skillfully woven into a story about one of the most fascinating periods of American history. Elizabeth Keckley was born into slavery, but through her excellent skill as a needle woman and dress maker, was able to purchase her own freedom and that of her son. Eventually, Elizabeth moved to Washington D.C. and became a dressmaker for some of the most notable female figure ...more
I expected to read of a relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley as one of equals - if not in the eyes of then-current public prejudices, at least in the hearts of the two women. Instead, the first part of the book is mostly a tale of Mrs. Lincoln's complaining, overspending, and behaving erratically. Elizabeth functions mainly to listen to it all and constantly soothe a woman who frankly would be beyond the patience of almost anyone. Emotionally, Elizabeth see ...more
OCLS Staff Picks
This historical fiction novel tells the story of the Civil War and the Lincoln family from the perspective of Mary Todd Lincoln’s modiste and close confidante, Elizabeth Keckley. She was born a slave, bought her way to freedom, and became Washington DC’s most respected dressmaker. This novel shows her as a prominent member of the free African American community and a shrewd business woman.

Jennifer Chiaverini does a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life while imparting knowledge about
A few years back I read Ann Rinaldi's "An Unlikely Friendship." It was an engaging young adult book that flipped back and forth between Mary Todd Lincoln's life and that of her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley. Both women led uniquely tragic lives so it was a good read. When I saw that Chiavernini wrote a book on the same topic, I was intrigued. I have read many of her Elm Creek Quilt books and find her to be a hit or miss author. This book was a definite miss. I only made it seventy six pages. It ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Denise rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in historical fiction, the Civil War, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.
When I ordered this book I thought it was the next Elm Creek Quilt book. When I received it I found out that it isn't an Elm Creek book but is Jennifer's first stand-alone historical novel. I have never really been much of a Civil War reader, neither fiction nor non-fiction, so I was a little sceptical about how I would feel about this book. I will say to author Jennifer Chiaverini: WELL DONE!

Although this was a book set during the Civil War, it was written from the perspective of a former slave
Joy H.
Jan 29, 2014 Joy H. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joy H. by: Recommended by Mary Ann E.
Added 11/4/13.
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker (2013) by Jennifer Chiaverini

Our local book group in the Adirondacks selected this book for one of its monthly discussions.

11/11/13 - I just started reading this book. It's an interesting approach to historical fiction about the civil war era.

1/29/14 - I finished reading this book today. It took a long time to finish because I didn't find it compelling. However, it was interesting enough to keep me reading a bit at a time, in between other books.

Below is a
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2015 Reading Chal...: Mrs Lincon's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini 1 10 Aug 24, 2015 06:03PM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 4 Nov 19, 2014 03:21PM  
¿Por qué no una traducción al Español? 1 3 Oct 22, 2014 03:46PM  
Translation to Spanish, why not? 1 9 Jul 07, 2014 06:04PM  
  • Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: The Unlikely Friendship of Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln
  • The Last Runaway
  • The Midwife's Tale (Midwife Mysteries, #1)
  • Seduction (Reincarnationist, #5)
  • Widow of Gettysburg (Heroines Behind the Lines #2)
  • Shadow on the Crown
  • I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War
  • The Ambassador's Daughter (The Kommandant's Girl, #0.5)
  • The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)
  • The Daring Ladies of Lowell
  • The Typewriter Girl
  • Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate
  • Benjamin Franklin's Bastard: A Novel
  • All Things New
  • Songs of Willow Frost
  • The White Princess (The Cousins' War,  #5)
  • Crossing on the Paris
  • Becoming Josephine
Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Se ...more
More about Jennifer Chiaverini...

Share This Book

“She would almost prefer to fold her arms and sink into an eternal slumber, so that the great longing of her soul for peaceful rest would at last be gratified.” 1 likes
“Mr Lincoln suggested that the Lord sent us this terrible war as punishment for the offense of slavery and that the war may be a mighty scourge to rid US of it” 1 likes
More quotes…