Lauren's Reviews > The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean
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Jan 29, 12

bookshelves: 2012-reads
Read from January 26 to 29, 2012

After finishing A Discovery of Witches earlier in the week, The Secret Lives of Dresses came off as… cute. If I hadn’t just finished a book that threw my entire world for a loop and made me positively itching for the next installment, I would have probably had stronger feelings towards this one, but as it is, I am simply left with the word ‘cute’.

The Secret Lives of Dresses follows Dora, a soon-to-be college graduate, as she copes with her grandmother’s failing health. After hearing about “Mimi’s” stroke, Dora rushes home to be by her side and take over her vintage dress store. As she works in the store, memories of her childhood with Mimi are resurrected, and Dora realizes how lucky she was to have grown up surrounded by her love. She also realizes how little has changed since she left for college: she’s still the aimless, wandering girl of her youth without any idea what to do with her life. While mending clothing, steaming dresses, and organizing the shop, she stumbles upon the “secret lives”: stories from the dresses, full of personality, describing how they were bought, who they lived with, and what they had seen in their lives before coming to the store. In the world she took for granted as a child, Dora begins to blossom into the woman her grandmother always hoped she would be, surprising everyone but Mimi.

Mimi is the kind of mother I aspire to be one day. She is a character with a huge personality, but yet the kind of sweet, compassionate woman you can go to with any trouble in your life. When Dora is sick as a child, Mimi gives her a get-better brooch. When Dora is heartbroken as a teen, Mimi sits her down to watch Audrey Hepburn classics. I found myself writing down quotation after quotation from Mimi because she is such a wealth of knowledge and hard-earned advice.

While Mimi is a great character, some of the others were less developed. In particular, a lot of the villainous characters in the book seemed like they could have been plucked right out of a sitcom or a romantic comedy; they were just there to cause aggravation for the readers. And let me tell you: I was aggravated. There were a few points in my reading that my blood was boiling so much, I had to put the book down and breathe. Dora, while a sweet girl, is spineless and timid, letting people walk all over her. The reader is forced to watch as Dora pines after a womanizing cad of a man and lets him take advantage of her. When distant family members arrive, Dora continues to play the role of doormat, and I just wanted to leap right into the pages of the book and give them all a stern talking-to.

Thankfully, when Dora begins to blossom towards the end of the book, she finds her backbone again and becomes a more likable character. That’s not to say that she isn’t likable during the rest of the book, just a little too meek for my taste.

One thing I particularly liked about this book was the ending. It’s worth reading just for the little gem on the last few pages. It also has a pretty good epilogue. I’m not a big fan of the things myself, but this one pretty accurately summed everything up for me.

This is a book I would recommend for romantic comedy lovers. It was a sweet, endearing book, but nothing particularly special. While an enjoyable read, it certainly isn’t one I would consider re-reading in the future. It’s safe. Happy, cute, and safe.
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Quotes Lauren Liked

Erin McKean
“It doesn’t really matter [if she ever wears the dress], as long as she loves it. She’ll wear it a hundred times in her imagination before she even tries it on again. As long as she has the option of wearing it, she’ll be happy.”
Erin McKean, The Secret Lives of Dresses

Erin McKean
“This isn’t a thrift store… We’re not selling them something less expensive, we’re selling them something more special. We have to tell them the story of what we’re showing them. And then we have to show them how they can be the new heroine in the story.”
Erin McKean, The Secret Lives of Dresses


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Susan My feelings exactly!


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