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The Secret Lives of Dresses

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  5,397 ratings  ·  854 reviews
‘Every dress has a story.
Let me tell you mine...’

Dora is in love with a man who barely notices her, has a job she doesn’t care about, and dresses entirely for comfort, not style. All a far cry from her vivid, eccentric childhood, growing up with her beloved grandmother Mimi.

However, when disaster strikes, Dora knows she has no choice but to return to her childhood home and
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  5,397 ratings  ·  854 reviews

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Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
3.5 Stars

I love vintage clothing and hats! On my closet shelf, many sassy hats from the 30s, 40s, and 50s sit in protective bags while a few prized dresses and suit pieces hang on wooden hangers waiting for the right occasion to be worn. A couple of been thrown out: the yellow sun-dress that witnessed my son’s father breaking my heart. I haven’t worn yellow since. The Aqua jumpsuit witnessed my humiliation – I got fired from my broadcasting job. My kids News Telecast had been cancelled. There
Oct 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chick-lit, probable
I read this book a while ago and just, well, I forgot completely about it. This is the story of a lost college girl who is in love in love with her uber-flirty boss at the college coffee shop. Dora is smart, organized, and one assumes pretty. But she’s the 90s chick flick kind of pretty where she doesn’t know it and neither do the boys because she dresses all frumpy. She was raised by her grandmother, Mimi, in a microscopic town where Mimi owned and operated a vintage clothing store. Adorable. ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2011
The best word I can use to describe this book is “vanilla”. It’s enjoyable, in that I read through 100 pages without realizing it, but ultimately boring and forgettable. I wasn’t attached to any of the characters, and none of them really had a distinct personality. Dora showed some spunk, but not enough for me to feel any emotional attachment to her, and I don’t feel like she grew at all as a character. It was the same with the plot; it plodded along slowly, but nothing ever really happened. ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it

I didn't think I would like this book very much... the title was the only thing that did capture me, but it must of done something at sometime for me to pick up and purchase... but I was after something lighter to read and also to try not to read a book in a series.

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean was a surprising delight to read. Dora heads back to her childhood home when her grandmother is hit by a stroke and in a coma. Dora takes over running her grandmothers vintage clothing store
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it
The Secret Lives of Dresses is best described as "cute" and "fun." The dresses are described well and when you get to the actual "lives" of the dresses, they are all quite interesting.

However, the human characters fall short of the dresses. Dora, the main character, is a lost, drifting college student with no aim in life. When her grandmother (who raised her) falls ill, Dora drops everything to go home. Seriously, she drops everything: school, her job, her life, her clothes, her identity.

Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
Quick summary: bleh.

This story starts out well enough. Dora, college student nearing her graduation, must return home when the grandmother who raised her suffers a stroke. Dora ends up running her grandmother’s vintage dress shop as she tries to decide what to do with her life. She discovers that her grandmother has been writing “secret lives” for many of the vintage dresses that she gives out to the customers who buy the dresses.

I liked the idea for the book, but I didn’t really think it was
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love the cover of this book, it drew me in, and I think that even if the blip from the back of the book didn't draw me in I would have had to have read it just because of the cover. Kudos to whom ever chose this design!

Okay, on to the book. I enjoyed the story of Dora but also found a couple of things just a little confusing. I feel like I may have missed something or that it is just missing in the story.

Things I enjoyed about this story. Erin McKean did a great job of telling the reader
Sarah Goodwin
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read thirty pages of this book, just to try and give it a chance. But no, I won't be reading anymore.

I understand the book is based on a blog, and I guess the idea of the stories behind the dresses is a good one. Probably quite interesting.

The framing device of the novel is not interesting. Dora seems weird from the get go, because after running out on work mid-day and driving non-stop to get to her grandmother, she then stops for a makeover and a shower.

The start of the book is exposition
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The premise of this book is great! Vintage dresses, a little romance, a dash of family drama, it was set to be a perfect read. While I did enjoy it, I didn't love it. The stories each dress told were wonderful. It helped move along the story between the main character and her grandmother. Where it hit a snag for me was the the family conflict. I spent a large part of the book waiting for the resolution to the conflict and rooting for the heroine. Once it finally arrived it seemed so ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Fun, different story. Light hearted. Great characters. Some unnecessary f-words. Relatively predictable ending. Very enjoyable quick read.
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
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
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will own up to some anti-chick-lit snobbery. I'm not proud, but there it is. If a book has a picture of women's shoes or clothes on it, or a baby rattle, or whatever, that's a pass for me. So I'm not sure how I ended up with this except it was Friday afternoon and I didn't feel well and I wanted something light to get me through the weekend. I don't think I actually thought, "Please don't be dumb," but we might as well assume I did. Now, having confessed that, I am examining my prejudices.

I thought I was going to love this book, and I really wanted to love it. I only liked it. The story is unique (to me anyway). Some of the flashbacks were confusing. I'd be a few sentences in when I'd have to stop and go back because I'd gotten confused so when I'd go back and re-read, it was then that I would realize that it was a flashback. I didn't care for the stories of the dresses. With the exception of the last (and most relevant) one, they were all sad or negative. I would have liked to ...more
This was really cute and somehow really quite sad at the same time and somehow the contrast worked well for me.

Dora is an intelligent young woman who is graduating early from college, secretly in love with her boss and completely clueless about what she wants to do with her life until it all crashes down around her when she gets a phonecall that the grandmother who raised her has had a stroke and is badly ill in hospital. Dora goes home and it's there that she kinda grows into herself.

I won't
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm surprising myself with the 4 stars and can't explain why. It's more a 3.5 I suppose, but I did enjoy it overall. I think it helped me to not have any idea what the book was about before I read it. I didn't read the blurb I just picked it up and read it - no expectations. The title was mildly intriguing and I'd looked past it on my (ebook) bookshelf for a few years before finally reaching for (clicking on!) it.

I enjoyed the storyline and the quirky characters. I loved the idea of the secret
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm going to coin a new genre called "orphaned girl with quarterlife-crisis return home to ailing/lonely/dead grandmother and rediscover themselves amongst a pile of the grandmothers cache (clothes, books...) as well as snag a cute hometown boy who falls hopeless in love with the new-to-town girl."

On occasion, I do like these books, especially those that add a dash of whimsy (many deal with cooking) but I found this book contrived and soap-operay. It'd be good for a day at the beach and a book
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must say the stories about the secret lives of the dresses really made this book for me. Otherwise, the characters were flat, the storyline predictable.
This was the October selection for one of my book clubs.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Interesting to see the reviews. Perhaps listening to it via audio is the key. I listened to a Bolinda Audio Recording and now very much looking forward to visiting a vintage store, trying and speculating the secret life of the dress. And If I'm lucky...maybe I'll find the one.
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I asked for this book because it looked interesting and I thought it would be a cute read. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the characters and get so emotional while reading it. The Secret Lives of Dresses is an absolutely fabulous read: you have such great description of the vintage dresses, mixed with the crazy emotions that an unexpected romance can bring and add a little dash of humour and voila you have the perfect story for a hopeless romantic like myself. There were also ...more
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teagan C.
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is centred on the life of Dora, who, after her grandmother suffers an accident, must return to her home town and run her grandmother’s dress shop. Despite some of the circumstances in the book it is still a relatively light read, probably a good in-between book for those who are more partial to heavier novels. I wouldnt go out of my way to recommend it though, it was reasonably enjoyable but not a REALLY good book that I’ll remember. I’m not partial to first-person narrative but this ...more
a delightful and quick read.

dora is raised by her grandmother mimi after losing her parents as an infant. mimi has a shop that sells vintage dresses. it is in this atmosphere rich with history and fashion in which dora grows up.

dora is a senior in college when mimi has a stroke and is bedridden. dora immediately returns home and without thinking twice, takes over the store. it is in these weeks of caring for her grandmother and looking over the shop that dora realizes her place in life.

one of
Amanda Kimball
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

Loved, loved, loved this book! Beautifully descriptive and heart wrenching. I loved watching Dora come into her own! Gabby and Con were the perfect side characters and Camille was a great villain (just wish they would've really given it to her. I loved that we knew and connected to Mimi without knowing her in a present sense.

Can't wait to read more from this author.
Light summer read. I love the concept and enjoyed the lives of the dresses. Dora's story was a little predictable, but good for a beach story. Would have liked to know more about the dresses or Dora's parents, so while I enjoyed the book, I also saw a potential for a deeper and more interesting book that had to compete with Dora's early twenty angst.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I stumbled upon this book and decided to take a chance on it... am sure glad I did. This was a very light hearted story that I was able to finish in a day because I was so drawn by the story. It was a bit typical of a story, sure, but the signature little touches that the author added were fantastic. Definitely worth the read.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've been following Erin McKean's blog for several years now, and I love her writing style. Her novel does not disappoint, with a sweet story and great characters. The love story is second to the main plot, but still fulfilling and believable. This is a book I will probably read again; just for the descriptions of the clothes!
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this simple story of a late bloomer finding her place in the world. By the middle of the novel I wanted to go out and purchase a few vintage outfits and drop my usual t'shirt and converse look, at least for a day.
Britt Hanson
Though I'm not going to put this on my "recommended books" shelf, it was still a cute and fun read. If someone wanted to read it, I would say go ahead. It was a fairly fast read and I enjoyed it for what is was.
Jan 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Light, fluffy, patchy content centered around very forgettable characters. Pages and pages of mundane conversations. Unfortunately this blogger hasn't managed to construct fiction in a convincing or engaging manner. So glad to have turned the last page...
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chick-lit
This was a cute little book. I could easily see it as a movie. I don't think of it as a general 'chick-lit' book though. I loved the secret stories about the vintage dresses. The romance was fresh and cute and yet sweet and 'old fashioned.' Just a great little book!
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