Monday, February 06, 2012

The Secret Lives of Dresses (Erin McKean)

Old-world charm enters the life of a young college undergraduate when she reacquaints herself with her grandmother's boutique of vintage dresses. Dora, who is majoring in "vagueness studies" (read: Liberal Arts), is called home from her final months in college when Mimi suffers a stroke. As a gesture to the grandmother who raised her and hoarded dresses for Dora that she never wore, Dora keeps the boutique open. Erin McKean's The Secret Lives of Dresses is a light-hearted romance despite being situated in the middle of a family tragedy -- a good choice for a reader looking for something fluffy to enjoy over the weekend.

The novel is permeated with a genuine love for vintage dresses, evident in the way each is thoroughly described. Most of the dresses in Dora's grandmother's shop have 'secret lives' -- short stories written specifically for that dress, told from the dress' point of view. It's an interesting addition to a chick lit novel, with the obvious difference in tone between the narration and these vignettes making the entire reading experience not just quirkier but also richer.

Nothing came as a surprise to me but it didn't keep me from enjoying the rest of the book. Con, the romantic lead is solid and likeable, though one-dimensional. The other characters are fleshed out better, but I think the author has a certain attachment to some characters (like Gary) that's more than necessary. Fleshing out minor characters isn't bad but when it doesn't tell the reader anything new or significant, then it would be better to keep it at a minimum. Since I mentioned Gary earlier, I'll keep at it: we already get what he's supposed to be. All the extra chapters further detailing his relationship with Dora just seems superfluous. It's not as if Dora is pining for him incessantly now that they're apart so I don't understand why he needs to be constantly mentioned throughout the novel, as if he stands any real chance to get the girl.

There are also other moments when the novel's flow isn't as seamless as it could be. Most note-worthy is when it alternates between the hospital and the boutique because there just seems this huge emotional divide between the family drama (which bordered on Lifetime movie variety) and the charming vintage store moments. Still, The Secret Lives of Dresses is a lovely crossover between the coming-of-age novel and a romance. It hits the right spots. It's idyllic and sentimental in parts, and I think those are enough for to let any romance fan keep on reading.


Monique said...

Most of the dresses in Dora's grandmother's shop have 'secret lives' -- short stories written specifically for that dress, told from the dress' point of view.

This made me very curious! :)

By the way, we will be at Bora on March 22-24. Let's get some Jonah's shakes? :D

dementedchris said...

Haha, sure! :P I'll see you there! (Also: Secret Lives is a nice beach read; it's light enough to be enjoyed in one afternoon).

Leki said...

Ako rin! Got me curious, haha! I want a light, fluffy romance to read this weekend. Thank you for reviewing this :D

dementedchris said...

Oooh! May fashion element pa haha. Hope you enjoy this!