The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses

Buy the book (at Barnes and Noble) (at Amazon) (at Powell’s)

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 take over running Mimi’s vintage clothing shop. And there she makes a surprising discovery – Mimi’s been writing stories to accompany every dress she sells. Romantic, heartbreaking tales about each one’s secret life before it got to her shop…

Dora starts to matchmake these lonely frocks with new owners, but will the stories help her as well? Trading her boring high street clothes for vintage glamour is one thing. What she needs to know is whether she can trade her safe old life – and love – for something better too?


“In this quiet debut novel, fans of McKean’s blog ( will be especially captivated by her ability to effectively spice up a consistently steady plot with a heaping of the “secret lives” they have enjoyed for years. It will also appeal to readers who enjoy coming-of-age tales.”

— from Library Journal

“fun to accompany the amusing threesome [as they] guide the heroine down her yellow brick road” — Genre Go Round Reviews

tissues!” — Village Bookshop

“The Secret Lives of Dresses was an amazing book!  It made me want to open a vintage store.” — Kat’s Creations

“McKean’s gentle, stylish and bittersweet tale is made even more enjoyable due to her obvious love and knowledge of timeless fashion.” —Yorkshire Evening Post

“Although not a book I would normally read, I found this delightful, reminding me that not all literature has to be great, sometimes sometimes it just needs to remind you of joy in all its forms—be it through love, loss, sadness and recovery.” —Gleebooks

“If you would like a great escape into a world of fascinating vintage clothes mixed with some very colorful and lovable (and some not so lovable) characters, pick up a copy of The Secret Lives of Dresses. You won’t be disappointed.” —Along The Way

“This book was an absolute joy to read from start to finish, and I am really pleased to start off my reading year with such a great story. This book has everything for me – a bit of mystery, a bit of love and romance, a bit of sorrow and most of all a well-crafted and enjoyable tale.” —ChickLitReviews

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.” —Snowdrop Dreams of Books

The Secret Lives of Dresses is pure delight from opening page to the riveting end. The dress stories in the book are all short and simple, but highly effective – and add layers to a novel that surprises. Original, slightly quirky but satisfying, this is an outstanding read.” —RadioChick

“I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, as well as the atmosphere of the small North Carolina town. The Secret Lives of Dresses is a charming book about a girl who finally finds where she belongs – a place that’s always been hidden in plain sight.” —Just Another New Blog

Here’s the UK cover:

The Secret Lives of Dresses (UK)


The UK edition got some lovely press, in lots of the magazines I buy whenever I’m in the UK as “research”: 

“Love a romance? Love fashion? You’ll lap up this cute tale” (HEAT)

“Style queens and Mad Men fans will love this heart-warming story” (BELLA)

“Sweet and enjoyable… a heartwarming read” (IMAGE)

And there was also a nice mention in this month’s RED.

[Note, all the links above open up jpg/pdf images of magazine pages]

And two lovely blog reviews, too — one from Domestic Sluttery:

“Erin McKean conjures up the most beautiful descriptions of clothes, including a cherry pie print blouse that sent me straight to eBay. In Mimi’s shop, Dora discovers that each item comes with a story, and these were absolutely beautiful… The Secret Lives of Dresses is a heart-warming and lovely book”

and one from ChickLitReviews:

“An absolute joy to read from start to finish… This book has everything for me – a bit of mystery, a bit of love and romance, a bit of sorrow and most of all a well-crafted and enjoyable tale”


11 thoughts on “The Secret Lives of Dresses

  1. Erin-

    I just finished The Secret Lives of Dresses. I loved it. Sometimes I feel this great sadness when I finish a good book. When I saw that you write a blog I felt some hope that something about Dora would shine through…I’m not ready to say goodbye to this story. Thank you!



  2. I’ve had your book sitting on my bedside table for almost a year now. Afraid to read it as it sounds so good and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I started reading it last night and am LOVING it. I also was pleased to find out about the blog-so the adventures can continue long after I finish the book. Thanks for adding joy to an otherwise dull day!


  3. Erin,
    Thanks so much for writing this book. I just finished it last night and then just wandered around my house, aimlessly wondering what to do next. I loved this book so much, I wanted to LIVE in it!!

    Feel free to write more, I want to know more about my friends in Forsyth!

    I am recommending this book to all my friends.


  4. Hi Erin,
    I’m from Argentina and I bought your book when I was in Paris last May. I couldn’t read it while I was in the middle of my trip because I really have to be concentrated to read a book and another language that is not spanish.
    I absolutely loved the story, the way I felt part of it. I felt so identified with Dora because I had a similar problem with my grandma last year, although thank God she’s fine now. I found that I wanted to know more about the secret stories so I’m here and I love your blog too!
    Thanks for the story, it was a little bit complicated for me to understand everything but I could manage to finish the book in just one week!
    I wonder if you ever considered to write a second part, I really would love to know what happened next, with the store and with her. But the way the story is right now is perfect! Thanks for bringing me back to the passion of reading, and thanks for making me able to read in english too!
    I hope you have a wonderful week and thanks again!


  5. Hi Erin
    My name is Stephanie. I live in Australia. I found your book in a second hand shop 2 weeks ago and have litterally finished it just seconds ago! I am in LOVE! with this book! Your righting is beautiful! Thank you for changing my out look on the way i dress! I am sure this book will be read by many of my friends.

    Kindest Regards
    Stephanie Berzinski


  6. Hi Erin,
    I’ve just finished reading your book for a second time. I love it and have recommended it to fellow vintage connoisseurs as well. I’ve browsed through your blog in the past but felt I had to stop by and thank you for such a wonderful story (or stories, as there are so many in this book!). I’m sure I’ll be back to revisit Forsyth again in the future.

    Best wishes,


  7. Perusing my local library, I was immediately taken by the cover and description of the story on the back cover. It is not my usual reading matter (eg detective stories, thrillers, rock biographies), however I loved The Secret Lives of Dresses. A great story with memorable characters.


  8. Hi Erin, I found this book in a secondhand store and loved it so much. I have read it over and over many times and still feel the connection of the story every time!! I always pass the book around to family and friends, But, make sure it comes back to me, as I love how this book makes me feel!! It is a treasure of mine and am so grateful that it has found it’s way to Me! I do hope there will be another book in the future, as i will be inline waiting to get a signed copy from you!


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