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  • Writer's pictureHeather Moll

Book Review: A Dress of Violet Taffeta

In 1893, this story jumps into Lucy Wallace’s dire situation: abandoned by her alcoholic husband, out of money, down to one mediocre maid, about to divorce, and living with a difficult mother. But Lucy has a plan to design and sell gowns, and she has the determination to pull it off. The POV also includes her maid Celia, raised in a workhouse and who yearns for more after helping Lucy with her sewing ambitions.

Lucy has a discerning eye and a gift for colors and fabrics. She begins to design and secretly sew gowns for her and her sister’s wealthy friends. Celia with her business acumen quickly becomes her devoted assistant.

I wish we saw more of Lucy’s reflections because her life was full of fascinating experiences. Her sister Elinor was a successful and scandalous playwright but their friendship and rivalry wasn’t highlighted. Nor was her relationship with the man who would eventually become her second husband and greatest supporter until it all fell apart—an element we don’t see in the book.

We watched Lucy's steady progress from afar as it’s more of a who's who and event-reviewing walk through the 1880s-1910s than an in-depth look at Lucy herself. Not enough character development for me, but the setting comes alive and this is a well-researched gilded age fictionalized account of an acclaimed designer.

I received an arc from NetGalley

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