For these three women, as well as many others—a young model fresh from Alabama, a Hollywood star making her Broadway debut, an unemployed Brown grad who’s been faking a fabulous life on social media—everything is about to change . . . and all thanks to the power of one perfect little black dress.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Sally Ann Fennely
Age: Just 18
“Pin It!” The dressers were all riled up.
“Pin what?” I thought. “Ow!” There was my answer: pin me.
It was madness. I had been measured at least five times at casting. I thought that would have been the worst part, fifty eager models lined up in black slips, dreaming of cheeseburgers. It was a different kind of cattle call from what I was used to back home in Alabama.
I barely uttered my first words of the day, “It’s big on me. Maybe you should put it on a bigger girl.”
“There are no bigger girls,” the pin-happy dresser mumbled under his breath.
I looked around—he was right. Last week I was skinny, skinniest girl south of the Mason-Dixon line. They called me String Bean Sally; asked if I had to dance around in the shower to get wet. Now I’m the big girl.
“Get in line!” he yelled. I got in line.
I concentrated on the mantra in my head: breathe, breathe, one foot, the other. Breathe. Breathe. The girl behind me broke my concentration with the strongest New Yawk accent I’d ever heard.
“I think you may have on the dress,” she said. It sounded more like a warning then a statement.
“The dress?” I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I was having a hard time just breathing. We were getting closer to the runway. She continued.
“Every year there’s one dress. The front row people out there, they choose it. See ‘em?” She pointed to where two cavernous curtains met. As they rippled and settled I got a quick glimpse of the crowd. I wished I hadn’t.
She continued, “Come fall, those front row people are gonna plaster the dress on the covers of magazines, red carpets and store windows. And it’s usually little and black—like yours.”
Her voice near ‘bout erased her beauty. She was like one of those silent film stars my Grandma used to go on about who went bust the day talkies came out. She sounded so foreign to me. I reckon if I spoke with my Southern drawl she would feel the same way about me. I’d hardly spoken since I’d been in New York for that very reason. When I do speak it’s real short and careful. I can fake my way through a sentence or two but it’s not easy. I try and triple my usual talking speed or people look like they want to wring the words out of me like I’m a wet rag. And my thinking has to keep up with my speaking, which ain’t easy either. It’s clear that they don’t understand me just as much as I don’t understand them. You would think that would make us all equal, but it doesn’t. Not here.
It’s not just talking the talk that throws me, walking the walk is equally hopeless. On my first day here I made the mistake of stopping mid-stride to look up at a building when BOOM, a man crashed right into me. He yelled, “You crazy Mama?” Like I had slammed dead on my brakes in the middle of Interstate 10. I pictured the domino effect—a whole city toppling over on account of little old me.
The next day it rained. The city was hard enough to navigate dry, let alone in a downpour. I was so intimidated by the natives dodging puddles and raising and lowering their umbrellas in perfect synchronicity that I never made it past the overhang of my building. It was as if everyone but me had been taught the day’s choreography in advance. I stayed put till the sun came out.
The girl with the voice was still going on about the dress. There were about a dozen girls between the runway and us.
“There was another possibility from a show yesterday that my friend Adeline wore. That may have been the dress. Adeline said the flashbulbs went crazy, especially when she was at the end of the runway. She’s hoping it’s hers. I want to be the kind of friend that hopes it’s hers too. But I’m not. Honestly, I couldn’t bear seeing her on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily. The dress is always on the cover of Woman’s Wear Daily. Right before it embarks on a sort of whirlwind tour of who wore what where. The dress can actually become famous, and it’s model too. I heard the girl from two years ago got a part in a Woody Allen movie. That girl was a brand new face too, like you. You know, you only get to be a brand new face once. They usually put the dress on either a brand new face or a famous face. Now Woody Allen made her brand new face famous! Do you think he’s a pedophile? I don’t like to think that.”
She didn’t seem concerned at all with breathing while that was all I could think about. Now there were just eight girls between the runway and us.
Still she kept going, “Some things I wish I didn’t have to think about. Like last week someone told me those lemon wedges they put on your water glass are deadly. Covered in germs, even poop—that’s what the girl said, on account of the waiters not washing their hands. Literally, that lemon wedge in my water is the closest I have gotten to a slice of cake in three years. Now what am I supposed to do? I feel like no matter when I die my last words are gonna be, I’m still hungry. I just wish I could un-hear that thing about the lemons and Woody Allen.”
A lemon, I thought. All I had seen any of these girls have for dessert was a cigarette. They were all exactly the same, birds of a feather we’d call ‘em back home. They all walked the same, in a light, airy kind of way. I was sure they would flutter across the runway, while I imagined I would resemble a schoolgirl wearing mud kickers. And they all spoke the same language. They added words to their sentences that made no sense to me at all. Like seriously and literally and honestly. Honestly this and honestly that. It made you wonder if everything else that came out of their mouths was a lie. Also, many of their stories began with “Don’t judge me.” As if it were a get out of jail free card. “Don’t judge me, I slept with your boyfriend,” or “Don’t judge me, I ate an entire pecan pie last night.” Honestly, the second one would literally never happen. Seriously, it’s literally catching.
Six girls in front of me. I don’t even know how I got here. Well, that’s not really true. I got here on a Greyhound bus. When you’re born with a face like mine and legs that keep going and going like mine you stop considering any other way out. I used to do well in school, but there was almost no point. When my barely younger sister Carly and I would bring home our report cards, my mother would study hers and barely look at mine. My sister is short, like my mother’s side of the family. An early bloomer, she was the tallest one in elementary school and the shortest by high school. She is ok smart, not a genius or anything. I’m just as smart as she is. But my mama barely looked at my report cards. “With legs like that” she’d say, “You just need to find a rich man to wrap them around. Carly has to learn to fend for herself.” It was somewhere around then that I stopped trying.
It wasn’t just my legs. I had the face, the skin, the hair, the whole package. That kind of beautiful that makes people stop and stare as if they’re looking at a painting. A very tall painting. I was flawless. On the outside that is. On the inside I was jealous of Carly. She would speak, and people would like her or not. Not me, I just needed to walk into a room and the boys all liked me. Never heard a word I said. It was so lonely that I finally left and came to New York where I could stand in a line of perfect specimens like me and be ordinary. That part had felt wonderful—until now. Just four girls ahead of me, all with the face, the skin, and the legs… Wait, three. I pressed my hands against my sides to stop them from shaking.
Her nasal voice briefly broke my nervous trance.
“It’s not just lemons you know. Those mints in the bowls at the register—those have been tested too and…”
I hoped this wasn’t the dress. It seemed so simple. I would think the dress would be something spectacular and loud like the girl who was talking my ear off. The dress I was wearing was quiet. Not that I know diddlysquat about fashion. I know nothing more that what I’ve seen in the fashion magazines, and I only ever looked at those the few times that my mom drove Carly and me into Batesville to get mani-pedis. That’s in fact how I ended up coming to New York. There was an article in one of the magazines—Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Runway Model? I went down the list: Height 5’9 to 5’11. Check. Bust 31-34”. Check. Waist 22-24”. Check. Hips 31-35”. Check. They measured me right there at the salon. In the time it took for two coats of “Cherry on Top” nail polish to dry my fate was sealed. There was only enough money saved for one of us to go to college anyway, and “Carly had the brains.”
“Go!” With a push I was gone. It was like skydiving. Not that I know diddlysquat about skydiving either. As I stepped out onto the runway, bulbs flashed like mad, just like the girl had said they would. I near ‘bout fainted right there. Honestly, literally and seriously.
Reading Group Guide
1. On the boat to America, Max Hammer tells Morris Siegel that he know he wanted to marry his wife, Dorothy, since he saw her at age twelve. Do you know childhood sweethearts who are still married today? What do you think is different about their relationship?
2. What did you think about the scenes between Jeremy and his publicist and agent? Did you think it was accurate to in terms of how celebrity images are manipulated in the media?
3. Discuss the role that Bloomingdales plays in the novel. What's your go-to store for occasions when only "the dress" will do?
4. Sometimes fate needs a helping hand and a "buttinski" like Tomás can be a godsend. Do you agree or disagree?
5. The portrayal of New York City is filled with affection. Would it have been possible for this novel to be set anywhere else?
6. In Chapter 10 we learn how Arthur wound up dating the much-younger Sherri. Did it offer a new perspective on how older men wind up with much younger women?
7. Andie's 100th client has not been entirely truthful with her. Were you surprised when Caroline reveals her real reason for retaining Andie's services?
8. In Nine Women, One Dress, people find love in very unusual but very satisfying ways. Who was your favorite couple and why?
9. Sophie's use of Instagram to portray a glamorous life she really doesn't lead is not so far from the truth. Do you feel pressure to portray yourself a certain way on social media?
10. "The right dress makes an ordinary woman feel extraordinary," says Morris Siegel at the end of the novel. Why do women have a more complicated and intimate relationship with clothing than men?
11. Do you have a dress like "the dress" in the novel?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story centers on a black dress and the women who wear it, charming and sweet story. It is very upbeat and leaves you with a smile. Read it in one day. There is no violence, sex or a murder. Just a fun book about a little black dress and women who wore it. Enjoy
I read reviews and the sample...Hooked!
Favorite Quotes: … many of their stories began with “Don’t judge me.” As if it were a get- out- of- jail- free card. “Don’t judge me, I slept with your boyfriend,” or “Don’t judge me, I ate an entire pecan pie last night.” I was wearing a slim-cut sports jacket with paisley lining and skinny jeans that Sherri had convinced me to buy a few weeks back. She said I was very close to looking hip. She said I was very close to looking hip. I said I was very close to needing a hip replacement. She wasn’t really my type— a snob, and for no reason. She was a slush-fund baby… a slush-fund baby— her father paid for her entire education by stealing from his company’s petty cash. She was that girl in tenth grade with the long legs who you were nice to ’cause she was new in town. The one that wrapped those same long legs around the boy you confided in her that you had a crush on. Even the most popular, confident, put-together adult can call to mind that one girl who made her feel inadequate. She’ll get hers, you said to yourself, praying that it was true as she walked away from you, leaving you feeling like roadkill to be scraped off the pavement. I knew pretty quickly that she was a mean girl of ultimate proportions. Cruella de Vil on steroids. My Review: I enjoyed the ironic and amusing humor although it took me a bit to ascertain the rhythm, organization, and pacing of the various tales. The storyline shifted back and forth between a multitude of characters, which initially confused me, as the narrative had felt disjointed until I caught on and caught up. Nine women experience various clothing emergencies and end up with the same Little Black Dress from Bloomingdale’s, the coveted Max Hammer design, and the only size small in stock. Oddly several of the women had the intent to “borrow” the dress; wearing it to their events with the tag tucked away so they can return it to the store for a refund. My favorite story involved karma, something I am often far too impatient to wait for.
Nine Women, One Dress was such a unique story...... all the stories are interesting on their own & I loved how the author then tied all the stories together. I will be watching for more to read by Jane L. Rosen I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
This is a great book to ready after finishing a "heavy book". Light hearted and funny with light-hearted fun characters. Enjoyed it very much!
4.5 stars What a delightful book! Nine Women, One Dress was so much fun to read - I did not want to put it down until I was finished. Jane Rosen has created a story that has a great plot line while also containing a wonderful group of characters that I loved getting to know. Moreover, it was witty in addition to being entertaining. I hope Rosen is already busy working on her next novel. Morris Siegel is an almost 90-year old dress pattern-maker for designer Max Hammer who is approaching retirement and wants to go out with a bang. He creates the pattern for a little black dress that he feels confident will be the “dress of the season”. Happily as the story begins, the Max Hammer dress appears on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily cementing its position as “that dress”. As the story progresses, Morris’s dress brings happiness and good luck to nine different, unrelated women who wear it. Part of the success of the story is the way Rosen constantly switches point of views from character to character. There are a fair number of characters, but I found it easy to keep track of them all. My two favorite storylines were Albert Winters and his interaction with the clerks at Bloomingdale’s and the actor Jeremy Madison and his publicist and agent. The Albert Winters story was so sweet, and I loved the role that the Bloomingdale’s clerks Tomas and Ruthie played in changing the trajectory of Albert’s life. The Jeremy Madison story is laugh out loud funny, and the Tab Hunter reference was classic. Rosen’s cultural references really add to the story. I highly recommend this funny, clever novel. Thanks to Goodreads Giveaways and Doubleday Books for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
"Nine Women, One Dress" is a collection of perspectives about a few main stories that are connected by a LBD. It's almost a character study but very fluffy and light. It would make a good beach read. I found it to have too many people and perspectives for me to follow well (kept needing to flip back to see what that person was). It might be better described as a collection of short stories. It's well written but not the book for me! Please note that I received an arc through Goodreads giveaways.
What a happy book. LOVED it.
Great read. Read it in two sittings.
Does the woman make the dress, or does the dress make the woman? I think that there is really a lot of truth to this cliché and we are encouraged through this book to understand that while clothing makes for great outward armor, we really can’t be more than we are deep down inside. Yes, a lovely fitting dress can do wonders for our ego and even go a long way to giving us some courage at times. But if we are a horrible person inside, no matter what kind of clothing we wear, we will still be that same horrible person. I have never read a book written in an almost vignette style like this has. The first third of the book is spent by exploring a bit of the lives that this dress is going to touch. From the very first person to wear this dress in the prologue, to the pattern maker who built this miraculous dress, we are introduced in very short chapters to everyone. The second third goes into more detail about these lives and some of these couples find themselves in some very funny situations. The last third looks at these couples in even more depth and bring to conclusion that everyone will get what they either desire or deserve. I understand that some readers are a bit out off by the brevity of the character building, but I just didn’t see it that way. I think this book would have been a big letdown for me if it had been written differently. Yes, this is a fairly short book coming in at less than 300 pages and for sure I was so entranced by everyone’s lives that I may have wanted more – but what we did get was like having the perfect meal and you still had room for dessert without getting sick! This book even had something for every age bracket. It is so difficult for me to find satisfying romances for my age group, but the author managed to hit everything from New Adults to the middle aged and she did it splendidly!
This wasn't like I thought it was going to be, but it was still a very good read. The telling of the horror stories by the sales clerks was pretty humorous. Actually there were several parts that were humorous. There were also some sad parts as well, some happy parts and some parts that made you want to just stand up and cheer. It was a little confusing at times keeping up with all the characters and the different stories. However, the author always put some hint in that particular chapter to remind you who this was, so that helped a lot. I can honestly say that I found the book to be pretty entertaining and I would recommend it to my friends. Thanks to Doubleday Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
I loved and enjoyed reading the entertaining and outstanding novel written by the talented author Jane L. Rosen. I received an ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway. Right before Morris retires at the age of 90, he makes the little black dress of the season, a Max Hammer original. When a woman puts on the dress, she feels happy and beautiful. Each chapter in the book is told in various first person point of views. When the Max Hammer little black dress makes it debut, Sally wears it on the runway. Natalie, a salesgirl at Bloomingdale's, needs a dress to wear to pose as an actor's pretend girlfriend; Felicia, an administrative assistant to the man she loves, needs a dress to knock her boss's socks off; Andie, a private detective, tries on the dress and feels confident and sexy. The story is beautifully written, highly recommended, an engaging story line with captivating characters, and a must read story full of romance and charm.