Nine Women, One Dress is the perfect rom com of a novel, an utter treat I’ll definitely be dipping into time and again, and will probably stock in a place of honour beside my Devil Wears Prada DVD. Not that the story is anything like Devil Wears Prada; with its lightly interconnected stories of love and life, Nine Women, One Dress is more reminiscent of Love Actually than anything else. But like both movies, it’s a fun, lighthearted experience with unexpected moments of depth. It’s a comedy with heart, and I absolutely fell in love with its characters.
The story revolves around a single, classic little black dress that became the designer It dress of the season. A young model wears it on the runway and lands a magazine cover on her very first gig. An unemployed Brown graduate creates a fake life of success using Instagram photos yet the dress adds an unexpected twist to her career path. A teenager in a traditional Muslim household tries the dress on and gains a better understanding of her sister’s desire for a different life.
The main story lines are about love. Bloomingdale’s saleswoman Natalie is invited to be the beard for a movie star who needs to dispel rumours that he’s gay. She wears the dress to his movie premiere, and it’s just the cutest love story ever. Another highlight for me is a fairly minor but multilayered subplot about the dressmaker Morris, an almost-90 year old who has been cutting dress patterns all his life. I love the story of his immigration to America, and I love how the story comes full circle with the dress becoming instrumental in his grandson’s love life.
But my favourite story by far is that of Felicia, a middle aged executive assistant who has been secretly in love with her boss for almost twenty years. The little black dress and a matchmaking Bloomingdale’s salesman give her the chance of a lifetime, and I admit at times wanting to skim over the other stories just to find out how hers turns out. (As an aside, the matchmaking salesman is Natalie’s co-worker Tómas, and I’m thrilled that he too gets a mini-love story of his own.)
As can be expected with such a story structure and with less than 300 pages, we get mere snippets of these characters’ stories, and with the exception of possibly one or two, we barely get a chance to dive deep into their lives and how things turn out for them. In some cases, this feels a shame; for example, I would have been interested in learning more of the Muslim teenager’s story after she tried the dress on. But on the other hand, the dipping in and out of people’s lives is also a huge part of this structure’s appeal. You do still end up caring for many of these characters, and in a way, the bite sized snippets of their stories are just the perfect snack.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.