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From the acclaimed author of Stuffed comes an intimate memoir, written with charm and panache, that juxtaposes two fascinating lives - the iconoclastic designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the author's own mother - to explore how a girl fashions herself into a woman.
Audrey Morgen Volk, an upper-middle-class New Yorker, was a great beauty and the polished hostess at her family's garment district restaurant. Elsa Schiaparelli - "Schiap" - the haute couture designer whose creations shocked the world, blurred the line between fashion and art, and believed that everything, even a button, has the potential to delight.
Audrey's daughter Patricia read Schiap's autobiography, Shocking Life, at a tender age, and was transformed by it. These two women - volatile, opinionated, and brilliant, each in her own way - offered Patricia contrasting lessons about womanhood and personal style that allowed her to plot her own course.
Moving seamlessly between the Volks' Manhattan and Florida milieu, and Schiap's life in Rome and Paris (among friends such as Dalí, Duchamp, and Picasso), Shocked weaves Audrey's traditional notions of domesticity with Schiaparelli's often outrageous ideas into a marvel-filled meditation on beauty and on being a daughter, sister, and mother, while demonstrating how a single book can change a life.
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I’m very surprised that this book is less about Schiaparelli and more about an obscure daughter and her conflicted relationship with her restaurant hostess mother who didn’t even wear Schiaparelli, other than her perfume. The ending is also quite comical during the author’s “transformative books” session - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama? How does this have anything to do with Schiaparelli? I think the author just exploited Schiaparelli’s creativity in order to download her unhappy childhood onto society. It would have been better off being told to a shrink in NY. Her lack of empathy as her mother lay dying is quite remarkably pathological. The author oscillates back and forth between Schiaparelli and Audrey, and one rarely understands the actual relationship between Schiaparelli and the Volk family. At first, I thought Audrey was Schiaparelli’s first name, but was surprised to find out its some dead, quasi socialite who wore Blass, Beene, and Brooks Brothers. I’m greatly disappointed.