The Dress Thief, by Natalie Meg Evans

The Dress Thief, Natalie Meg Evans’ debut novel, is a perfectly delectable read, with suspense and romance set against the rising tide of approaching war in the Paris of 1937. Above all, though, Alix Gower’s story comes alive in the world of haute couture, as she uses her talent and skills to move from a The Dress Thiefstable but stifling job as a bilingual telephone operator toward her goal of opening her own salon. Along the way she becomes entangled in the dangerous pursuit of copying fashion (we first meet her slipping into a shop to memorize a newly released Hermes scarf), a path not so easy to leave when the time comes.

There is mystery in Alix’s past as well, going back to the murder of her artist grandfather in Alsace in 1903. What is the connection between the Comte de Charembourg (the Alsatian aristocrat who befriended Alix’s late English father during World War I and later paid for her eduction) and Alix’s Alsatian Jewish grandmother, who shares her small Paris apartment and rightly fears the rise of anti-Semitism? Will the truth about her grandfather’s death turn Alix’s life upside down?

The Dress Thief is broad in scope, with a variety of interesting supporting characters, including the denizens of the fashion world, from the lowly seamstresses to the designers, the wealthy American woman involved in fashion copying, and the bohemian artist Bonnet for whom Alix sometimes poses.

The men in Alix’s life are equally varied. There is Paul, the young day laborer who lives on a boat, caring for his two young sisters and making ends meet by selling Alix’s sketches; Monsieur Javier, the designer who gives Alix a job and encouragement; Verrian, the English journalist drawn deep into the Spanish Civil War; and Martel, the dangerous night club owner.

The most fascinating element in The Dress Thief is the world of Paris high fashion in the late 1930s when the coming war casts a shadow that will change everything. Natalie Meg Evans portrays this world in wonderful detail, from the seamstresses toiling in the workrooms to the society women shopping in the salons, from the small salons filled with copies to the top designers struggling to create a successful collection every season.

As Alix carves out a life for herself in this world, she makes some debatable, if understandable, decisions along the way, but she never loses sight of her goals. It’s a difficult journey, but a fascinating one, and The Dress Thief portrays it beautifully.

At this time The Dress Thief does not have an American distributor, but it can be ordered from the Book Depository (free shipping and quick delivery just about anywhere). Natalie Meg Evans’ next book, The Milliner’s Secret, will be out next spring. I’m very much looking forward to it.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret | Kay Hudson

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