Tis the season for summer reads, and we’re predicting Nine Women, One Dress will be finding its way into many a beach bag / tote for a Sunday in the park / Mansur Gavriel Lady bag for the dog days commute.
This fun, frothy – but also with its serious moments – read follows the intertwining stories of several New York women, all united by the common thread of the search for that eternal perfect Little Black Dress. We chatted with author Jane L. Rosen about the unusual structure, the genesis of the idea…and of course, her own ultimate LBD.
Q. So how did this whole book-writing journey begin?
A: While waiting for my luggage at New York’s Kennedy airport a few years back a friend told me the story of a dress being returned to Bloomingdales covered in formaldehyde. I began thinking about what happened to that dress before that point. I knew I had my ending, a great feeling for an author, so I started from the beginning.
Q. This is a really unusual way to structure a story. Why did you choose to tell it this way?
A: Like Toronto, New York City is filled with many tales and many characters. I wanted to weave the dress throughout their lives and let them tell their tales in their own voices. I enjoyed the structure very much. At times it was challenging but in a good way, like a puzzle.
Q. Was there one of the characters’ voices or stories came the easiest? Who was the hardest?
A. Ruthie’s voice came the easiest to me. I had such a clear picture of who she was and her “New York Broad” vernacular. I had heard it my entire life, from sitting on the stairs in my house growing up eavesdropping on my mother’s card game to the straightforward chain-smoking bookkeeper at my first job in the garment center. As a native New Yorker, Alabama native Sally Ann Fennely’s vocal mannerisms required a lot of research on Southern lingo to achieve—her voice was probably the hardest.
Q. Where did you write this? How long did it take?
A. I wrote a great deal of this book at The New York Public Library on Amsterdam Avenue and 65th Street. It sits directly across from LaGuardia Arts (The Fame School) where my youngest daughter attended high school. At the time that I wrote it my daughter was ill with a syndrome that had her fainting on a regular basis. She was quite the trooper and would stay in school up until the point where she felt as if she were going to faint and then the nurse would call me to pick her up. We decided this system, of me writing across from school, was a lot less stressful for all of us than me rushing across town to retrieve her. In the end she has stopped fainting and is off to Barnard College and I have published a book!
Q. Is there a significant dress in your life? Perhaps an LBD?
A. For our 40th birthdays a bunch of my high school friends and I celebrated in Vegas for a long weekend. My husband was on a winning streak and gave me all the dough with the stipulation that I spend it by the end of the night. I blew the whole thing on a magnificent Fendi LBD with thin leather piping that tied at the back and the highest slit I’d ever worn. I wore it on many significant occasions and my eldest daughter even wore it to the Tony Awards.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter