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The Art of Being a Woman: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me

Author(s): Patricia Volk

NZ non-fiction

Patricia Volk's glittering memoir, written with charm, panache and wit, juxtaposes the lives of two women - the iconoclastic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the author's own mother - to tell the story of how a girl fashions herself into a woman. Patricia Volk's mother Audrey was an upper-middle class New Yorker, a great beauty, a perfectionist, and a polished hostess who believed in women doing things the proper way. The iconoclastic Italian fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, on the other hand, never found a rule she didn't want to break. One of fashion's most radical provocateurs, she was a cultural revolutionary who embodied the 'daring'. For Patricia, who read Schiap's 'scandalous' autobiography, Shocking Life, at a tender age, these two women offered fabulously contrasting lessons in everything from fashion, make-up, lingerie, family and entertaining, to love, sex, superstition and gambling - lessons that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
Moving seamlessly between the Volks' 1950s Manhattan home and Schiap's astonishing life in New York, Rome and Paris (among pals like Dali, Duchamp, Picasso), The Art of Being a Woman weaves Audrey's notions of female domesticity with Schiap's groundbreaking creative vision to tell the witty, wise and utterly delightful story of how a young girl learned that there is more than one way to be a woman.

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Patricia Volk's glittering memoir, written with charm, panache and wit, juxtaposes the lives of two women - the iconoclastic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the author's own mother - to tell the story of how young Patricia learnt the art of being a woman.

"Nothing short of delicious... Sharp-eyed as it is wickedly funny... Witty, tender and vividly nostalgic." Kirkus "Ignoring Schiaparelli is to ignore fashion and art. Soon everyone will be reminded who Schiap is." -- Ines De La Fressange author of Parisian Chic "Thought-provoking and delightful. I love the way Volk transforms the apparently frivolous and, often, outmoded details of femininity - how to order a fur coat, for example, or how to lay a formal table - into valuable lessons for life. Completely beguiling." -- Lucy Moore author of Anything Goes "A moving and entertaining double memoir" -- Anne De Courcy author of The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj "Pure joy... A diptych portrayal of Patricia Volk's gorgeous and infuriating mother and the great fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, this is an irresistible tour de force that puts on display Volk's intelligence, wit and sparkling prose." -- Louis Begley

Patricia Volk is the author of the memoir Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family and four works of fiction. She was a toddler when her mother began wearing 'Shocking' perfume by Elsa Schiaparelli and ten years old when she came across Schiaparelli's autobiography in her mother's library. She closed the book's covers transformed... A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Volk has taught at Columbia University, NYU and Bennington and has written for numerous publications. She lives in New York.

General Fields

  • : 9780091944575
  • : Penguin Random House
  • : Hutchinson
  • : 0.457
  • : May 2013
  • : 222mm X 138mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : June 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Patricia Volk
  • : Hardback
  • : 746.920922
  • : 304
  • : Over 100 b&w integrated images and 8pp colour plates