Dress, Memory: A Memoir of My Twenties in Dresses (Lorelei Vashti, A&U)
Dress, Memory is a memoir of Lorelei Vashti’s twenties, told with a focus on her impressive—and mostly vintage—dress collection. From her family home to university in Brisbane, to a fledgling music career in Melbourne and time in New York, Thailand and back in Brisbane, Vashti chronicles the dresses, friendships and relationships of her tumultuous twenties. There is a lightness to Vashti’s writing and it’s easy to be swept up in the dramas, the excitement and restlessness of being a 20-something-wanna-be-something. There is a terrific energy and warmth to certain episodes, such as her love affair in Turkey and her days in an all-girl band. Vashti struggled with depression and anxiety in her early 20s and while she doesn’t shy away from these struggles, she also doesn’t dwell on them. This lends a sort of matter-of-factness to the story but also, refreshingly, resists making mental illness a defining feature of the author’s youth. Ultimately it’s the story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world. While her dresses serve as a pretty way into Vashti’s experiences—and a mode of self-expression and connection with others—her story is really about a creative person searching for an outlet. This memoir will appeal to those in their 20s and those who have survived them, albeit with a much less enviable dress collection.
Portia Lindsay is a former bookseller who now works at the NSW Writers’ Centre