Book review: Dress Memory by Lorelei Vashti

Lorelei Vashti has lived a life as colourful and eclectic as her vintage dress collection. What began as a blog has now turned into a book. Dress Memory: A memoir of my life in my twenties, shines a spotlight deep into the wardrobe of Vashti’s life.

Each chapter is a short story with a fantastic and bold dress sparking each memory. Starting at age 20 as a university student and ending at 30, Vashti strips herself bare for her readers as she struggles to answer the question we all want answered in our twenties: who am I?

Humourous and heartbreaking, Vashti’s life is an adventure. She begins the book in Brisbane, squashed in a cosy sharehouse, studying creative writing at uni. Her family home is in Buderim, where vintage dresses are passed from mother to daughter. She spends a year, lonely as a student on exchange in Turkey, where the locals covet luxurious and expensive clothes, fortifying Vashti’s love for fashion. She moves to Melbourne, New York, and India, making friends and falling in and out of love.

Dress Memory reinforces the notion that being young is about experimenting. Like a child playing dress ups, Lorelei tries on jobs and different life paths. She’s a poet, a waitress, a student, or a writer, always fashionably dressed. She plays bass in a girl band in a sassy red cape. Later she works hard as an editorial assistant in a green wool dress.

She’s experimental in love too. She writes about her first love, “crazy, dippy, mad about each other as only you can be at 21.” She also writes about heartbreak, after an affair left her torn apart and on anti depressants.

Vashti joins the ranks of other young memoir writers like Girls star, creator, and writer, Lena Dunham. Dunham’s much anticipated book Not that Kind of Girl is a candid retelling of her life story even though she is only 28. Memoirs are no longer for older generations, writing about their life at the end of their life. Young people are moving in on this turf, writing about their experiences with love, sex, university, work, family, and growing up. The difference is that these memories are vivid, having been written so close to the time that they happened. They are relevant to young twenty and thirty something readers, navigating through a turbulent time of choosing what to study, choosing what to be, choosing the right lover, and of course choosing the right dress to wear.

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