The Pink Suit, Nicole Mary Kelby – the review that isn’t a review

The Pink Suit

I’ve been trying to keep my powder dry about this book, but I can’t stay silent any longer. Virago publishes The Pink Suit in June (May for US readers here), but I strongly suggest you pre order now. In 2014, a novel about a seamstress becomes the lead title of a feminist list. Let’s all pause to let out a cheer right now, shall we?

Okay, so this is what you need to know about Nicole Mary Kelby‘s novel. It’s inspired by an iconic pink Chanel-style boucle suit that was made for the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. It follows the life, love and dreams of Irish immigrant, Kate, as she works on this suit. Both women’s stories become entwined on a fateful day when the suit becomes spattered in blood. But this book is about so much more…

If you’re a person who has ever dared to dream, someone who’s felt scared yet thrilled by love, or a mere mortal whose soul has flown with the handling of thread and the touch of fabric, you are going to relish this story. If you’re also looking for details of 1960s New York, you’ve come to the right place. And if you want some cherry on your icing on your cake, I should probably mention the staggering couture detail around the making of this suit. Salivating? You should be. I promise, you will learn dressmaking details that you never knew before. Dare I suggest, you’ll become a better Sewist for reading this novel.

I’m currently in New York, a stone’s throw from Seventh Avenue, described in evocative detail as it stood 50+ years ago:

As Kate walked down Seventh, trucks jumped the curb and parked on the sidewalk; vans cut in and out of the skittish traffic. All around her, men were running with racks of dresses on hangers or pushing handcarts overflowing with fabric or trim or both. The windows on the second floors of the buildings were flung open, and the furious music of sewing machines mixed with the melodies of gossip from those mice, those back-room girls, the sweatshop girls.

I took a stroll down Seventh Avenue, to see how it compared.

Seventh AvenuePretty different, huh? But a few blocks down, I indeed ran into a man pushing a trolley of dresses. And look at that sign, pointing out the nearest Irish pub. Manhattan is littered with Irish pubs, the legacy of immigrants, just like Kate. The Pink Suit was allowing me to discover the history of New York.

And then I went shopping. Pink seemed to be the theme of the day.

Pink FabricThis is Paron Fabrics, which is a great street for fabric shops open on a Sunday – W39th street. It’s Goldhawk Road with bagels.

Paron FabricsSo, I haven’t finished reading The Pink Suit yet, which means I can’t properly call this a review. I have 100 cherished pages to go. I might have to eke them out. Do you think you’ll be reading this book? I recommend you save it for those special moments. Believe me, stories like this don’t come along very often.

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44 Responses to The Pink Suit, Nicole Mary Kelby – the review that isn’t a review

  1. Jen (NY) says:

    Was the suit really made in New York? Interesting, if true. Even 10-15 years ago, the garment district was much busier than it is today–at least on the surface. A lot of businesses that used to be on ground level have been pushed to the upper floors by the rising rents in the area, or just closed. There are much more food options these days–used to be just 99 cent pizza or maybe bagels–but at the expend of losing some great shops. The same thing happened in Soho. The most fabulous and huge button shop in the city (IMO), run by a couple of elderly gentlemen, was replace by–if I remember rightly–an Old Navy or something like that. Sigh. Anyway…enjoy the garment district romance…it has just started to snow!

  2. Karen says:

    Interesting! What are you doing in New York? What are you wearing? Did you make it? I haven’t been to New York in several years but now I want to go!

  3. Thanks for the review……and enjoy New York!!

  4. luckycat99 says:

    Thanks for the review. It reminds me that there aren’t enough novels on sewists (that I know of) and it would be nice to hear of some more.
    Also thanks for taking us to NY – I got engaged there at the top of the Empire State Building almost a year ago, so it brings back happy memories.

  5. el rueb says:

    I would take the LIRR to NYC at that time to buy fabric and soak up the energy in the garment district. I went with my sister for her prom dress gown fabric in 1975, The pattern was a Vogue which cost several dollars and the fabric was .44 cents per yard. The dress was gorgeous and she was crowned Prom Queen in it. Not bad for a seventeen and nineteen year old with very limited funds.

  6. Fiona M says:

    The book sounds fab, I will be sure to buy it. Also, by amazing coincidence, I am in NY myself, and staying close to the garment district. I plan to do some shopping there tomorrow, so if I see you I will be sure to say hello!

  7. oonaballoona says:

    on the list. after this description, how could it not be?!

  8. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the heads up Karen. I wonder when I’ll be able to get it in Australia? Probably in five years knowing how slow we get things here. I think I’ll pre-order from an American site. I am dying for a good book at the moment.

  9. lisa g says:

    thanks for the review… it’s going on my list!

  10. CurlsnSkirls says:

    I hope our East Coast storm doesn’t dampen your visit! Can’t wait to see what fabrics tempt you. 😉

  11. sewamysew says:

    I’m sold! It sounds like the perfect holiday read. Thanks for sharing this, it’s good to know people in the know.

  12. maddie says:

    Sign me up for pre order! This is going to be my summer read. Thanks for letting me know about it! Stay warm in NYC!

  13. Marie says:

    Absolutely I’ll be reading it…off to pre-order now! Enjoy NYC!xx

  14. Graca says:

    I’m going to call my favourite local bookstore tomorrow and pre-order it. Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds like it will be a fabulous read.

  15. Far says:

    What a lovely book from the sound of it! Will try and get my hands on a copy 🙂 Thanks for the heads up!

  16. Paola says:

    I loved Paron Fabrics when I was in NY in 2012. Something about Mood Fabrics was overwhelming. All that fabric paralysed me. However, no such problem in Paron. I went crazy (as much as my luggage allowance would allow).

  17. Fadanista says:

    There’s a Kindle edition – yay! I’m all pre-ordered…

  18. I love the sound of this book. Not sure I can wait until June for it though! Eeek!

  19. The kindle edition says if you pre-order it will be wirelessly delivered of April 10th so maybe a bit ahead of the paper copy.

  20. Rachel says:

    Sounds great – I’ve saved this post in order to put the book on my list. Enjoy NYC! Rachel ☺

  21. Vicki Kate says:

    This looks wonderful! I normally read digitally but sewing books need to be hard copy so I’ve preordered a hardback copy. Looking forward to June!

  22. macinic says:

    Perfect! I wonder if my local bricks & mortar store here in OZ will be able to pre-order it… worth a try!!

    • macinic says:

      and wonderfully, my bricks & mortar bookstore locally is expecting it in stock by the 1st May 😉 v.exciting. Thanks again for the non-review 😉

  23. Gill says:

    Ooh, I’m definitely going to get the book, sounds just my thing. I had a few fabulous days in NY about 8 years ago with my wonderful sister (sadly no longer with us) and bought fabric and a zillion beads while I was there. Your post brought back some lovely memories which made me smile, so thank you xx

  24. Marianne says:

    Just added it to my wishlist. In June I’ll add an extra sewing book to get free international delivery, isn’t that a good excuse to order two yummie books at once?

  25. Bess says:

    I can’t POSSIBLY wait until June to read this book! Thanks for the post Karen, I always love reading your blog.

  26. Bunny says:

    My husband’s work regularly took him to the garment district in the early seventies. He would describe it exactly as this book did. I wonder if the book discussed the hookers waiting for truck drivers parked on those curbs who were waiting for their loads. Then there were the teams that would engage the drivers while one jimmied the back of the tractor/trailor to steal clothing. The stories he brought home go on and on. I look forward to reading this book and thanks for the heads up!

  27. Kathy Zachry says:

    Oh, to have at least ONE decent fabric store within reach! Even the one in Tulsa, OK, closed. I’d have to drive to KC (4 hours). The book sounds just like the kind I like to read. I’ll have to watch the Nook store for it as it’s not available for pre-order there yet. Thank you for the heads up!

  28. Thanks for sharing your review, it sounds like a great read! I’ve been reading a lot of biographies lately so looking forward to getting my hands on a good novel. Will be keeping an eye out for this!

  29. Sounds so intriguing! I have just read The Seamstress a Spanish novel (you must read it) and this one will now be added to my wish list! Enjoy NY and have a bagel for me 😉

  30. kate says:

    I have never heard of this book and I have clearly got to read it… (especially as my mum had a Chanel suit which she wore for years, getting it altered as and when necessary). Thanks for the heads up!

  31. On my list! Did you notice, ladies, that sewing is ON FASHION again??? OMG, I cannot believe it! I’ve been feeling a weirdo all my life, and now I AM AN IT GIRL (sort of, jeje). Here in Spain, a book (and its TV adaptation) has put sewing on the map again (much more machine and fabric sales). So, it’s spreading! Thanks for the review, enjoy your trip to NYC and post pictures!!

  32. Melanie says:

    Sounds intriguing. “Baby Sister” by Marilyn Sachs did the same for me when I was a kid. I loved reading about Penny as she learned to sew, as she discovered the heady world of fabric and the thrill of the make. It was part of the reason I signed up for a night school course in sewing at the tender age of 13. Maybe “The Pink Suit” will send me off to couture college.

  33. tinygoldenpins says:

    Do you work at the publisher and have an advance review? I’m so curious. You must be having such a wonderful time being in the place of the novel as you’re reading it. NYC in the late 60s/early 70s was my coming of age city and I can smell it and feel it through your post. I’m really jazzed to read the book; unfortunately, the U.S. cover does not have Jackie on it and is a bit garish. It shows the suit on a dress form on a whitish background. Too bad — it looks more like chick lit than the UK cover. I don’t like that….maybe I’ll order the UK copy.

  34. Laura says:

    thanks for the review! there are so few novels featuring sewist/dressmakers. I have a copy of “The Midnight Dress” (which, ironically, I picked up secondhand) but am yet to read it. I’m in Australia too – maybe I’ll be able to get “The Pink Suit” on kindle 🙂

  35. Next time you’re in New York, do look me up–perhaps you might like visiting my studio?

  36. Lori says:

    Loved The Pink Suit. Especially reading about the process of backing the boucle with hand quilted silk!

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