Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me by Patricia Volk. Reviewed by Louise Hilton.
Shocked is Patricia Volk’s homage to both her glamorous mother Audrey and Elsa Schiaparelli, the eccentric Italian fashion designer who revolutionized the art world with her over-the-top creations (think lobster dresses and shoe hats). Volk read Schiaparelli’s memoir as a young girl and recalls the profound effect it had on her – we all remember that one special book from our childhood that marked us – and how she relished any similarity she felt she shared with her idol. Volk recounts her privileged New York upbringing (her father was the proprietor of a popular Garment District restaurant) and juxtaposes her family history with that of Schiaparelli. It may sound like a contrived narrative approach, but Volk more than pulls it off, making Shocked a scrapbook of sorts, with photographs in each chapter of both her own family and the designer’s world.
The book itself is beautiful, with a mottled hot pink dust jacket (the title plays on one of Schiaparelli’s major contributions to the fashion world, the coinage of the color Shocking Pink), and the outline of the bottle for the designer’s perfume Shocking (Audrey’s favorite, naturally) on the book itself.
Audrey Volk embodied a certain archetype of women from a bygone era – applying her “face” every morning, meticulous grooming, putting great stock in appearances – but for all her polish and glamour, Audrey had a cruel streak and the most poignant parts of the memoir are when the young Volk struggles to please her. Overall, Shocked is an engaging read and tribute to two larger-than-life women.
An abridged version of this review appeared in The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.) on 6/22/14.