December 23, 2012

Author Q & A: Clothes-Minded

Siobhan McDonough's passion for fashion comes through in her new book, 'My Mother's Dressing Room.'

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

You know how you can hear a song on the radio and be instantly transported back to a particular time in your life -- a fun day in high school, a painful love affair, a quiet moment with a friend?

click image to enlarge

Courtesy photos

click image to enlarge

Siobhan McDonough's passion for fashion comes through in her new book, 'My Mother's Dressing Room.'

Additional Photos Below

Siobhan "Bunny" McDonough does the same thing with clothes.

McDonough, a newspaper reporter and former writer for the Associated Press, has just published "My Mother's Dressing Room" (Goose River Press, $24.95), a look inside her mother's closet and her own. She tries to bring larger themes to her reminiscences, but mostly the book is full of descriptions about what she, her family and friends have worn over the years.

If you're a clotheshorse, you'll love it. The book includes about 120 photographs, many of them of McDonough modeling her vintage wardrobe.

McDonough's mother was a stewardess (as flight attendants were called back in the '70s), and her father was an FBI agent. The family visited Maine often, and McDonough developed a particular fondness for Castine.

McDonough worked as an AP reporter for 12 years, leaving the organization a few years ago "to bike cross-country and kind of get my head into other things for a while, and the book sort of grew from there." She spent about a year and a half in Maine, during which she freelanced and worked in a bakehouse.

She now lives in Alexandria, Va., and works as a correspondent for a newspaper in Vero Beach, Fla. She also freelances and leads bike tours. "Basically, I try to do everything I possibly can to not be stuck in one place for too long," she said. 

Q: What was your intention with this book? Why should anyone care about your mother's wardrobe?

A: I just wanted to share the story of how clothes can tell our personal stories. I'm sitting in my dressing room right now in Alexandria, and I've got the great rabbit coat, vintage, with a white leather belt, one that I bought actually in Arundel. I bought it for $29.

I put the tag in my pocket, because I'm so proud of it. The thing is unbelievable. I look at that coat, and it takes me to that dusty Arundel antique shop. After there, I went up to Castine to go duck hunting. It was last year, and it brings me there when I look at it.

... And then I'm looking at the rabbit coat and thinking of my great Maine trips and the people that I love up there. So I guess when I wear these things -- whether it's my beaten-up Army boots or my American flag boots or my Vivienne Westwood plastic shoes with hearts on them or my felt hat from Nordstrom's that's leopard print -- these things make me feel a certain way, and I want to wear them.

So I'm trying to get across that fashion is not necessarily a shallow or superficial thing. These are things that can be embraced. If you feel them as strongly as I do, I wear them to delight myself in life a little bit more. They sort of bring up memories of people or places or times in my life. 

Q: What was your best find over the years?

A: You know, I have to say I'm very enamored of my rabbit coat. On top of just the beautiful rabbit, the softness of it and the colors, is the punch of this white leather wrap belt. It just made it that much more special. That is a huge find.

And also from the Portland area, my American flag boots are ridiculous. They are so fantastic. They are custom-made. These boots are from (the Woodstock) era, and I was born on July 4. So I thought these boots and I were made from each other.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Siobhan McDonough's passion for fashion comes through in her new book, 'My Mother's Dressing Room.'


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs