Every year for my birthday, my mother gets me a book. I trust her taste (almost) completely when it comes to literature as she is one of the most voracious readers I know. It’s known for her to read 3 books at a time.

This year, she gave me ‘Shocked’ written by Patricia Volk. It’s a memoir about the authors’ own memories of her well coiffed mother intertwined with comparisons and references to Elsa Schiaparelli. The author claims Schiaparelli (or Schiap) ‘s own biography ‘Shocking Life’ was the first novel that transformed her and resonated with her during the early stages of her life. I found the most interesting components of the book were in fact the intimate details she published about her mother and the photographs of Schiap’s creations. The book itself is named after one of the most sought after Schiaparelli designs: her Shocking perfume.


This is a wonderful book for any daughter/mother/fashionista/or biography connoisseur. There’s a number of fantastic artefacts that were photographed and included in the book as well which I always appreciate when reading something so descriptive. 

It’s published under two different names depending on which part of the world you happen to be in. My copy was the US version, but it is available in the UK as well (the cover art is a bit different but still representative of ‘Shocking’).

Available for purchase in the UK under the name ‘The Art of Being a Woman: My Mother Schiaparelli, and Me’ from WHSmith here (from £10.34)

Available for purchase in the US from a number of bookstores including Third Place Books if you happen to live in Seattle (from $26.95)

Has anyone else read this?