Patricia Volk's glittering memoir, written with charm, panache and wit, juxtaposes the lives of two women - the iconoclastic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the author's own mother - to tell the story of how young Patricia fashioned herself into a woman.
Patricia Volk's mother Audrey was an upper-middle class New Yorker, a great beauty, a perfectionist, and a polished hostess who believed in women doing things the proper way.
The iconoclastic Italian fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, on the other hand, never found a rule she didn't want to break. One of fashion's most radical provocateurs, she was a cultural revolutionary who embodied the `daring'.
For Patricia, who read Schiap's 'scandalous' autobiography, Shocking Life, at a tender age, these two women offered fabulously contrasting lessons in everything from fashion, make-up, lingerie, family and entertaining, to love, sex, superstition and gambling - lessons that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
Moving seamlessly between the Volks' 1950s Manhattan home and Schiap's astonishing life in New York, Rome and Paris (among pals like Dali, Duchamp, Picasso), The Art of Being a Woman weaves Audrey's notions of female domesticity with Schiap's groundbreaking creative vision to tell the witty, wise and utterly delightful story of how a young girl learned that there is more than one way to be a woman.