THE DRAPER TOUCH: The High Life and High Style of Dorothy Draper by Carleton Varney

THE DRAPER TOUCH: The High Life and High Style of Dorothy Draper

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Perhaps Varney should have taken the hint when decorator James Amster told him that ""nobody had fun with Dorothy""--because try as he will, and he tries very hard, Varney is unable to make interior decorator Dorothy Draper an interesting subject. Draper's bland personality seems rooted in her early upbringing. Raised in the stultifyingly Victorian society of wealthy Tuxedo Park, Draper (her maiden name was Tuckerman, and the family was ""old money"") never overcame the repressions of her childhood. Unlike her major professional rival, Elsie de Wolfe, Draper apparently was as lacking in humor as she was endowed with a sense of her own superiority. Varney repeatedly assures his readers that Dorothy was amusing to be around, but fails to buttress these statements with examples. Most of Draper's remarks seem more dimwitted than witty, as when she commented to her son, who had just announced he intended to go to Spain to fight Franco, ""Oh, really, dear? I hear the soldiers wear overalls over there."" Varney also attempts valiantly to establish Draper's credentials as a leading American decorator, down-playing the contributions of de Wolfe. He does succeed in awarding Draper the dubious distinction of having introduced chartreuse into the decorating palette. On the other hand, his claim that Draper was primarily responsible for elevating New York's Sutton Place to social prominence flies in the face of the facts--it was, again, de Wolfe and her friends who set the tone there. As if aware of his subject's dullness, Varney engages in tittle-tattle about Draper's associates in her decorating business. But this peripheral gossip will interest few readers, while Varney's overuse of precious terms like ""drop-dead chic"" will annoy many. In sum: brightly painted plasterboard.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Prentice Hall Press