Would-be seamstresses achieve self-realization through free-form couture, in the second of Cano-Murillo’s Crafty Chica series (Waking Up in the Land of Glitter, 2010).
Miss Scarlet Santana (named after a character in the game Clue, not Gone with the Wind) is the wild card in a family of high-achieving Latinos in Glendale, Ariz. Although she has two engineering degrees, she prefers to work in a fashion atelier under the hawkish gaze of her boss Carly. On the side, she sews her own product line, Mexibilly Frocks, and has developed unique methods of custom-fitting women. Scarlet’s guiding spirit, the inspiration for her blog, Daisy Forever, is Daisy de la Flora, a designer of retro kitsch clothes who got her start as a fan of Carmen Miranda’s flamboyant style. Scarlet needs to raise money because she has just won a coveted place in an NYC design school run by Daisy’s nephew, Johnny “Scissors” Tijeras. Daisy is a recluse; she entrusted her enterprises to Johnny’s dubious management when she decided, in her later years, to travel the world helping underprivileged women. Publicized by her blog, Scarlet’s class attracts a motley crew of apprentices. Among them: Mary Theresa, a buttoned-down yuppie whose home life is crashing down around her because her house-husband Hadley has rebelled. She’s recently been demoted to telecommuter because her micromanagement has demoralized her office-mates. Feisty septuagenarian Rosa appears to have Scarlet’s class on her bucket list. Rosa also knows far more than she lets on about Scarlet’s idol Daisy, which sets up a surprising plot twist. With wit and sass reminiscent of Fannie Flagg, Cano-Murillo manages to extract much mirth from her cast of craftsters, each striving to transcend restrictive patterns in life (as well as dressmaking) and to defeat family expectations that are squelching self-expression. Too often, though, the humor is deadened by preachy affirmations and new-age bromides.
Veers dangerously into Mary Engelbreit territory.