Lucy Duff Gordon lived larger than life. She was the first internationally renowned British dress designer. On one of her trans-Atlantic crossings, her ship ran into an iceberg and sank. Her survival on one of the limited number of lifeboats to leave the Titanic caused intense controversy. The Titanic was her second experience with a sinking vessel, her first was in 1875 when returning to her home on Jersey. She did make it to the USA as will be seen; becoming a resident by 1915. She missed a maritime disaster when she cancelled her booking on the Lusitania's last voyage. She signed exclusive rights to an agent in the USA, but decided to market her prêt-à-porter line through Sears, Roebuck & Co. on her own in 1916. Her agent sued for breach of contract and won in a landmark case, Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon. But prêt-à-porter from a leading designer was also a merchandising landmark - think DKNY. Lucile also used live models that she trained. According to her Wikipedia article, "These affairs were theatrically inspired, invitation-only, tea-time presentations, complete with a stage, curtains, mood-setting lighting, music from a string band, souvenir gifts, and programs."
Wide hats, often seen here worn by German Ladies, were launched by Lucile as costumes for the English language version of Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow in 1907. According to the Miss Lily Elsie Site, Lucile designed costumes, including the famous hats, for Lily Elsie for The Merry Widow, Pamela, The Dollar Princess, A Waltz Dream, and The Count of Luxembourg.
Lucile's style was made obsolete by the end of World War I, but her designs broke ground for people like Coco Chanel. According to Melanie Abrams 21 February 2011 article in the Telegraph, "Duff Gordon's clothes were revolutionary, with sheer, clinging chiffons, layers of diaphanous lace and nude tones, and dripped with silk ribbons or flowers." She also knew sex sells as Melanie Abrams wrote, "Duff Gordon chose erotic titles for her dresses, known as Gowns of Emotion, such as Give Me Your Heart and The Sighing Sound of Lips Unsatisfied. It was a canny move. Lucy focused on love." She pioneered modern under-garments that made corsets obsolete. One of her staff was Edward Molyneux who became a famous mid-century designer.
This is the largest album I have installed in a very long time because Lucile is so well documented and her designs allow a glimpse into the art and process of fashion design otherwise out of the scope of this Site.