Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon bigraphy, stories - Fashion

Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon : biography

13 June 1863 - 20 April 1935

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon (née Sutherland) (13 June 1863 – 20 April 1935) was a leading fashion designer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, best known as "Lucile", her professional name. The first English designer to achieve international renown, Lucile was a widely acknowledged innovator in couture styles as well as in fashion industry public relations. Apart from originating the "mannequin parade", a precursor to the modern fashion show, and training the first professional models, she launched liberating slit skirts and low necklines, popularized less restrictive corsets, and promoted alluring, pared-down lingerie.Etherington-Smith, Meredith, The "It" Girls (1986), 56–57; Mendes, Valerie D., Lucile Ltd(2009), 22, 26 She opened branches of her London house, Lucile Ltd, in Paris, New York City, and Chicago, dressing a trend-setting clientele of royalty, nobility, and stage and film personalities.Georgina O'Hara, The Encyclopedia of Fashion (1986), 164; Hamish Bowles, "The Look of the Century", Vogue , Nov. 1999, 453 Lucy Duff Gordon is also remembered as a survivor of the sinking of Titanic in 1912, and as the losing party in the precedent-setting 1917 contract law case of Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, in which Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo wrote the opinion for New York's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.Lynch, Don, Titanic: An Illustrated History(1992),182–185; 222 N.Y. 88, N.E.214

Marriage and family

In 1884 Lucy married James Stuart Wallace, with whom she had a child, Esme (1885–1973) (later wife of the 2nd Earl of Halsbury and mother of Anthony, 3rd Earl of Halsbury). An alcoholic, Wallace was regularly unfaithful, and Lucy sought consolation in love affairs, including a long relationship with Dr. Sir Morell Mackenzie.Duff Gordon, Lucy, Discretions and Indiscretions, 22, 23, 33–35; Glyn, Elinor, Romantic Adventure, 54 The Wallaces separated in about 1890, and Lucy started divorce proceedings in 1893.Date of 1890–1891 estimated from Lucy Duff Gordon's autobiography, Discretions and Indiscretions, 35; also see "She Changed Eve's Dress", London Daily Sketch (22 April 1935), 2: "The six years of my marriage to Jim were the worst years I ever knew." The Wallaces' divorce was finalized in 1895, as recorded in Supreme Court archives, and quoted in Lucile Ltd by Valerie D. Mendes and Amy de la Haye (2009), 216. Also see by her grandson Anthony Glyn, which refers to the breakdown of his great-aunt's marriage

In 1900 Lucile married Scottish landowner and sportsman Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon.Glasgow Herald, 19 May 1900


Lucile's former assistant, Howard Greer, published memories of his years working with her in the book Designing Male (1950). A dual biography of Lucile and her sister Elinor Glyn, called The 'It' Girls, by Meredith Etherington-Smith, was published in 1986, the title stemming from Elinor's popularization of the euphemism "it" to denote sexuality or "sex appeal."

A number of international museum exhibitions have featured Lucile garments in recent years, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Cubism and Fashion" (1999), the Museum of the City of New York's "Fashion on Stage" (1999) and the Victoria and Albert Museum's "Black in Fashion" (2000) As of 2006, the V&A included a Lucile suit on permanent exhibit. The first exhibition devoted exclusively to Lucile's work was the New York Fashion Institute of Technology's "Designing the It Girl: Lucile and Her Style" (2005) It included pieces from the private 'Lucile Ltd' archive of British textile designer Lewis Orchard, known for his expertise on the subject.

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London published Lucile Ltd by Amy de la Haye and Valerie D. Mendes in June 2009. In 2011-12 Lucy Duff Gordon's great-great granddaughter, Camilla Blois, revived the Lucile brand, concentrating on alluring and elegant lingerie, as her ancestor had when she started in business in the 1890s. The year marked a resurgence of interest in the couturiere's legacy. In addition to the Sundance Channel documentary, "Love, Lust & Lingerie", which featured a detailed segment on Lucile's contributions to fashion history, the British-produced miniseries Titanic, written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, included a cameo portrayal of the designer. Two critically acclaimed accounts of the disaster, Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson, and Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster have extensive chapters on Lucile. Five other books published in 2011-12 explored Lucile's career. Among them are an illustrated biography, Lucile: Her Life by Design by Randy Bigham, and a novel based on her life, The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott. Other titles include Staging Fashion, exploring the Lucile wardrobes of actresses Lily Elsie and Billie Burke, and Performance, Fashion and the Modern Interior, which includes a chapter on Lucile's salons. Finally the couturiere's 1932 autobiography, Discretions and Indiscretions, was republished under the title A Woman of Temperament.

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Living octopus

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