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28-11-2007
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1863-1935 Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon

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Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon (June 13, 1863 – April 20, 1935) was a leading fashion designer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is often referred to as "Lucile," the name she gave her London couture house. She opened branches in Paris, New York City and Chicago, dressing high society, the stage and early silent cinema.

Lucy Duff Gordon was a survivor, with her husband and her secretary, of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. She is still referred to 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 decided against her in favor of her advertising agent.

Daughter of civil engineer Douglas Sutherland and Elinor Saunders, Lucy Christiana Sutherland was born in London, England and was raised in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Lucy’s younger sister was romantic novelist and screenwriter Elinor Glyn. In 1884, Lucy married James Stuart Wallace with whom she had a child, Esme. The couple divorced six years later in 1890. That year, in order to support herself and her child, Lucy began working from home, and by 1894 had opened Maison Lucile in Old Burlington St, in the heart of the fashionable West End of London. In 1896, a larger shop was opened at 17 Hanover Square, and by 1900, she was trading as Lucile Ltd at 23 Hanover Square. In 1900 Lucile married Scottish landowner and sportsman Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. Lucile Ltd had a prestigious clientèle including aristocracy, royalty, and theatre stars. Her business expanded with branches opening in New York City, Paris and Chicago in 1910, 1911 and 1915 respectively.

Lucile was well known for her lingerie, tea gowns and evening wear. She is credited with training the first professional fashion models (called mannequins) (1896) and staging the first runway or "catwalk" style shows. She created theatrical, invitation-only, tea-time fashion shows, complete with a stage, curtains, mood-setting lighting, music from a string band, souvenir gifts and programmes. Her dresses were given descriptive names, inspired by literature, popular culture, and Lucile's interest in the psychology and personality of her clients.

Lucile was known for layered, draped garments in romantic fabrics and sophisticated colours, often accentuated with sprays of hand-made flowers. However, Lucile was also known for simple, smart tailoring in suits and daywear.

Some well-known clients, whose clothing influenced many when it appeared in early films, on stage and in the press, included: Irene Castle, Lily Elsie, Gertie Millar, Gaby Deslys, Billie Burke and Mary Pickford. Lucile costumed many theatrical productions including the London premiere of Franz Lehár's operetta The Merry Widow (1907), the Ziegfeld Follies revues on Broadway (1915 -1921) and the D.W. Griffith silent movie Way Down East (1920). Her fashions were also frequently featured in Pathé and Gaumont newsreels of the 1910s and 20s, and she appeared in her own weekly spot in the British newsreel "Around the Town" (c.1917 - 1919).

Lady Duff Gordon also wrote a syndicated fashion page for the Hearst newspaper syndicate (1910 - 1922), and columns for Harper's Bazaar and Good Housekeeping magazines (1912 - 1922).

In addition to her prolific work as a couturier, costumier, journalist and pundit, Lady Duff Gordon also took significant advantage of commercial endorsements, lending her name to advertising for shoes, brassieres, perfume and other luxury apparel and beauty items. Among the most innovative of her licensing ventures were a two-season lower-priced, mail-order fashion line for Sears, Roebuck & Co. (1916-17), which promoted her clothing in special de luxe catalogs, and a contract to design interiors for limousines and town cars for the Chalmers Motor Co, later Chrysler Corporation (1917).

Lady Duff Gordon's connection with her own design empire began to disintegrate following a re-structure in 1919, and by 1922 she had ceased designing for the company. Lucile Ltd continued after her departure with less success, whilst Lady Duff Gordon continued working from private premises designing personally for individual clients.

Lucile herself continued as a fashion columnist and critic after her designing career at Lucile ended, and she wrote her best-selling autobiography Discretions and Indiscretions in 1932. She died of breast cancer, complicated by pneumonia, in a Putney, London nursing home in 1935 at the age of 71 (on the anniversary of her husband's death).
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An original article about Lucile, flanked by two portraits of the talented designer. The portrait on the left was taken in 1916, while the one on the right is from 1910. Note the diaphanous lines of Lucile's gowns and the lavish embellishment (all the beads on the 1916 gown!). The article is a fascinating read, highlighting Lucile's beliefs about women's clothing.
sensibility.com
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File Type: jpg lucileportrait.jpg (93.4 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg ldgarticle.jpg (139.2 KB, 0 views)

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Lucile Avant Garde Vivid Voided Velvet Evening Gown
American, 1910
The rich informal design of purple velvet voided overall to metallic gold silk gauze in an Orientalist meandering cloud motif, lined in purple silk chiffon, comprising a stitched demi-empire surplice bodice over a camisole of light ochre silk with chiffon and hammered gold lace inset, the weighted outer skirt shaped as modified surplice at left front to reveal weighted underskirt of light ochre silk with purple chiffon overlay, an iridescent lime to lemon silk satin self backed sash concluding in metallic gold fringe, Oriental poppy corsage of metallic gold gauze lined in purple velvet, labeled: Lucile Ltd./37 West 36th St/New York.
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File Type: jpg 3393_Lucile.jpg (122.7 KB, 4 views)

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1918 circa Noir Lucile Day Dress with Medieval Influences

Label: Lucile Ltd / 19 East 54th St. / New York.
Origin: French
Materials: silk, cotton, linen

Description: Most folks nowadays know Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon as the fashion designer who was on the Titanic and escaped in a lifeboat. But she is an important designer and has a prominent place in fashion history. Ever heard of the phrase "the It Girl"? That phrase came from a book that her sister wrote. And Lucile designed the clothes to fit this fantastic persona.
vintagriffin
Attached Images
File Type: jpg ed.lucille1.jpg (13.1 KB, 2 views)
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File Type: jpg ed.lucille3quarters2.jpg (15.2 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucilleBack.jpg (16.9 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucilleBodice.jpg (35.5 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucilleSide.jpg (16.3 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucilleSleeve.jpg (27.0 KB, 2 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucilleSleeve2.jpg (36.3 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg ed.lucileLabel.jpg (11.2 KB, 113 views)

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Lucile silk chiffon/metallic lace evening dress, c.1922. Labels: "Lucile Ltd./19 East 54th Street/New York", Stock #6299/Model #NY83/Date received 3/1/22".
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File Type: jpg c308x.jpg (34.7 KB, 7 views)

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Lucile staff silk/lace dress, c.1923. The label "Lucile Staff, Inc." refers to a team of designers who were formerly employed by Lady Duff Gordon (Lucile).
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Fashion sketch from Lucile (Lady Duff-Gordon, 1863-1935) designer archive, c.1922

Born in London, Lucy Kennedy grew up to become the designer known as Lucile. Admired for the romantic, feminine style of her eveningwear, she used embellishments such as ribbons, beads, and lace. By 1900 “The Maison Lucile” was an established couture house in London. She later went on to design for stage and film stars, as well as for the Ziegfield Follies. She opened branches of Lucile in New York, Paris, and Chicago from 1910 to 1925, but unable to adjust to changing fashion sensibilities and suffering from financial difficulties, Lucile folded by the end of the 1920s.
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01-12-2007
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Lady Duff Gordon, née Lucy Christiana Sutherland (1863 – 1935), was born in London, raised in Canada and later achieved international success as a fashion designer under the name “Lucile.” In 1894, she opened her first shop and soon established branches of her couture house in New York, Paris, and Chicago, as well as London. In 1900, she married Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and in 1912, she and her husband survived the sinking of the Titanic.

Lucile, Ltd. was known for its use of exotic motifs and silhouettes. This coat from the Paris branch reflects the taste for chinoiserie found in French fashions around 1923.


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Lucille Photos of Photos in F.I.T. Archives:








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Lucile Gowns for Irene Castle



Irene Castle costumed by Lucile for Watch Your Step, 1914 (from wikipedia)




Vernon and Irene Castle

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Lucile Lounge Pajamas c. 1918


Lucile Coat c. 1921

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Lady Duff Gordon for Sears & Roebuck Catalog- Spring/Summer 1917


LOVE the cover...



Frontspiece





"My Dearest"





"Daddy's Sweetheart"



Corsets

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Lucile Autobiography -"Discretions and Indiscretions"

Lily Elsie c. 1913(?)


A "Mannequin Parade" 1913


Dolores in "Ziegfeld Follies" Dress, NYC, 1916


Phyllis in "Ziegfeld Follies" Dress, NYC, 1916


All photos scanned from Lucile's autobiography:
Duff-Gordon, Lucy, ("Lucile"). Discretions and Indiscretions. New York: Frederic A. Stokes Co., 1932.

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