December 13th, 2012
Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon has been on my mind of late. Mostly because I am making yards upon yards of tatted lace trim, loosely based on one of her published patterns. I was curious to know what she’d done to rate her own volume of fashionable tatting patterns, so I looked her up. Color me astonished. Not only was she a leading character of the early 20th-century fashion scene, she was also a woman after my own heart.
- Her maiden name was Sutherland, which may or may not mean a connexion to the Scottish clan of which my ancestors, the Grays, were a sept.
- When faced with financial ruin, she turned to her needle for support, opening a small dressmaker’s shop in turn-of-the-century London.
- She designed the costumes for a London production of The Merry Widow (a favorite of myself and my grandmother) in 1907.
- She was a pioneer of modern fashion culture; her Lucile Ltd. shop featured elegant shopping experiences, complete with live models and afternoon tea. Afternoon tea!!
- Lucy created one-of-a-kind “personality” dresses for her more important clients, spending days getting to know them before making their outfits.
- She, like me, was obsessed with lingerie. In fact, that’s the one part of her label that has survived to this day.
- In addition to tatting patterns, Lucy branched out to design everything from film costumes to car interiors. Yes, car interiors. Those were the days!