Portrait of a Lady (Duff Gordon)

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.

Portrait of Lady Duff Gordon

  • 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!

Here’s more info on her “infamous” life, including her controversial survival of The Titanic shipwreck.