Clarification and Provenance of the Duff Gordon Kimono


Lady Caroline Blois

In a letter written to her sister in the immediate aftermath of the 1912 Titanic disaster, Lucy describes her kimono as "...but a meagre one, which I'd taken unfinished from the shop and had not had time to sew properly..." Therefore, the one she wore on the ship Titanic, came from her shop 'Lucile'. This kimono no longer exists.

OUR GRANDMOTHER ESME'S KIMONO: In 1998, Esme's kimono was examined by the Museum of Costume in Bath, who told us it was not by Lucile. Recent professional opinion is that Esme's kimono is by Fortuny, with the distinctive Fortuny design of the 'Tree of Life', and dates around 1920 - 1922. As the condition has deteriorated over the last few years, the value is currently estimated at between $1,000 and $2,000.

The family totally refute recent speculation that Esme's Fortuny kimono is the 1912 Duff Gordon Kimono worn on the Titanic.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Mr. Philip Gowan is now the owner of the Fortuny Kimono. The family continue to hope that one day the Fortuny kimono will be donated to the Museum of Costume in Bath, England, UK., in accordance with our late Father's wishes.
It is my duty, and I'm proud to be able to carry it out, to absolutely support Lady Caroline's above opinion on the provenance of the kimono believed for some time to be the Titanic kimono/dressing gown worn by Lucy Lady Duff Gordon. As is fairly well known on this message board, I theorized, based on family letters and published sources, that the kimono now owned by Mr. Gowan was the so-called Titanic one. But after further research and recent in-depth consultation with the family, I am convinced the kimono in existence is not the same as the one worn by Lucy Duff Gordon aboard the Titanic. This is a great embarrassment to me but there is nothing to do but own up to the fact that I was wrong.

I take consolation in knowing that Lady Caroline and her sister Lady Clare Lindsay, who have long been supporters of my research and continue to be, have forgiven me my error, and also for the lapse I made in ever selling the kimono entrusted to me by their late father, which I mistook for a gift rather than the extended loan he apparently intended it to be.

I am at fault completely for the present situation, and although I have made amends with the family privately, I have offered to state publicly, and will do so now, that I am sincerely sorry for the errors in judgment that I committed which caused them deep distress.

Now, in deference to the family's wishes, I will state nothing further on this issue, which we all now consider to be a closed one.

Randy Bryan Bigham
While the above posts seem simple, to the point, well-concocted, etc.,there is MUCH more to the entire saga and that dirty laundry appears destined to be aired.

I would ask the moderators of ET to watch the thread carefully as it certainly has all the elements for disintigration into flames and even libel. I can provide the moderators with all backup evidence of the things I will write below.

The last 9 months have seen a withering negotiation between myself, Randy Bigham, and Lady-Duff Gordon's heirs over the return of the kimono. Most of it has no place being aired on ET or other public forums. I have prepared an extremely tedious and detailed account of everything that transpired from the time I was first shown the kimono in December of 2000 through last month, when all negotiations for its return to the family broke down irrevocably. This account has been given to a number of very strategic individuals/groups in the Titanic community. Also, I made certain through the whole 9 months that very strategic people in the Titanic community were apprised of every step taken, every email, every twist and turn that the process took. Those half-dozen or so individuals have read every email sent or received by me and can and will corroborate my own description of what has transpired. I also consulted an attorney for legal advice throughout the process.

For the purpose of this post on ET, I would point out that Randy Bigham is indeed at fault as he admits but it goes much further than errors in judgment and the question of provenance is still open as I have the letters sent to me by Randy when I bought the kimono--letters from Lady Clare Lindsay, great-granddaughter of Lady Duff-Gordon, who, at least at that time, believed it to be THE kimono. Furthermore, I have the long, original and detailed letter Randy wrote to me providing his definitive proof that the kimono was the kimono. Was there fraud involved here? Or have other elements forced him to change his tune? Or maybe he was correct all along. Significantly, over approximately 7-8 years, he has never waivered-- even once-- in his categorical statements as to the legitimacy of the item in question. There is even an example of this posted on ET in very recent months which mentions other corroborating evidence from a fellow researcher.

I have literally hundreds of emails between myself and the Duff-Gordon heirs and copies of emails that they both sent to Randy Bigham and received from him since November 30, of 2006. While I am willing to share these privately with interested parties, I will post a portion of one of them here. I have removed portions of the email addresses of the Duff-Gordon heirs.

From: "Caroline Blois" <[email protected] View Contact Details Add Mobile Alert
To: "Phillip Gowan" <[email protected]>
CC: "clare" <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: .....
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 09:30:08 -0000

<<<<Is Mr. Joe F. Grubbs the district attorney in waxahachie - as I have
got to
the point now following RBB's (note by PG: that's Randy Bryan Bigham) last e-mail that I am going to threaten
with that (note by pg: grand theft) but I have to get the wording c orrect. >>>>>>

Joe Grubb is the District Attorney for Ellis County, Texas and is the man that would be responsible for pursuing any criminal charges for crimes originating in Ellis County, Texas.
As early as February the heirs were threatening to pursue criminal charges up to grand theft against Randy Bigham for selling the kimono to me when it had been loaned to him. The threats to pursue either criminal or civil action against Randy took place over a torturous 9 month period with the family alleging that since the kimono had not been given to him, he had no right to sell it.

Indeed, the Duff-Gordon heirs have emails from Mr. Bigham (and I have a copy) in which he speaks of returning the kimono to them--as late as 2002 (keeping in mind that I purchased it in the summer of 2001). There is also a post on ET in which Mr. Bigham (prior to selling the kimono) states that he is in "temporary" custody of the kimono.

However in subsequent emails, and contrary to what is posted above, Randy continued to categorically state that the kimono was given to him by Lord Halsbury and that he at one time had proof but that had, unfortunately, been lost. And Lord Halsbury was conveniently deceased. At no time, until the above post by him, did he recant.

There are MANY--not just a few--emails in my possession in which the Duff-Gordon heirs are threatening to take action against Mr. Bigham over the entire deal and these threats continued until very recently.

Based on that it would be my belief that the above posts are some sort of "settlement" between Randy and the Duff-Gordon heirs, in which he would suddenly do an about face in return for all threats of criminal or civil action ceasing. Should anyone doubt that theirs is still not a "cozy" relationship, I can provide emails that will boggle the mind including another in which Mr. Bigham, writing to the Duff-Gordon heirs, spells out in detail his plans to make relevant posts on ET and then have "friends" post behind him in support of what he is claiming.

When it became obvious, last November, that everything that ever transpired between Mr. Bigham and myself concerning the sale of the kimono might be revealed to the Duff-Gordon heirs, he sent me very detailed instructions on what not to tell them, how to word it if I did tell them, and even how to properly address the titled ladies. That pleading/demanding email was passed along to the Duff-Gordon heirs so they could see what had really happened vs. what Randy wanted them to think had happened. I will be glad to share that with interested parties as well. That particular email was sent to me through a well-known third party in the Titanic community who would be able to corroborate its source. (I blocked Mr. Bigham's email address several years ago and prior to this fiasco had had no direct contact with him since 2004).

I realize that 99.99% of earth's population has no interest whatsoever in this whole matter. For anyone that does, just contact me, and I can provide the evidence behind the whole sorry saga, and at this point will not hesitate to do so.

Phillip Gowan
To all:

Please tread very, very lightly here.

Thank you Caroline for bringing the truth to light. Now we can put this fiasco behind us.

One has to wonder, why has it taken certain parties right up until the point when it has been confirmed that they shall not be receiving the kimono back to dispute its authenticity? Sounds like sour grapes to the casual observer.

In addition I think that we can safely say that rather than being out of their control, the circumstances were simply disagreeable to a party who has been roped into this whole sorry affair at no small expense to himself and just gave up - now left bearing the brunt of the lunacy that forms it's backlash.

As for Mr. Bigham...

I had hoped sincerely that any discussion between you and I was cemented firmly in the past, and yet here we are. Surely at your age you know by now that running onto a public forum, stating your opinion, giving no right of reply and running off again declaring the matter closed is a rather amateur mistake. Tut tut.

As for your well planned out contribution to the discussion, as far as I am concerned the only thing that is "fairly well known" on this forum and every other Titanic circle is that "proud" isn't an emotion one would have thought you would be flinging about with a straight face after this affair. I find it hard to believe that someone with such a close relationship with this item of clothing has only just realized his error after 7 years. If indeed you are now convinced that the item is a fake, surely there is something you can do other than own up that you got it wrong, surely anyone with decency would seek to reimburse your buyer (let's leave out the fact that the item wasn't yours in the first place) it now having transpired that you sold him the item under false (if entirely *innocent*) pretences. If someone sold me the wrong designer garment I would certainly want my money back.

What a sad state of affairs. Lastly, won't somebody think of the kimono? This thing is of genuine historical significance - never mind a monetary value. And now thanks to the pettiness and mess created by one man and his subsequent desperation in digging himself out of it, its authenticity is wrongly in doubt. Shameful.
It's a kimono, only a kimono.

Nobody should sue, be indicted (modern life); or be proscribed, attaindered, exiled, or excommunicated (ancient life) over a dress.

Forget it. And to those personally involved, pursue this somewhere else, I say.
Well I did raise this ages ago, but someone told me I was wrong (apologies accepted! :)) I will check my Fortuny books again now. Just shows what happens when people get too interested in trophies. I don't think the family can be blamed, and their post clearly doesn't blame either Phillip Gowan or Randy Bryan Bigham. I am just interested to know if this item is anything to do with Lucile , or not, as I don't want to maintain interest in a mistake. I bet all the people who have paid to see it feel the same.!

Thank you so much for your letter. I myself have read all the emails between the Duff-Gordon heirs,and Mr. Gowan, including the ones forwarded on to him Mr. Bigham had written. I have been in the past accused of being "Mr. Gowan's paid flunky" so I was hesitant to post anything regarding this on ET. I am however, going to say that I can verify that all Mr. Gowan has stated in his letter to be true. Also I agree with you that one person's selfishness has caused an article of this historical significance to be doubted. Sour grapes and good old attempting to cover your rear has caused this 'dirty linen' to be aired where it has no business being.

Executive decision time. Sorry folks, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, I do not feel comfortable with this kind of discussion taking place on ET.
I completely agree, though one or two of the posts were completely impartial and just stated facts the others didn't seem to be very nice and should have been kept private. Obviously it was a bit of a bombshell!I did raise this ages ago, but was told I was wrong by the person who now acknowledges I was right. (I am happy to accept apologies! :) )It seems like this is a lesson to everyone to check your facts impartially with a third party when buying or researching something. I hope the person who has the item now returns it whatever they think, and am thinking of the wisdom of Solomon, and the two mothers fighting over a baby :)
One thing to keep in mind Sashka, is that there are always two sides to every story, and it is best to leave the controversy to the individuals involved and not jump to any conclusions, since all the facts are not publicly known. For that reason, there is really no reason for debate on this topic here, particularly for those of us not involved first-hand in any capacity. I respect and agree with Phil's decision to shut down this thread, it really has no place in a public forum and would only result in things getting ugly.
>>and it is best to leave the controversy to the individuals involved and not jump to any conclusions, since all the facts are not publicly known.<<

Exactly right. We may all have our particular sympathies here and I begrudge that to nobody. However, we're very much outsiders looking in through a window that's not entirely clear. Since there is still the possibility of legal action here, (I would point out that this was alluded to) it's best to let these things run their course.

Let's leave it at that.