Lady Duff Gordon


Jose Rivera de Cosme


Have there been any books written about Lady Guff Gordon? Does anyone know a source for her fashion illustrations?

Million Thanks!!
She wrote her own biography, called "Discretions and Indiscretions". Where you would find a copy is another story.
I just got the biography of her and her sister called 'The "It" Girls' through the ABE book exchange for only $15.
ABE is actually
It's a book exchange with tie-ins to the inventories of thousands of bookstores. You type in the name of the book you are looking for and they come back with a store or stores that has it in stock. It's a good source for out of print Titanic books.
Lady Duff Gordon's autobiography is "Discretions & Indiscretions," published by Jarrold's, Ltd (London) and Fred. A. Stokes, Co. (NY), 1932. A book by one of her former assistants, Hollywood costume designer Howard Greer, is called "Designing Male;" it is dedicated to "Her Ladyship" & many of the early chapters are devoted to his time working w/ her (c. 1916-21). There is no mention of the "Titanic." It was published by G. P. Putnam's Sons (NY), 1950. The parts dealing w/ Lady Duff Gordon were serialized in "Town & Country" magazine, Nov & Dec. 1949. The latest piblished work on her is a joint bio called "The 'It' Girls," by Meredith Etherington-Smith & Jeremy Pilcher, published 1986 by Hamish-Hamilton (London) & HBJ (NY). A great many fashion history books profile her career & sometimes include photos/illustrations of her designs - also books on theatre, primarily Broadway history often cite her, as she designed prolifically for stage & film in addition to her couture work. These would be too numerous to mention but anyone interested in Lady Duff Gordon (Lucile) may e-mail me for further info. My own projected book, "Lucile - Her Life by Design," geared as a pictorial retrospective of her life & work, is currently being agented to publishers in the UK & here. ET's very thorough page on Lady Duff Gordon contains many recently posted pictures from my personal collection. Thanks,


Miss Francatelli (nicknamed "Franks") probably died in the 1960s. Little is known for sure of her whearabouts in her later years. The late Lord Halsbury, Lucile's grandson, remembered her living in London in the 1950s. Walter Lord received a letter from her in 1956 datelined Switzerland. Phillip Gowan has done remarkable research on Titanic's passengers/crew & has found that Franks' married name was Moore. Wish I knew more to tell you.

They have several dresses in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that Lady Duff Gordon designed and there is postcards of them available
one of them is dated 1911-12.They also have a dress in the V and A that was owned by a Mrs (or Miss I can't remember which)J J Astor could this possibly be Madeline Astor?
edmund here in england
For Those Interested in the Work of Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon), 1863-1935.

Actually the V & A have upwards of 20 original Lucile creations - 2 are on permanent display, a cream satin/lace-black velvet evening dress (1913), & a grey wooolen suit (1911). The V & A's recent costume exhibition "Black in Fashion" (closed in April) featured a black crepe Lucile dinner dress (1910). The US ed of the catalog for this show has now been published & is called "Dressed in Black." The photo of the Lucile dress is included as well as a profile of Lucile. The V & A also have 2 original albums of watercolor sketches executed by Lady Duff Gordon for Lucile, Ltd (1904-05) as well as a large though as yet unspecified number of original fashion photographs (1910-12), which were donated by Lady Duff Gordon's grandson, the late Earl of Halsbury. This group of illustrations has not yet been catalogued.

The Museum of London have re: 30 original fashion drawings by Lucile but only 5 actual garments of her design, though 2 were donated by Lady Duff Gordon herself, a 1910 street dress of green georgette & a 1911 afternoon gown in pale blue satin & cream net/lace.

The Museum of Costume at Bath have to date 5 Lucile dresses, 3 having recently been donated by Lady Duff Gordon's grandson, including the wedding dress worn by LDG's daughter, Viscountess Tiverton (1907) & the presentation dress worn by Lady Tiverton for the Coronation of George V (1911).

The Musee de la Mode et Textile at the Louvre in Paris have re: a dozen Luciles. None are on exhibit at present.

The largest collection of Lucile costumes are in the USA at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), which has more than 30, including stage dresses worn by dancer Irene Castle; the Museum of the City of New York, about 20 dresses & hats; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, about 15 gowns; and the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, which has 22 + gowns & 5 hats by Lucile.

The Fashion Institute of Technology Library (NY) has the largest collection of Lucile memorabilia, including original sketchbooks, photo albums, scrapbooks, fashion show programmes, folders of advertizing copy, bookkeeping files, etc. Lady Duff Gordon's personal collection of 18th century engravings & prints which served as inspiration for her romantic designs are also at FIT. A copy of Lady Duff Gordon's Sears, Roebuck brochure (she was the 1st high fashion designer to appeal to the mass market)is here, too. The Billy Rose Theatre archive at the New York Public Library has several original Lucile costume drawings for the "Ziegfeld Follies."

Most recently UCLA acquired 229 original Lucile watercolor sketches from art dealers Librarie Ici Aussie (Paris). These cover the 1916-17 season.

Sotheby's in May also closed out a several month's long on-line auction of re: 20 Lucile drawings from 1915.

Among recent publications on fashion history referencing Lucile are:

Georgina O'Hara Callan, The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Fashion & Fashion Designers, London: Thames & Hudson, 1999.

Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye, 20th Century Fashion, London: Thames & Hudson, 2000

Linda Watson, Vogue - 20th Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade & Designer, London: Carlton Books, 1999.

Randy Bryan Bigham
Also there are at least 3 copies of Lady Duff Gordon's autobiography "Discretions & Indiscretions" for sale now on BiblioFind and They are kind of expensive - ranging in price from $175 - $185. Copies of the 1986 dual bio of LDG & her sister, novelist Elinor Glyn, called "The 'It' Girls," is available at in varying price ranges.
Lady Duff Gordon hardly seemed like a likeable person to me, I can admire her but to me she seemed very self absorbed , could not of cared less about the people drowning in the water while she was safely in her half filled lifeboat all she seemed to care about was her maids night dress and her own possesions

You know this is an easy deduction to make, and unfortunately you're not alone in feeling as you do, but the view of Lady Duff Gordon as self-absorbed is just plain unfair and incorrect. People believe that because that's what's always been said, looking in from the outside, if you will.

I made a point to find out more and over years of research have come up with the conclusion that this extraordinary woman was indeed often spoiled, vain, judgemental, temperamental, and selfish, but I also discovered (to my own initial surprise)that she was an affectionate, warm-hearted, giving, emotional, lively, humorous, out-spoken, fair-minded, ambitious, talented, intelligent, hard-working, inspiring person whom people not only greatly admired but greatly loved.

It is always a fallacy to characterize someone's life by one trait, negative or positive.

For myself, I don't see her as self-absorbed at the crucial moment you speak of. She was seasick in an open boat in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night and was trying to make small talk with her secretary to pass the awful time - that's how I see it. Her comment was about Miss Francatelli's night gown, obviously a gift from her employer which "Franks," as she was nicknamed, had been very proud of. To me that shows she was a generous employer who cared for her young assistant. She by the way did not complain about losing her own possessions.

For the record, Franks remained devoted to Lucile; even years later she wrote to Walter Lord complaining that his intrepretation of the "nightdress" incident was all wrong - that it misrepresented Lucile grossly, and moreover that it did NOT occur - this is an important point - as the Titanic sank. Also, Lucile in her memoirs says the statement took place some time later when they were all trying to make feeble jokes and talk just to hold their wits together. Her words were also not, according to her, the sweeping "There is your beautiful nightdress gone" which is a powerful sound-bite (& has been much quoted in books)but was rather less dramatic. The words as she recalled them were said to Franks after surveying the grab-bag assortment of clothes she had flung on in haste: "Just fancy, you've actually left your beautiful nightdress behind." Not such an odd statement for a woman (especially a fashion designer!)to make, though surely a trivial one in such a moment.

Also nobody ever takes into account that the sailors in boat 1 were bemoaning the fact that they had lost THEIR possessions - to the point where Sir Cosmo finally offered them some money to keep them until they found a new post. This was of course misconstrued.

I won't go on anymore. This will be an endless debate.

Believe whatever you want to - we all will anyway.