Resources needed on Lady Duff Gordon


Mike Bull

Hi everyone, apologies if this has been covered elsewhere here, but my wife is starting a fashion course and needs to gatherand present some work on a designer of her choice. She's considering doing Lucille, so can anyone in the know please recommend some good resources of info for us?

Are there any good books about her and her fashions? Websites? Anything that might be of help, really!

Many thanks,

Hi Mike,

"...apologies if this has been covered elsewhere here..."

Too funny! Yes, there are those who'd say Lucile has been covered a little too thoroughly on ET.

For online info on Lucy Duff Gordon you might want to have your wife start right here by having a read through my ET Research Article on Lucile's career, accessible in PDF format from the homepage. It's an overview of my proposed book on her. Then she might want to check out Lucile's bio page here on ET which she can access also from the homepage by selecting her name from the passenger list. On that page she'll find info and pictures from my collection and links to my web site as well to others referencing Lucile.

Also on this message board under the "Gilded Age" topic, there's a lot of discussion about Lucile and other Edwardian designers under the subhead "THE Thread on Threads," one of the longest running features of the board.

As to books, Lucy Duff Gordon wrote her autobiography "Discretions and Indiscretions" (1932) and there's a more recent dual biography of her and her sister, novelist Elinor Glyn, called "The 'It' Girls" (1986). The latter book is good for familial and anecdotal data but isn't reliable on dates (and gives a very pedestrian treatment of her career).

Books on costume history that provide fairly accurate accounts of Lucile's influence include:

Carter, Ernestine, "The Changing World of Fashion: From 1900 to the Present," New York, Putnam's, 1977.

Dormer, Peter, ed. "The Illustrated Dictionary of 20th Century Designers: The Key Personalities in Design and the Applied Arts," New York: Mallard Press, 1991.

Ewing, Elizabeth, "History of 20th Century Fashion," New York: Barnes and Noble Books (3rd ed.), 1992.

Kennett, Frances, "The Collectors' Book of Fashion," New York: Crown, 1983.

McDowell, Colin, "McDowell's Directory of 20th Century Fashion," Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, "Couture: The Great Designers," New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1985.

If there's anything I can help her with, I'll be glad to. I've helped several design students with their dissertations on Lucile. If she needs images, I have some she can use. Have her contact me at [email protected] if she wants.

Best wishes to you both,
Randy, what a brilliant response, thank you! We saw your piece in the research articles just after I posted the above request, and we'll now work our way through everything else you've suggested, and will know who to call on if/when we need any further help! Really, that's a great reply, thanks ever so much!

Mike & Ellie
Mike...Very nice and informative article. I had not realized that she had been that ifluential.

That page (or pages) is hosted by Shelley as part of her website "Journeys in Time" and I thank her very much for including me and old "Lucybelle" in her repertoire.

Some time ago I sent you a selection of photos of Lucile designs but I think most of them were not retrievable for you. I don't know if your wife is still interested, but I can try attaching the images by e-mail again if you want.

In the meantime, below is a photo of the actress Gertie Millar in a gown by Lucile for the 1912 London musical "Gipsy Love."

Best wishes,


Photo By Foulsham & Banfield
Below, shown at the conceptual phase and as a finished creation, is a typically exotic Lucile tea-gown. It was especially designed for silent film star Clara Kimball Young to wear in the 1918 movie "The Reason Why." The photo of Young was taken by Baron de Meyer for Vogue magazine.

The original watercolor sketch by Lucile reveals the designer's color scheme and initial interpretation of line and trimming for this gown, which was slightly altered in the completed model.


And lastly, a close-up image showing the fine dressmaking detail of a Lucile gown, modeled here by singer Lily Elsie in her starring role in the London premier of the famous Lehar operetta "The Merry Widow" (1907).

Hi Randy-apologies for not seeng your last post sooner, but yes please, we'd love to see any pictures that you could email to us. I'm not PC-literate enough to know why I couldn't access the last batch you tried to send, so we'll just have to trust to luck!

Thanks for remembering us,

Mike & Ellie
PS, we've not long changed our email address-the new one can be found here in my 'profile' page.

I don't know how I missed your reply. My apologies.

I will contact you as soon as I can with questions as to what exactly Ellie is interested in as far as Lucile's work (evening wear, hats, lingerie, etc) and then what I will do is make copies of a selection of images from my albums and send them to your snail-mail address. That way we can make sure she gets them!

Here is a Lucile bathing dress and beach cape from 1915, modeled by Gertie Millar.

Randy, what a wonderful offer, thank you! We're online every day, when you're ready to mail us. Interests are more in the day and evening wear areas right now.

Mike n' Ellie