Titanic's Fashion Gals In The News


Jason D. Tiller

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Thank you Randy.

Best regards,

Jason
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Mar 20, 1997
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Randy:

Thank you for sharing the amusing article. It inadvertantly begs another comparison to present day events in terms of how the entertainment and fashion industry are handling the current world climate. I had forgotten how Edith Rosenbaum who at that time devoted her journalism to more "trivial" subjects such as the society events and fashion plates, suddenly switched gears upon her escape from Titanic and no doubt contributed many insightful and serious writings about her ordeal. It sounds like Edith again went into hard journalism mode for her World War I related reports.

Today you turn on Entertainment Tonight and you're just as likely to hear about Tom Brokaw's brush with anthrax as you would about Jennifer Lopez promoting her new movie or album.

Interesting echo of history, isn't it?

Arthur
 

Kris Muhvic

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Hello all-

Yes, it is important to notice how significant issues in the world affect even the most benign aspects in society. We not only shape our times but also are shaped by them.

It is equally important to see the adaptability of those in the past, and us in the here-and-now, demonstrated in the face of any and all upheaval in our daily existence.

Well, it was good to find out that the two fashion ladies on Titanic at least noticed one another. I never knew of any interaction between Lucile and Edith, en route, and always wondered about that. What a talk they could have!

Thanks-
Kris
 
Mar 20, 2000
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To Jason, Arthur, Kris, etc

I'm glad you enjoyed the link.

My book (cross-fingers!) on Lucile and the article I'm also putting together on Edith both mention several other connections between the two ladies. Edy did not personally know Lucy before they met on Carpathia but she had long been on the Lucile Ltd invitation list for collections. Edy had in fact reviewed Lucy's seasonal openings in Paris at least three times before sailing on Titanic. Excerpts from these reviews (containing her impression of the salon as well as the clothes)will be in the book and article.

For the time being, though, for those interested, here is a brief tidbit about Lucile designs exhibited in Paris from a review on summer fashions Edy cabled to Women's Wear Daily on Grand Prix Day, June 25, 1911 (featured July 18, p. 1/c 1-4):

"...I had occasion to call today at Lucile's new establishment in Paris and found the installation of the house very beautifully carried out. The small room which is used for the "essayage de corsets" is entirely in pink effects - taffeta on the walls, ceilings covered in the daintiest of nets, silk roses completely outlining windows and forming little touches on the walls. The gowns are very young in style and I noticed quite a bit of crepe de chine in the collection. The manikins all parade by with hats and parasols when showing street gowns..."

The special lingerie showroom Edy refers to is Lucile Ltd's renowned "Rose Room." Each of Lucy's salons (London, Paris, New York, and later Chicago) had its own private "Rose Room" where beautiful models displayed to a select audience all the budoir finery for which she was so celebrated - negligees, peignoirs, camisoles, knickers, stockings, and - yes - corsets (Lucy's most popular "stays" were pink brocade).

The Rose Room was the favorite haunt of every fashionable Edwardian female from blushing bride-to-be to sultry showgirl to society matron.

More later.

All the best,

Randy
 

Kris Muhvic

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Randy-

Thanks for that glimpse into the salon, although reading it I felt a bit of a voyeur!

So good to hear of your book, and of the article. Yes, the fingers are crossed!

Would you, by chance, know of any connection regarding the buyers etc. of department stores on board Titanic and the Ladies of Fashion we're discussing here? Now, I'm not sure of the general run of the fashion industry (quite ignorant, in fact), or of the ways in which garments were sold. Was there, back then, the "ready to wear" lines, which would be most probably sold to retail (not couture houses, with fittings etc.), stores?

I just thought about this now; of course I'm asking potentially complex questions that may not even have any relavence here, but was interested in the business aspect, and possible awkwardness if Lucile ran into one of her "purchacing agents" on board. Well, I'm sure she would have charmed them no matter what!

Again- Great news!
Kris
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Kris,

Good question. I don't know of any meetings between Lucile and a buyer or any other business agent on Titanic, though there were several such fashion trades-people on board. We know that she met Mrs. Meyer, whose father was Andrew Saks, and she apparently knew Mrs. Cavendish, who was a daughter of Henry Seigel, another New York merchant. I don't think she would have known - on sight at least - people like George Rosenshine, who was in the ostrich feather business (?), or the Gimbels buyers like Mr. McGough, or any of the others. She seems to have known the Strauses socially, if not intimately, which makes sense. Lucile did know OF Edith Rosenbaum but they didn't meet till on the Carpathia; she had noticed her on Titanic, as you saw in the article I posted, because of her pretty clothes.

The whole reason Lucy and Cosmo were travelling under the "Morgan" alias, I should stress, was precisely to avoid the attention someone like her would attract - shipboard "nouveau riches" and businessmen didn't always irritate her (she sometimes welcomed the company) but they didn't amuse her husband in the least. In addition, the couple seldom travelled together owing to Lucy's busy life, so the Titanic trip was to have been a vacation of sorts. Cosmo was very jealous over the time she spent with others and Lucy's consenting to sailing sans the usual fanfare was a concession on her part.

Though Lucy was a couturiere she, like all designers, did also sell to department and specialty stores. But you must remember she would seldom have met personally with these agents; her sales staff and administration would have dealt with their orders. She was not generally on hand in the showroom, except on days of a collection opening, or to meet a special client. One of her US assistants, Howard Greer, later a Hollywood costume designer, wrote in his memoirs that it would have been easier to arrange an interview with a prime minister than with her when she was working on a collection.

Just to give you a sense of Lucy's work and what it entailed: she spent much of her time any given work day (for her 10 am - 6pm; though she sometimes pulled a 10-hr day) designing in her private studio/office, whether in London, Paris, or New York. She draped, cut, and pinned each dress (on one of her models), sometimes spending a whole afternoon perfecting a single style. When satisfied she made up a quick sketch of the design and had it sent by an errand girl to the appropriate workroom (there were several).

This was a normal day for her; it was interspersed of course with consultations with individual clients (these normally being the richer or more famous ones; she couldn't possibly have met with every customer), overseeing fittings underway with other clients, meeting with reporters, inspecting goods submitted by fabric suppliers, and (her least favorite thing) conferring with her "counting-house staff" over "the books". By the way, her salons in London and Paris would not have been as strong sellers to American stores as other couture houses since, unlike her competition, she was savvy enough to have a New York branch. She later ventured into retail, wholesale, amd mail-order markets but this was still a few years in the future for her.

As to Edith Russell (then Rosenbaum), she was much more likely as a reporter to have known the various rag trade folks on board. She seems to have been acquainted with a fellow from Jordan Marsh Inc whose name escapes me at present and, being a "people person," Edy no doubt met many others in the business en route.

Edy seems to have been one of those charmers who are so amusing you can't help but be attracted and drawn-in by them. Lucy was a social, talkative sort as well, very high-spirited, not at all cool and restrained and snooty as she is portrayed. She was always one to strike up a conversation, especially with someone who seemed withdrawn or shy; she launched herself on them and brought them out of their shell. I've also found she loved sitting in on otherwise all-male conversations to hear all the naughty wisecracks.

Well, as usual I've succeeded at telling much more than you wanted to know and I apologize for running on!

All my best,

Randy

PS) Just as an afterthought, in the event anyone should be interested in the astrological, both Lucy Duff Gordon and Edith Russell were Geminis, their birthdays one day apart, though in different years. Lucy was born June 13, Edy June 12. I guess I have a natural affinity for Fashion June Bugs as my own birthday is June 20.
 
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I feel as if I just spent an enchanting interval with two irresistible ladies. Now I crave a Rose Room of my own- bring on the tulle and crepe de chine!
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Shell,

Whenever I see, hear, or write about crepe de chine, it is thee of which I think!

Hail to H.M. Shelley D., Queen of Crepe de Chine!

Randy
 

Kris Muhvic

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Randy-

Apologize? Do nothing of the sort!

First, you answered a question of mine already about the alias "Morgan" (W. Lord mentioned something about creditors, but beyond that I never gave much thought).

Now, I was going to ask you something before, start a thread, but I guess here is probably the best place:

From my understanding, the Duff-Gordons occupied staterooms on "A" deck, which seems to be the modest accomodations in 1st class. Personally, from photos, I find them to be be perfectly charming; small, un-adorned with fuss...a definite eye-relief from the visual overload of the public rooms. For years I always assumed, because the Duff-Gordons were titled, they would have occupied one of the more "swank" suites on "B" or "C" deck. So it was a bit of surprise when I found out otherwise (here on ET).
But then I remembered Edith (Edy) Russell/Rosenbaum's, should I say, apprehension at Titanic's size. I guess she longed for the more intimate shipboard life as opposed to the floating hotel concept. So this got me thinking: did the Duff-Gordons (of course others too) choose their staterooms, on purpose? Reminescent of the "older" ships that they would have been accustomed? Or was it the simple matter of booking agents and availability?

I hope you don't think I'm asking too many questions or otherwise intrusive...only these little details I find myself drawn to.

But hey! As a June 1st baby, maybe I can be forgiven
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Yours, the knave of nylon (sorry, couldn't resist!)
Kris
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Kris,

There are never too many questions to ask me on the subject of Lucile - any long-suffering friend or relation of mine can assure you of this!

As to the accomodations the Duff Gordons took on A Deck. I cannot say for certain how it was that they came by forward port staterooms A-16/20 instead of a larger suite. But if my sources are correct (one being Daniel Klistorner who is a top-notch researcher and a good friend), the couple booked passage fairly late, maybe as late as 6/7 April, and at separate times. I believe they did sign-on late as it supports the fact that Lucy was on a last-minute business trip, which is well-documented. I don't know if this figures into the equation of the cabins or not, though.

A possible reason for the Duff Gordons' having separate cabins is that Lucy preferred her privacy. She did not travel on business with her husband normally and having her own room may have just been how she liked to do things. I could delve into more personal reasons here but will keep those to myself for now; got to keep something as a surprise!

The A Deck cabins were less swank, that's true, but to me they're so cute, like a little jewel box, very sweet and comfy. Lucy must have felt crowded, however, as a portion of a letter she wrote her sister indicates; it would seem she had all her baggage stacked up everywhere and it irritated her stewardess.

The same seems to be the case with Edith Russell, berthed further forward on the starboard side of A Deck. It is not yet proven but there is some evidence that Edy at some point en route asked for some of her trunks to be lodged in a vacant but as yet unidentified cabin on A Deck.

All my best,

Randy

PS) So you're a Gemini too! Poor Shell's all alone as a Virgo. But we love Virgos - or try to!
 

Kris Muhvic

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Randy-

Well, I'm glad I'm not making a nuisance of myself here: I'm not one to suffer!

Yes, there is the personal reasons of why the separate rooms...I will not ask (surprises are good!) Now, this might not be the case with the Duff-Gordons, but the rather common practice of aristocratic spouses occupying separate sleeping chambers should be touched on here. I think of Czarina Alexandria's famous Mauve Bedroom, which although a Royal example, there is the trickle down influence to other segments of Court...and to those who emulate them. Yes- there were the nocturnal visitations (I'm trying to be polite!),
yet with different things I've come across, there was nothing unusal with separate rooms, or beds for that matter.

I have no idea the total history of this phenomenon, or stats on those who practiced it. It is just something that one should take in consideration, however odd it seems today, when looking at intimate/domestic details of those in the past. Well, that's what I found out, anyway.

I would love to hear from Shelley her take on this. Virgos are wonderful people...just don't make them angry! Of course as Geminis we may do that and not realise it. And feel GUILT forever after (or is that the Catholic thing?
happy.gif


Gratis-
Kris
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Kris,

I'm glad you brought up the point of the custom among Royal and aristocratic couples of sharing separate quarters. This is something I was going to mention but forgot. I'm not sure how common the practice was in Edwardian England but it must have been fairly prevalent, so I do feel it could be at least one reason the Duff Gordons booked separate cabins.

The Duff Gordons were not a part of the inner Court circle, though Cosmo's family had Royal connections; his great uncle had been chief gentleman usher to Victoria and his cousin, the Duke of Fife, had married Princess Louise, Edward VII's eldest daughter.

As for Lucy, while her early divorce had effectively nixed her presentation to the Queen, she was nevertheless the favored couturiere of many of the younger set of Royals, and so I guess it is likely that even this far connection to the Crown might have required her submission to a certain code of conduct. She was afterall a commissioned "Court Dressmaker," her first inclusion in the annual "Trades and Court Directories" occuring in the 1894 edition, when she dressed the Countess of Warwick, then the Prince of Wales' mistress, for a Drawing Room presentation at Sandringham.

Well, enough lecturing for tonight!

And Shell where are you dear one? If anyone knows about the Catholic view, Kris, it's our very own Church Lady Extraordinaire, Madame Shelley D.

My best,

Randy
 
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Having separate bedchambers seems a civilized practice all around! I daresay the aristocracy seems to have the edge on this phenomenon due to the simple economics that the poorer classes seldom HAD a separate bedchamber for Milady to occupy. While touring the great mansions of Newport (Have still not given up the notion of an ET Board Tour)-separate rooms were the norm- often with a "communicating passage" between for nocturnal perambulations. I say if man has too little energy to cross the hall he may as well STAY in his chamber anyway! Sometimes separate beds are found within the same large room- double, 3/4 or even twin-sized. I have heard every reason for separate rooms from better and more "hygenic"slumber to the very practical idea of feminine vs.masculine decor, a lady's massive wardrobe and accoutrements, different sleeping and rising habits, the presence of lady's maids who had to coif and dress the lady and who no doubt would have swooned if presented with the Master in his Turkish nightcap and dressinggown in days of old. Having just viewed The Age of Innocence- for the upteenth time- set in mid 19th century- I am delighted at the scene where the dainty little wife stitches on her embroidery whilst hubby smokes small turkish ciggies and reads to her by the fireplace in HIS chamber. She sweetly knocks on the door before entering and asks if he would like her company beforehand. Too much togetherness is the BAIN of contemporary living. And yes- the Captain reposes blissfully in his enormous King-sized bed and I have my mauve and velvet queen-sized Peril full of old theatre memorabilia and frou-frou- down the hall. AND I can now eat crackers and new apples in bed with impunity! Smoking rooms and ladies' writing rooms held the same gender segregation shipboard. I salute a sweet hiatus from MENFOLK. They are SO much more appreciative at the subsequent reunion!
 
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A footnote to the above* You will love reading all the Edith Wharton novels (she also summered in Newport and was American aristocracy)- and a dandy tome called HOW TO MARRY AN ENGLISH LORD-paperback- all about American Heiresses of the Gilded Age hunting down titled hubbies. Hysterical.For the record-Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Borden SHARED a double bed at the famous Hatchet House Central on Second Street in old Fall River...of course he was too CHEAP to consider separate rooms!
 
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Shelley,

We knew you'd come through gloriously! What a riot you are - "nocturnal perambulations" indeed!
But so true. I always knew the rich (and even some of us humbler folk) maintained separate bed rooms at home. But did the flthy rich of America and their titled cousins abroad do the same when staying in hotels or on shipboard? I have found differing accounts.

Also dear Shell - since you are with us at last and I assume are staying for a chat and some tea (cream or lemon dear?) - what do you know of the stateroom arrangements of other couples aboard Titanic? Were there many in separate cabins? The Duff Gordons seem to be the only ones travelling in that way. Do enlighten us.

Kris, please pass the scones to Shell...

Randy
 
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I propose to undertake an indepth perusal of the above, all-captivating query! Although as Mrs. Fisher(ably portrayed by Joan Plowright) says-in that charming film ENCHANTED APRIL, "In MY day men and beds were not mentioned in the same breath!"Now give me a week to sort this out- beds and threads- two subjects dear to my heart.....
 

Kris Muhvic

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Just in time for tea...the scones are ready, a new pot of jam, and the cucumbers are sliced ever so thin!

Now, on a perusal of photos from Titanic/Oympic I see most beds are the twin size, or smaller. Only saw one with a double bed. Looking at the floor-plans, there appears 2 beds in most (except for the coveted swank suites). I remember looking for a comparable photo of a cabin like the Allisons occupied: 2 twin beds. Of course what and how the rooms were arranged, and their occupants usage of kind, I do not know.

It is something that I realise in any pursuit of historical details- the more mundane; the less it is documented. The very ordinary is taken for granted...why bother even discussing it? Then a hundred years later, folks like us are scratching our heads over things that would make them shake theirs!

I really think we should invite Lucile and Edith for tea, seeing how the conversation has moved towards...BEDS!

Oops! The water is boiling...now I hope the tea-stainer is polished...

Take care!
Kris
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Kris,

Your idea of Lucile and Edith at tea got me thinking.

Actually TItanic's Fashion Gals DID have tea together at Rumplemeyer's in London in 1922. They met there for an interview Edy was doing with Lucy for Women's Wear Daily. Oddly Edy's name isn't attached to this particular piece and if it weren't for a letter of Lucy's to her Mum mentioning the occasion, I'd have no way of verifying who the lady reporter was. I was unable, due to space limitations, to include the whole interview in my book but, except for a few special details I'm saving for Phil and Brian for their book, here is most of the interview as it appeared on the front page of WWD in 1922:

_________________________________________________

LUCILE SCORES PRESENT DAY FASHION TYPES

In Interview Says She's "Sick of Draped Bundles"

Lauds Ready-to-Wear Styles

London - Tea at Rumplemeyer's with Lady Duff-Gordon is the most entertaining thing in the world...

Not a pair of feet twinkling their toes through Rumplemeyer's this afternoon escaped the searching eyes of the world famous dress designer...

When gray stockings matched a wearer's silver fox stole Lucile commended the look...Her praise was won for the short-vamped pump with fancy ankle straps...Dresses in black and white as worn by many American tea guests caused her eyes to light up with pleasure...

But her criticisms were most amusing...

"Now why does that stout woman over there wear all those floating bits on her dress?" began Lucile, "Aren't you tired of floating bits on long straight dresses? Two years ago I made that style and it was delightful - on a THIN shape! But now, mon Dieu, everyone and EVERYTHING is wearing it until I cannot bear the sight of it! And her hat and stockings! Why does she wear a cerise hat with a toast colored dress and gray stockings?"

"I like your own frock, Lucile," said I between sandwiches,"It is one of the smartest I've seen."

Lucile ignored my comment and pointed out another bundly, draped dress worn by a woman passing our table.

"My dear, I brought that out last year! In fact I used the style for dresses I made for the 'Ziegfeld Follies' THREE years ago!"...

Unabashed, I continued my survey of Lucile's 3 piece suit - an overblouse of string colored georgette stitched in black, a skirt in black satin, and a cape of black satin lined in string colored georgette. Her hat with winged ends of stiff satin ribbon was softened with an embroidered black veil. Russian boots, gloves and stockings, all in biscuit color, and a black bag completed her toilette...

She finally acknowledged my compliment: "Yes, I designed this, but lately I have decided that I cannot be bothered fitting and planning things for myself anymore. I am buying ready-made clothes...They are perfectly wonderful...In fact they are ruining business for original dressmakers like me since a woman can now go to a department store and pay 5 and 6 guineas for dresses as attractive as at any exclusive atelier...Have you seen the sales? I have! You would never believe the bargain I came on when I bought myself a frock for 5 guinas in a beautiful clover pattern that will look delightful with a large yellow hat and Russian boots!"...

The idea of the famous Lucile in a 5 guinea dress amused me immensely...

"Yes, I was frightfully depressed the last time I was here in London about the ruin they had made of my Lucile's in New York but I am quite happy again now and my mind is as full of plans as ever...Oh, and do not dare to worry, my dear, all my new styles will be straight-line, as I'm so sick of all these deadly, draped bundles!"

_________________________________________________

What a riot ole Lucy was. I think if I were there I wouldn't have sipped a bit of tea for fear of spitting it out in laughter at all her crazy remarks. (I think mean Joan Rivers must have inherited her wrath for badly dressed people!)

Randy
 

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