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Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, November 15, 2004

Lady Duff Gordon dress hits the block tomorrow

Want a piece of Lucy lore from Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff GordonJim Fishman (Pace) points out that an original gown by the couturier known as "Lucile" is up for auction tomorrow in the "Couture, Textiles, and Accessories" sale at the Doyle New York auction house.  It's the dress on the cover, but to see the item web page you'll need to do a search on "Lucile."

Pre-sale estimate on the gown, which is said to be from Lady Duff Gordon's first American collection, is $5,000-$7,000.

The Doyle catalogue entry follows.

The rich informal design of purple velvet voided overall to metallic gold silk gauze in an Orientalist meandering cloud motif, lined in purple silk chiffon, comprising a stitched demi-empire surplice bodice over a camisole of light ochre silk with chiffon and hammered gold lace inset, the weighted outer skirt shaped as modified surplice at left front to reveal weighted underskirt of light ochre silk with purple chiffon overlay, an iridescent lime to lemon silk satin self backed sash concluding in metallic gold fringe, Oriental poppy corsage of metallic gold gauze lined in purple velvet, size 2/4, labeled: Lucile Ltd./37 West 36th St/New York.  Very good condition, some wear to chiffon.

Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, (1863 - 1935), was the first internationally celebrated British woman couturier, due not only to her innovative haute bohemian design and dressmaking skills but also her flair for marketing and publicity. Having dressed the aristocracy, royalty and stage stars of Europe from her couture salon in London such as the Queens of England and Spain, Lady Randolph Churchill, Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough, Lillie Langtry, Isadora Ducan et al., she went on to open salons in New York, Paris and Chicago from 1910 to 1915, dressing celebrities such as Irene Castle, Marion Davis and Mary Pickford among others, and society clients like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Rita Lydig, and Elsie de Wolf. Lucile was the first designer to express individual style, calling her designs 'Personality' dresses, rather than copying French designs which was the norm. She used willowy live models in glamorous themed fashion shows, also firsts. She dropped necklines, slit skirts and did away with corsets with masterful workmanship. In the sexually adventurous world of Edwardian society, the freedom of her uncorseted gowns had its uses, and between the relaxation of old aristrocratic mores and the incredible wealth of the Belle Epoch, women flocked to Lucile to have something unique designed to liberate their individual personalities. Her sister, Elinor Glyn, coined the term the 'It Girl' in her 1907 best selling novel Three Weeks, (see lot/pc 3856) one of the most infamous euphemisms of the 20th century.

This lot appears to be from Lucile's American debut collection and is a superb example of her talents, not only revealing her passion for color and her emotional, impressionistic design, but also because it reveals the charged personality, the 'It', of Margaret Daly Brown.

Designing the It Girl: Lucile and her Style is the Fashion Institute of Technology's Spring show, February 28 - April 16 2005.

Estimate $5,000-7,000

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