ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Meanwhile, in Lady Duff News

James J. Fishman, Professor of Law Emeritus at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, shares with us the following: 

Lady DuffLady Lucy Duff Gordon (pictured left with an unnamed but very fetching dog) features prominently in a new exhibition at the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City: “Designing Women: Fashion Creators & Their Interiors."  In a review in the Wall Street Journal, Laura Jacobs, Homes in High Style, we learn the following about Lucy:

In the early 1900s we meet Lucile, a British designer otherwise known as Lady Duff Gordon. Along with gowns, she promoted lingerie, racy pieces that were presented in her private Rose Rooms—curtained boudoir settings complete with daybed and dressing table, a mise en scène that allowed clients a “virtual” experience of their potential purchase. Lucile’s London fashion house, distinctively painted with pale gray walls (Christian Dior would do the same when he launched in 1947), was formative inspiration for her close friend Elsie de Wolfe, the first professional “lady decorator.” De Wolfe, however, never acknowledged Lucile’s influence.

Judge Cardozo’s opening words in Wood v. Lucy Duff-Gordon seemed a putdown of her ladyship:

The defendant styles herself a creator of fashions. Her favor helps a sale. Manufacturers of dresses, millinery and like articles are glad to pay for a certificate of her approval. The things which she designs, fabrics, parasols and what not, have a new value in the public mind when issued in her name.*

CardozoIn fact, she was a major figure in the history of fashion. She is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collection.

The exhibition extends through May 14.  FIT is the repository for Lady Lucy’s archives.

[I add editorially, that I do not think that Cardozo (left) was demeaning Lady Duff-Gordon in particular.  I get a sense from his prose that he had a rather low opinion of the entire fashion industry.  The case makes clear that Judge Cardozo knew that she was a big deal in the fashion industry, but I sense that he thought little of the idea of making money by putting your name on designs.  I look forward to student notes on the subject of what sartorial splendor Judge Cardozo modestly concealed beneath his robes.]

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According to his biographer, Cardozo owned 15 identical black custom-made suits. Kaufman, Cardozo, p.184.

Posted by: Otto Stockmeyer | Feb 8, 2023 6:13:33 AM

Judge Cardozo likely thought of fashion as frippery, and not worthy of serious thought. Of course, that brings to mind that wonderful opening scene in The Devil Wears Prada about the economics of the fashion world. Note, also, that the current holder of the title of the world's richest person is Bernard Arnault, founder of LVMH, the French luxury conglomerate. In Cardozo's time that would have been steel and railroad magnates. Interesting commentary on the Baroque elements of what's important in our world today and how our legacy as a society will be characterized. & through it all, Lady Duff Gordon's contractual legacy still lives on. (Submitted by former Contracts Law Prof.)

Posted by: Cassondra Joseph | Feb 9, 2023 2:03:32 AM