Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon (née Sutherland) (1863 –1935) was best known by her professional name “Lucile”. Who was at the beginning of the twentieth century one of the most innovative, forward thinking designers. Much like her contemporary, Paul Poiret, she designed clothes for the modern woman. She launched liberating slit skirts and low necklines, popularized less restrictive corsets, and promoted alluring, pared-down lingerie.
She originated the “mannequin parade”, a precursor to the modern fashion show, and trained the first professional models who were almost as famous as she was. She gave them poetic names, like Hebe, Corisande and Dolores.
She opened branches of her London house, Lucile Ltd, in Paris, New York City and Chicago, dressing a trend-setting clientele of royalty, nobility, and stage and film personalities. Some well-known clients, whose clothing influenced many when it appeared in early films, on stage, and in the press, included: Irene Castle, Lily Elsie,Gertie Millar, Gaby Deslys, Billie Burke, and Mary Pickford.
Lucile costumed many theatrical productions including the London première of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow (1907), the Ziegfeld Follies revues on Broadway (1915–21), and the D. W. Griffith silent movie Way Down East (1920). Her fashions were also frequently featured in Pathé and Gaumont newsreels of the 1910s and 20s, and she appeared in her own weekly spot in the British newsreel “Around the Town” (c. 1917–1919)
Lucy Duff Gordon is also remembered as a survivor of the sinking of Titanic in 1912.
Lady Lucy Duff Gordon with her dogs by Marceau
Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow, 1909, costume by Lucile
Lily Elsie, shown here in a costume designed by Gordon for a 1909 play called “The Dollar Princess.”
A model in a dress by Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon), ca. 1912.
1921 Lucile evening gown of a black chantilly lace hoop over a white satin slip,
shown at the National Retail Garment Association Fashion Show at the Hotel Commodore, NYC.