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British born designer Lady Duff Gordon began her dressmakers business from home in 1890 as the Victorian era was coming to a close. Her designs shocked, but also intrigued – they were elegant and extravagant, a breath of fresh air as the world was entering the Edwardian Period. Her signature style was instantly recognisable. With a passion for femininity, and the belief of dressing women “from the inside out,” her lingerie pieces broke the boundaries of traditional undergarments. Dismissing boned corsets and wired underskirts, she crafted sheer, provocative lingerie, designed to heighten sensuality in women’s dress and free them from restrictive underwear. Slit skirts and low neck lines created the epitome of sexy chic, Lady Duff Gordon became a key figure in the evolution of fashion and was one of the founders of 20th century clothing.
For Lady Duff Gordon, her night gowns and lingerie reflected female intimacy and allowed a “glimpse into a woman’s soul.” Her lingerie was sheer, with layers of sumptuous lace and lavish chiffon, nude tones and decorated with signature hand-made flowers and ribbons.
Lucile stores were opened in New York, Paris, Chicago and flagship “Maison Lucile” in London – the brand became a world renowned couture label with a following of famous women all after Lucile’s scandalous lingerie. She spoke of how ‘it became the last word in chic to be dressed by an English society woman,’ her British heritage shone in a French and Italian dominated haute-couture industry. The Queen of Spain famously owned some of Lady Duff Gordon’s most beautifully created pieces and the Duchess of Warwick requested black silk negligee’s to match her boudoir drapes. Women flocked to buy Lucile’s silky lingerie, sold in the infamous Rose Rooms. Lady Duff Gordon and Lucile became the must-have of the Belle-Époque era; her romantic ascetic became just as well as known as her ever growing influence on the fashion industry.
The talk of much scandal and controversy, her promotion was innovative, revolutionary. She released photographs of voluptuous women in her alluring lingerie and her sketches appeared many fashion magazines. Lady Duff Gordon’s vision and creativity was undeniable, she held the very first “mannequin parades.” These were some of the earliest forms of fashion show; she handpicked and trained all her models herself. They were exclusive, invite-only events. Guests were greeted by quintessentially British afternoon tea while models sashayed elegantly to string quartets. These events were the height of sophistication and grace at the time, with the most famous socialites, royalty and film stars always in attendance.
The influence Lucile and Lady Duff Gordon had on the fashion industry is unquestionable, she changed lingerie and the way women wore it. It became not a necessity but a luxury; celebrating the female figure and highlighting sensuality, femininity and sophistication. Her impact on the fashion world was ever growing; she had columns in the most prestigious fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping and Hearst Newspaper, her dresses appeared in theatre shows and her infamous “personality dresses” which were hand-made to reflect the women who wore them, were some of the most sought after designs of the time. Lady Duff Gordon was a pioneer of fashion; she is celebrated as a talented artist of design, cut and colour. Her creations changed the way women dressed, challenged traditional clothing and began a new era of fashion – her designs are still seen by millions every year at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The new Lucile will regenerate and revive Lady Duff Gordon’s vision for modern day, each piece echoing her signature style, inspired by the amazing women she dressed. From the design, the fabrics and creation of the garment, Lucile’s famous British heritage will be at the heart of the brand – sourcing everything from buttons to bows, fabric to fastenings, in the United Kingdom.
Inspired by the work of Lady Duff Gordon (1863-1935) and the original revolutionary Lucile brand, Lucile lingerie is the passion of Camilla Blois, the great-great granddaughter of Lady Duff Gordon.
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