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Evening dress

Silk, gold-embroidered net, satin binding, silk flowers

Lucile Ltd, Paris, France

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The ‘Lucile look’ was rendered in cascades of diaphanous chiffon, gossamer light wisps of lace and shimmering silks in delicate colour combinations.

Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, believed that if dresses were to give any pleasure to their wearer, they must become a part of their personality. She honoured each one with a unique poetic name evocative of a mood, colour, composition or her client’s personality, or took inspiration from literature and popular culture.

Social Culture

The first London-based couturière to achieve international success, Lady Duff Gordon established branches of Lucile Ltd in New York in 1910, Paris in 1911 and Chicago in 1915. She gathered a prestigious clientele, described by her sister, the author Elinor Glynn, as ‘the fairy ring within which danced a circle of families entitled to enjoy its privileges on account of birth and tradition.’

As the First World War descended on Europe, Lucile largely refused to compromise her eveningwear designs to suit the mood of war, choosing instead to promote her gowns as necessary weapons to fight the battle for keeping up morale.

She spoke openly about her belief that it was the duty of every wife, sweetheart and mother to spend as much as they could possibly afford in wartime to make the best of themselves for the men in the trenches.

The colour of this evening dress is important, given its post-war date. For Lucile, green signified hope. Its Paris label is perhaps also significant – in France, green has always been a symbol of hope and wisdom, as reflected in the green caps worn by the unmarried Catherinettes on the Feast of Saint Catherine.

Craft Skills

Lucile’s romantic style was suited to the Edwardian age of opulence. Often inspired by the femininity of the late Rococo manner of the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Lucile’s handwriting is in the passementerie comprised of the finest silk ribbon rosettes, lace trimming, self-fabric ruffles and embroidery of almost incredible delicacy.

passementiere 800.jpg

Learn More

Discover more about Lucile’s extraordinary life in her autobiography, A Woman of Temperament (1932).

For more detail on Lucile and the construction of her picture dresses, see Valerie D. Mendes and Amy de la Haye’s Lucile Ltd: London, Paris, New York and Chicago, 1890s-1930s (London, 2009).