Titanic Fashion: Lady Lucille Duff Gordon
A Premier Fashion Designer
The fashion conscious amongst Titanic’s first class passengers
will not have failed to notice the presence of Lady Lucille Duff Gordon amongst their number. Born in 1863, Lucy was the premier fashion designer of her day, famous in the main for her tea dresses, evening wear and lingerie. From humble beginnings and a failed marriage, she rose to become the It girl of her day with shops in fashionable parts of London and Paris. She had pioneered the idea of showcasing her collections at fashion shows and was one of the first to use models. In 1903, marriage to Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, a Scottish landowner, secured her a place in the upper echelons of society, with a clientele to match. The only key client she failed to secure was the Queen. She was not accepted at court, probably because of her earlier divorce.
Taking Titanic to New York- Lady Lucille Duff Gordon Onboard Titanic
Lady Lucille was travelling on Titanic to visit her New York boutique which she had opened in 1910. She and her husband travelled under the names Mr and Mrs Morgan, probably to avoid publicity. They needed to get there quickly to attend to urgent business. They had separate cabins and a third was booked for Lady Lucille’s maid. No doubt the first class ladies were taking careful note of what she wore during the day and to dinner.
Lifeboat Number 1
When disaster struck on Titanic, the Duff Gordon’s found themselves on board lifeboat number 1 which left with just twelve people on board. Scandal surrounded how Sir Cosmo had secured a place when so many third class women and children were left behind, particularly since there was a handover of money to the crew manning the lifeboat. The action was read by the press as a bribe, both for taking the couple on board and for not going back to rescue more people. However Sir Cosmo maintained it was to replace equipment which the crew members had lost and would be billed for. In any event, both the Duff Gordons were called to give evidence at the inquiry.
Lady Lucille’s testimony drew the largest crowd of anyone who took the stand but she failed to shed much light on events, claiming she could not remember anything about that night. While Sir Cosmo’s reputation took a knock, his wife’s did not and she continued to run a successful fashion business. She designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies and was employing around a thousand people before World War One. Today, the great nephew of Sir Cosmo, Sir Andrew Duff Gordon is involved with the project to restore the SS Nomadic, Titanic’s tender ship used at Cherbourg. The couple had travelled on Nomadic to board Titanic at the French port.
Watch our video about fashions onboard the Titanic- click here for video