Some years back, I was lucky enough to acquire a belt by Lucile Ltd. I was thrilled not only because of her role in fashion history, but because it also tied into my interests in the Titanic. Indeed, the address on the label is for her premises at 37 & 39 West 57th Street New York – it was preparations for the move into these larger showrooms that necessitated Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon’s travel to New York in April 1912.
Thanks to the work of author Hugh Brewster, supported by Duff Gordon’s biographer and leading expert Randy Bigham, the Guelph Museum in her home town of Guelph, Canada is hosting an exhibition, the first of its kind in Canada. I know Randy and Hugh through our shared interests in Titanic research (I reviewed Hugh’s Gilded Lives book for the Encyclopedia Titanica website when it was published back in 2012, and Randy and I are old cronies). When it came to sourcing gowns and accessories for the exhibition, Hugh, Randy and the team from the Guelph Museum looked to private collections as well as institutions, finding pieces as far away as here in Australia where the Darnell Collection has beautiful examples. Randy also knew about my own modest Lucile piece, and I was only too happy to lend it. It’s a small object, but rather dazzlingly beautiful – as Randy explained, Lucile pioneered the sale of such accessories for separate purchase from couturiers. With its prong set rhinestones and rich embroidery of seed beads, bugle beads, gold thread and faux precious stones, it’s a little gem of a piece, still sparkling brightly.
Lucile: Fashion, Titanic Scandal runs May 7 to November at the Civic Museum (52 Norfolk Street, Guelph, Ontario N1H 4H8 Canada)