Lady-Duff-Gordon

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The Merry Widow, the English translation of the operetta Die Lustige Witwe, was staged in London and on Broadway in 1907 and was an immediate success. One of the most noticeable features of the costumes, designed by Lucille (Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, who would survive the sinking of the Titanic roughly 5 years later), were the over sized plumed hats, which came to be known as Merry Widow Hats. They were extremely popular but also seen as a bit of a public nuisance - they could reach widths as large as 18 inches and were hard to see around in public places like the theater or church and even had a habit of hitting bystanders on the street. While brim sizes fluctuated, large hats of the Merry Widow style stayed in vogue in some shape and form until the beginning of the great war.

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In 1998, Butterfield & Butterfield auction house held an auction which included several pieces from “Titanic.” Amongst the lot of beautiful items were two vintage necklaces worn by actresses Rosalind Ayres and Charlotte Chatton in the 1997 film “Titanic.” The image of the necklaces (above) came directly from the auction catalog. Here are the lot descriptions for each piece.

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6163
Charlotte Chatton Vintage Amber Colored Glass Necklace from “Titanic”

20th Century Fox, 1997

An authentic turn of the century necklace worn by actress Charlotte Chatton as she portrayed Madeleine Astor in the multi-Academy Award winning film, “Titanic.” Designed with one large square piece of amber-colored glass in the center, this necklace is further enhanced by a chain made of small brass flowers and circular beads.

8 inches

Estimate: $500/$700

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6164
Rosalind Ayres Vintage Necklace from “Titanic”

20th Century Fox, 1997

A true turn of the century vintage necklace worn by actress Rosalind Ayres as she portrayed Lady Duff Gordon in the multi-Academy Award winning film, “Titanic.” Made of glass beads, this piece has eight chains of varying length that trail down from the central choker with the longest one reaching the waist area. Elaborately made, this necklace is completely unique as it covers the wearer’s entire chest area.

20 inches

Estimate: $1,800/$2,250

Historical Help?

In researching accounts of the Titanic, I came across this blurb in Lady Duff Gordon’s autobiography:

After dinner we went to the lounge where we met Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Meyer. I had my little autograph book with me and I got them to write in it. It was one of the “confession” books, which were so popular just then. Mr. Meyer filled in his “Likes,” “Abominations,” etc., and then came to the column marked “Madnesses.” He laughed as he said, “I have only one –– to live,” and wrote it down.

I’ve never encountered one of these autograph/confession books before. Sounds like a journal for collecting signatures/notes from people met during one’s travels? Can anyone tell me more?

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon reading. 

Lady Duff Gordon (1863-1935) was the founder of the fashion label Lucile Ltd. Lucy is best known for her tea gowns, and in their design she was able to capture the decadence and frivolity of her time through the use of lace, chiffon and copious amounts of silk flowers. From the beginning of Lucy’s entrepreneurship she eschewed rules in favour of innovation.

Evening Gown
Lucile
1910

The rich informal design of purple velvet voided overall to metallic gold silk gauze in an Orientalist meandering cloud motif, lined in purple silk chiffon, comprising a stitched demi-empire surplice bodice over a camisole of light ochre silk with chiffon and hammered gold lace inset, the weighted outer skirt shaped as modified surplice at left front to reveal weighted underskirt of light ochre silk with purple chiffon overlay, an iridescent lime to lemon silk satin self backed sash concluding in metallic gold fringe, Oriental poppy corsage of metallic gold gauze lined in purple velvet.
This lot appears to be from Lucile’s American debut collection and is a superb example of her talents, not only revealing her passion for color and her emotional, impressionistic design, but also because it reveals the charged personality, the ‘It’, of Margaret Daly Brown.

In the glamour and wonder of the first love of these young, vital beings, I was conceived. The torch they handed to me was lighted at the flame of passion, and the rapture and the joy of their romance was rekindled in my own eagerness for emotional experience. This, I think, is the only way in which children should be brought into life; there are too many mediocre, colourless men and women about the world to-day, born of a union which was neither that of passion nor of great love.
—  Lady Lucy Duff Gordon (1863-1935)
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LADY DUFF GORDON LUCILE LTD CHINESE SILK TUNIC DRESS 1919. Ivory lace and chiffon bodice over silk corset, the skirt of blue silk brocade embroidered with a repeat of flowering plants and butterflies pieced with bands of black satin with matching embroidery and gold metallic ribbon, salmon silk lining. Chinese style blue tulle tunic trimmed in the brocade having silk cord tassels. Labels on website. B-36, W-30, L-49, Tunic L-33