- 1863-1935 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
14 linear feet
Photographs, sketches, photographs of sketches, brochures, newspaper and magazine clippings, records, advertisements, fashion plates, fashion illustrations, photo transfers, scrapbooks
Name of creator
Born Lucile Christiana Sutherland in 1863, Lady Duff Gordon was raised by Canadian Parents in London, England. Following a childhood focused around dolls and dresses, Lucile designed women's wear as Mrs. James Wallace from 1895 - 1897. She began a successful dressmaking business shortly after the divorce from her first husband. This business proved to be successful, and evolved into Maison Lucile in 1887, distinguished for its colorful fabric and whimsical, feminine designs as well as its celebrity clientele. In 1900 she married Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, thus changing her name and title as clothing coutier. While owning and operating Maison Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon also wrote fashion columns for the Hearst Papers and other notable fashion magazines. She opened branches of Lucile in New York in 1910, Paris in 1912, and Chicago in 1915. She is recognized her stature as the first British fashion designer to use live models during fashion shows, and, after establishing her name as one of the foremost fashion designers, designed costume for film and theatre. Such productions include costume designs for the British premier of the Franz Lehar Opera, the film The Merry Widow (1907), and for the Hollywood feature Way Down East (1920). She is most credited for her collaboration with the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 - 1921, some sketches of which appear in this collection. Financial strain prompted her to close her design house in 1923, though she continued to work as a theatrical designer until 1925. Lady Duff Gordon passed away on April 20, 1935 at the age of 71 of breast cancer in a nursing home in London.
Name of creator
Lucile Ltd. was a British fashion house originally opened under the name "Maison Lucile" by dressmaker Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon in 1894. By 1900, the fashion house was seen as one of the great couture houses of London. In 1910, the Lucile Ltd. brand expanded with a branch opening in New York. A further salon was established in Paris in 1912, as well as a branch in Chicago in 1915. Romantic and provocatively sexy, Lucile Ltd's lingerie is considered heavily influential in the fashion industry as it has shifted the public perception of undergarments from a necessity to a luxury.
- Lucile collection was purchased in 1959 and processed 20100607 - 20100827.
- Additional processing in 2011-2014.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Collection is comprised of model photographs, sketches, photographs of sketches, show programs, some newspaper and magazine clippings with articles about or by Lucile, order forms, advertisements, and fashion plates. Garment designs include theatrical costumes, wedding gowns, day and evening wear, tea gowns, lingerie and pajamas. Bulk of the collection consists of model photographs, fashion sketches, photographs of sketches and official phototransfers. In addition there are clippings of articles from different publications written by or about Lucile, she wrote regular columns for Hearst publications. Programs for the "Model Parades" introducing lines of clothing for several years. There are some photographs of Lucile's clients, and photographs of "Rose room" interiors of Lucile. Ltd from New York and Chicago locations. Inspirational and reference materials collected by Lucile and/or her staff, mainly fashion plates and newspaper clippings from different publications. Dates range from the early 1910s to the mid 1920s. Model photographs were glued in large format (12-14"w to 16-18"h) standard, blank books to order, referred throughout this finding aid as scrapbooks; there are 12 volumes in the collection. Bulk of original drawings that are arranged according to the type of clothing are loose, drawn on a heavy weight board; sketches for 1916 and 197-18 lines were glued into scrapbooks; there are 12 volumes of original drawings and 2 volumes of photographs and phototransfers. It is possible that two types of arrangement seen throughout the collection (most of Model photographs chronologically, most of sketches by type of clothing) are due to different purpose these materials served; sketches of period gowns or theatrical costumes could have been referred to time and time again for different productions or themed social events, whereas model photographs would have documented actual creation of such a garment at a certain point in time. It is also not clear why, but some scrapbooks with model photographs are reproduced in complete entirety, using same photo session materials some fully annotated.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
For preservation purposes majority of the scrapbooks were disbound, and when necessary materials were rearranged for better search and access. In order to make a distinction between material arranged according to the sequence in the line, pound symbol "#" in front of the number refers to the model number in a line and mostly appears in case of disbound scrapbooks of model photographs and sketches for years 1916, 1917 and 1918. When "." e.g. - .65 in front of number is used it refers to the count number of loose items, this arrangement occurred sometime when materials were rearranged at some point when it left the custody of its creators, mostly applies to loose sketches arranged by garment type in series US.NNFIT.SC.1.2
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Access is open to researchers by appointment at the Fashion Institute of Technology Library, Department of Special Collections and College Archives. If you have any questions, or wish to schedule an appointment contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 217-4385.
Conditions governing reproduction
The Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives does not own copyright for all material held in its physical custody. It is the researcher's obligation to abide by and satisfy copyright law (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#108) when copying or using materials (including digital materials) found in or made available from the department. When possible, the department will inform a researcher about the copyright status of material, the researcher's obligations with regard to such material, and, wherever possible, the owner or owners of the copyrights. Any and all reproduction of originals is at the archivist's discretion.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Generated finding aid
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Original scrapbooks and boxes of material are permanently stored for preservation purposes in The Library of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives, 27th St. at 7th Ave., NY, NY, USA, 10001
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Descriptions for the volumes and folders in the finding aid is based on the work accomplished during the survey and initial rearrangement stage in the summer of 2010, further supplemented and edited in 2011-2014. Short essays about Lady Duff Gordon and descriptions of collection, series and subseries written by SJ.
Subject access points
- Fur garments
- Stage costumes
- Fur garments
- Sport clothes
- Novelty fabrics
- Fur garments
- Photography of interiors
- Ethnic costume
- Evening gowns
- Wedding costume
- Models (Persons)
- Suits (Clothing)
- World War, 1914-1918
Name access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
AAT; ANSI; DACS; DCMI; ISAD(G); ISO; LoC; NISO; etc
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion