lucile, lady duff gordon

I've been really terribly naughty in neglecting this journal so I'm coming along now, a year too late, to post something. Alas! Better late than never.

Lady Duff Gordon led one of the most exciting, fascinating lives I've ever come across - especially for a woman of her era. She was a middle class woman and, divorced from her first husband and with a child to support, she took up dressmaking. Four years later, in 1894, she set up her shop Maison Lucile in London which did phenomenally well, growing in success until her clientele included the aristocracy, actresses of the stage (and, eventually, early screen stars) and even royalty. In 1900 she married Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and became Lady Duff Gordon.

In the early 20th century, 'Lucile' as she was known professionally, became one of the most well known and oft-worn designers. She also pioneered many creations of the fashion world which are now taken for granted such as professional models and catwalk shows. Her garments were ultra-feminine, using much frothy tulle and chiffon in soft colours, with sprays of handmade flowers.

Lady Duff Gordon was also shipwrecked twice (once in her childhood), most famously when she was aboard the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. There was a little scandal over this, not least because only 12 people were aboard her lifeboat when it could have held 40. Three years after the disaster, Lady Duff Gordon booked tickets on the Lusitania but cancelled due to ill health. The ship was destroyed by a German torpedo on that voyage.

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william morris

In order to commemorate one of the greatest 19th century designers, I've changed my layout.

My birth surname (which I've never used and is now legally changed) is Morris - I like to think I'm related ;)

empress zita

Empress Zita was born in Villa Pianore near Lucca in Italy. She was a daughter of the deposed Robert I, Duke of Parma and his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal. Her maternal grandparents were Miguel of Portugal and Adelaide of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg.

Her Imperial and Royal Highness married Karl of Austria in 1911 and in the following decade gave birth to eight children, starting with Crown Prince Otto (born 1912), the current head of the Habsburg dynasty. She was accused by critics of being behind her exiled husband's attempts to regain the throne of Hungary, where the monarchy had been re-established under a regent after the end of the First World War, and from which he had not abdicated.

After Emperor Karl's death in 1922, Empress Zita wore mourning black until she died 67 years later. Empress Zita left Madeira but continued living abroad, in France, Spain (Lekeitio), Belgium, Canada, and the United States. She spoke five languages, and kept in contact with many of Europe's royal houses throughout her exile. In her old age, from 1962 onward, she lived in Zizers, Graubünden, Switzerland at a former Franciscan monastery, where she died. She was always a fervent Roman Catholic.

In 1982, the Austrian government granted Zita the right to re-enter Austria, although she had never renounced the Habsburg claim to the throne. She was buried in Vienna's Imperial Crypt (die Kapuzinergruft) in the city centre, which had served for centuries as the Habsburg family's burial place. Zita received what was in effect a state funeral, attended by leading politicians, state officials and international representatives, including a representative of Pope John Paul II.

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Photographs from her wedding can be found here.


Mrs Patrick Campbell as Juliet and Johnson Forbes Robertson as Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet; Lyceum Theatre, London

bloomsbury lovers

Duncan Grant + Vanessa Bell

Both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were artists in the Bloomsbury set during the 1910s. Grant was almost exclusively homosexual and Bell was married yet they had a relationship that lasted a good forty years, and had one child (Angelica Bell, born 1916) together.

Duncan James Corrowr Grant, 21 January 1885 - 9 May 1978

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Vanessa Stephen Bell, May 28, 1879 – April 7, 1961

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The pair are buried together in the churchyard of St. Peter's Church, West Firle, East Sussex

romantic ballet

Emma Livry (September 24, 1842 – July 26, 1863) was one of the last ballerinas of the Romantic ballet era, and a protégée of Marie Taglioni.

Emma studied dancing while young and attended the Paris Opera School. She made her debut at age sixteen with the Paris Opera as the sylph in La Sylphide. Her talent brought her fame and she became a widely respected ballerina.

Marie Taglioni noticed her during one of her performances and immediately took a liking to the girl, becoming her mentor. Marie choreographed for Emma in the opera Le Papillon, a piece by Jacques Offenbach that was especially created just for Emma.

An opera critic at the time remarked, "She was so, ethereal, and diaphanous, an intangible artist imperative, an artist with ballon … Mlle. Livry had a ballon (ballet) which has never been equaled - she bounds and leaps as no one else could do. She skims over the ground, the water and the flowers, apparently without touching them. Shims like feather and falls like a snowflake."

Her budding career was cut short in November of 1862. During a rehearsal for the opera La Muette di Portici her ballet dress caught fire on a stage gaslight and she suffered horrible burns. She died eight months later and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.


the beautiful miss billie burke

I collect postcards - specifically, I collect postcards featuring Edwardian actresses. My latest purchase is this little lovely of the absolutely stunning American actress, Billie Burke. You may know her from her films of the 30s and 40s, notably Dinner At Eight and The Wizard of Oz. She was the wife of Florenz Ziegfeld and played by Myrna Loy in The Great Ziegfeld. And my grandmother looked a great deal like her in her youth.


sherlock holmes

Thanks in part to stardustdarling, I am currently smitten by Sherlock Holmes. To those people who only know me for my pretty vintage icons and posts of beautiful women in 19th century haute couture, you may be a little surprised because, when it comes down to it, a lot of the Holmes stories are very dark. They involve murder, scandal and villainy of all kinds. Some stories are, as Holmes himself would say, grotesque. But I find that side of 19th century/early 20th century life equally as fascinating as the ballgowns and fripperies. That doesn't mean that I'd want to partake of them but I think, to truly understand and appreciate history, you have to understand all aspects. There's no point yearning for the past if you believe it to all have been so much better, so happy and peaceful. Because, let's face it, it wasn't.

I also have a slight obsession with the gothic novel and Conan Doyle's stories definitely are terribly gothic. And yummy!

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