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NEW YORK — The Fashion Institute of Technology is out to prove that scandalous “It” girls existed long before the age of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
From March 1-April 26, the Museum at FIT is staging “Designing the It Girl: Lucile and Her Style,” an exhibit highlighting London couture house Lucile and its founder Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. Dressing the likes of Mata Hari, Isadora Duncan and Elsie de Wolfe, the designer became just as well known for her tea dresses and suits as her scandalous fashion presentations and the fact that she survived the sinking of the Titanic.
“Lucile is a subject that is sort of obscure. Not much has been written about her, and yet she is extremely interesting,” said Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT. “Her sister was [the author] Elinor Glyn, and the two were ‘It’ girls and very outspoken and sexy.”
Indeed, Lady Duff Gordon had a knack for controversy, which only helped heighten her profile. She would often stage fashion presentations in her salon featuring models scantily dressed in lounging clothes, and she made dresses with such titles as “The Sighing of Lips Unsatisfied,” “Consoled Sin” and “Whispering Joy.” “These racy names and the clothes were dramatic and influential,” Steele said.
FIT will display about seven dresses and a selection of accessories and sketches by the designer, who died in 1935. The show is being curated by graduate students in FIT’s Master of Arts Program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory and Museum Practice.
Steele hopes the exhibit will resurrect Lucile and give her a place in fashion history books alongside more renowned designers such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Madame Gres.
This story first appeared in the January 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.