Thursday, 12 April 2012
t's all Titanic talk this week with the centennial of the great ship's sinking on April 15. A 3D Leo and Kate, Titanic soirees and Celine going on and on and on. But did you know that the most fabulous Titanic survivor was a Guelph gal? Sure, unsinkable Molly Brown was feisty, but she was not nearly as big a celebrity as Lady Duff Gordon, the former Lucy Sutherland who hailed from the little old Royal City. Yes, this former Guelph gal was the most celebrated English couturiere of the gilded age. And her fabulousness was spawned right here on the banks of the mighty Speed. Can you imagine our chic community as a dour Puritanical backwater back in the 1860's? Yet our little Lucy honed her dressmaking skills fashioning extravagant clothes for her doll collection. She moved to Jolly Old in the 1870's and eventually landed a solvent British aristocrat and started her own line of couture .
Apart from her gorgeous draped tea gowns and evening coats, Lucy was the originator of the modern fashion show, or, as it was known in 1910, the Mannequin Parade. No more creepy wax dummies, Lucy put live models on a catwalk, the better to show off her creations. She tossed aside the cruel rib crushing whalebone corsets of the previous era and reinvented undergarments that allowed women to breath freely. (Whales were thankful, too.) By 1910, she was one of the most renowned fashion designers in both Europe and New York. She and her collection were bound for New York on the Titanic when the ship went down. She somewhat insensitively mentioned the tragic loss of her couture that night to her fellow survivors on Lifeboat 1. To compensate, her husband gave everyone on board a fat cheque — and Lucy apologized. In a way, I can empathize. I, too, would go overboard badly if I lost my collection