Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

By Jiin Kim


Lucile in 1919, photographed by Arnold Genthe

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon (née Sutherland) (13 June 1863 – 20 April 1935) was a leading fashion designer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, best known as “Lucile”, her professional name. Lucile, the first British-based designer to achieve international acclaim, was a widely acknowledged innovator in couture styles as well as in fashion industry public relations.


Evening dress, Spring 1913, Lucile (1863–1935)

Apart from originating the “mannequin parade”, a precursor to the modern fashion show, and training the first professional models, she launched liberating slit skirts and low necklines, popularized less restrictive corsets and promoted alluring and pared-down lingerie.Opening branches of her London house, Lucile Ltd, in Paris, New York City, and Chicago, her business became the first global couture brand, dressing a trend-setting clientele of royalty, nobility and stage and film personalities. Duff-Gordon is also remembered as a survivor of the sinking of Titanic in 1912, and as the losing party in the precedent-setting 1917 contract law case of Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, in which Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo wrote the opinion for New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.


George St garden, mannequin parade, 1913

 In 1912, Duff-Gordon travelled to America on business in connection with the New York branch of Lucile Ltd. She and her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, booked first class passage on the ocean liner RMS Titanic under the names “Mr. and Mrs. Morgan”, a possible explanation being that they hoped to avoid publicity on landing in New York. Lucile’s secretary, Laura Mabel Francatelli, nicknamed “Franks”, accompanied the couple. On 14 April, at 11:40 pm the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. During the evacuation, the Duff-Gordons and Francatelli escaped in Lifeboat 1. Although the boat was designed to hold 40 people, it was lowered with only 12 (seven of them male crew).


RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

Some time after the ship sank, while afloat in boat 1, Lucile reportedly commented to her secretary, “There is your beautiful nightdress gone.” A fireman, annoyed by her comment, replied that while the couple could replace their property, he and the other crew members had lost everything in the sinking. Cosmo Duff-Gordon then offered each of the men £5 to aid them until they received new assignments. While on the RMS Carpathia, the Cunard liner that rescued Titanic’s survivors, Cosmo Duff-Gordon presented the men from boat 1 with cheques drawn on his bank in London (Coutts). This action later spawned gossip that the Duff-Gordons bribed the crew in their boat not to return to save swimmers out of fear it would be swamped.

These rumours were fuelled by the tabloid press in the United States and, eventually, in the United Kingdom. On 17 May, Cosmo Duff-Gordon testified in London at the hearings of the British Board of Trade inquiry into the disaster. On 20 May, Lucile took the stand. Their testimony attracted the largest crowds during the inquiry.

Cosmo Duff-Gordon faced tough criticism during cross-examination while his wife had it slightly easier. Dressed in black, with a large, veiled hat, she told the court she remembered little about what happened in the lifeboat on the night of the sinking and could not recall specific conversations. Lawyers did not seem to have pressed her very hard. Lucile noted that for the rest of her husband’s life he was broken-hearted over the negative coverage by the “yellow press” during his cross-examination at the inquiry. The final report by the inquiry determined that the Duff-Gordons did not deter the crew from any attempt at rescue.

The Titanic episode is one of the most tangible aspects of Lucile’s life, thanks partly to motion pictures. The films, however, portrayed her without great attention to accuracy: in cameo by Harriette Johns in A Night to Remember (1958), produced by William MacQuitty, and again by Rosalind Ayres in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic. In the latter film, the role of Lucile’s husband Cosmo was portrayed by the actress’ own husband, Martin Jarvis. In the 2012 British miniseries Titanic, Lucile was played by Sylvestra Le Touzel.


Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon (Lucile) New York, 1916

A faded grey silk kimono with typical Fortuny style black cord edging, for some time thought to have been worn by Lucile as she escaped the Titanic, is now understood to have belonged to her daughter Esme, Countess of Halsbury. The distinctive print on that garment, designed by Mariano Fortuny, dates the item to post World War One. Fortuny suffered from failing sales following business problems in 1915, when his business assets were seized. The company reopened with a new name later that year, and following further changes, opened a new factory in 1919 with more commercial designs using new patented techniques. Letters written by Lucile reveal the features of two bathrobes she wore off the Titanic. One was pink, one purple, and both were chosen “for warmth.” One was a partially made garment she described as grabbing in a rush from the Paris branch of her salon. She also described wearing a pair of pink Yantorny slippers, a blue head wrap and a squirrel coat and her ‘motor hat’. An apron said to have been worn by Lucile’s secretary, Laura Francatelli, can be seen at the Maritime Museum in Liverpool, and her life-jacket was sold, along with correspondence about her experiences in the disaster, at Christie’s, London, in 2007.

Lucile had another close call three years after surviving the Titanic when she booked passage aboard the RMS Lusitania on its last voyage. It was reported in the press that she cancelled her trip due to illness. The Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo on 7 May 1915.


Afternoon gown light organza, 1917, Lady Duff-Gordon


Lily Elsie (a) (left) & Lady Diana Manners The Great Love (1918), Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon

Lucy Duff-Gordon’s connection to her design empire began to disintegrate following a restructuring of Lucile, Ltd in 1918–19. An acrimonious battle emerged in the press, culminating in Duff Gordon’s public acknowledgment that since Spring 1921 many Lucile dresses had not been designed by her. By September 1922 she had ceased designing for the company, which gradually diminished in success after her departure. Meanwhile, its founder (who continued to be known as Lucile) worked from private premises designing personally for individual clients. She was briefly associated with the firm of Reville, Ltd., maintained a ready-to-wear shop of her own and lent her name to a wholesale operation in America.


Daily Sketch, London, 4th January 1919

Lucile also continued as a fashion columnist and critic after her design career ended, contributing to London’s Daily Sketch and Daily Express (1922-1930), and she penned her best-selling autobiography Discretions and Indiscretions in 1932. She died of breast cancer, complicated by pneumonia, in a Putney, London nursing home in 1935 at the age of 71. The date of her death, 20 April, was the fourth anniversary of her husband’s death.


Artemisia Gentileschi, Her paintings were influenced by bad memories

Artemisia Gentileschi

(July 8, 1593 – c. 1656)

Her paintings were influenced by bad memories

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome on 8 July 1593, the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. She learned drawing, how to mix color, and how to paint. Since her father’s style took inspiration from Caravaggio during that period, her style was just as heavily influenced in turn. Her approach to subject matter was different from her father’s, however, as her paintings are highly naturalistic, where Orazio’s are idealized. Orazio was a great encouragement to his daughter since, during the seventeenth century, women were considered lacking the intelligence to work. At the same time, Artemisia had to resist the “traditional attitude and psychological submission to this brainwashing and jealousy of her obvious talent” *. By doing so, she gained great respect and recognition for her work.
*Bissell, Ward R. Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonne. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.


 Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, 1615–1617, Artemisia Gentileschi
Susanna and the Elders, her first work, 1610, Artemisia Gentileschi
The first work of the young seventeen-year-old Artemisia was the Susanna e i Vecchioni (Susanna and the Elders) (1610, Schönborn collection in Pommersfelden). At the time, some influenced by the prevailing misconceptions, suspected that she was helped by her father. The painting shows how Artemisia assimilated the realism of Caravaggio without being indifferent to the language of the Bologna school, which had Annibale Carracci among its major artists. It is one of the few paintings on the theme of Susanna showing the sexual accosting by the two Elders as a traumatic event.
                                             캡처Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1611–1612, Artemisia Gentileschi/Judith Slaying Holofernes,1614–1620, Artemisia Gentileschi
In 1611, her father was working with Agostino Tassi to decorate the vaults of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome, so Orazio hired the painter to tutor his daughter privately. During this tutelage, Tassi raped Artemisia. Another man, Cosimo Quorlis, was also involved. After the initial rape, Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with Tassi, with the expectation that they were going to be married and with the hope to restore her dignity and her future. Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia. Nine months after the event, when he learnt that Artemisia and Tassi were not going to be married, Orazio pressed charges against Tassi. Orazio also claimed that Tassi stole a painting of Judith from the Gentileschi household. The major issue of this trial was the fact that Tassi had taken Artemisia’s virginity. If Artemisia had not been a virgin before Tassi raped her, the Gentileschis would not have been able to press charges. During the ensuing seven-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had enjoined in adultery with his sister-in-law, and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. During the trial, Artemisia was subjected to a gynecological examination and torture using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. The trial influenced the feminist view of Artemisia Gentileschi during the late twentieth century.
* Thumbscrew (torture); A victim’s thumbs or fingers were placed in the vice and slowly crushed. The thumbscrew was also applied to crush prisoners’ big toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points to puncture the thumbs and inflict greater pain in the nail beds. Larger, heavier devices based on the same design principle were applied to crush feet and ears.
                                               캡처Judith I, 1901, Gustav Klimt/Judith Beheading Holofernes 1598–1599, Michelangelo da Caravaggio
This event became her anger and she expressed the anger in her paintings. Also, in her pictures which represent *Judith Beheading Holofernes, She drew all faces of Judith as hers face and Holofernes are Tassi on her paintings. Unlike other ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’, Judith looks like a strong woman and she has a tenacious grip. Usually, Judith had been expressed as a weak and fascinating woman in those days. For example, Gustav Klimt drew Judith as a fascinating femme fatale. Also, Michelangelo da Caravaggio drew Judith as a weak and delicate woman.
*The book of Judith: The Book of Judith has a tragic setting that appealed to Jewish patriots and it warned of the urgency of adhering to Mosaic law, generally speaking, but what accounted for its enduring appeal was the drama of its narrative. The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
That she was a woman painting in the seventeenth century and that she was raped and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.


Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–1614, Artemisia Gentileschi
Because Artemisia returned again and again to violent subject matter such as Judith and Holofernes, a repressed-vengeance theory has been postulated. Some art historians suggest however, that she was shrewdly taking advantage of her fame from the rape trial to cater to a niche market in sexually charged, female-dominant art for male patrons.


Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), 1638-1639, Artemisia Gentileschi
The most recent critic, starting from the difficult reconstruction of the entire catalogue of the Gentileschi, tried to give a less reductive reading of the career of Artemisia, placing it more accurately in the context of the different artistic environments in which the painter actively participated. A reading such as this restores Artemisia as an artist who fought with determination—using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities—against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest.

Nora Noh, The First Korean Fashion Designer

By Jihye You

“Through clothes, I strive to change the way women think, change the way they carry themselves and make their self-confidence shine.” – Nora Noh


Source: NORA NOH official Facebook
Nora Noh, now 86, is the first fashion designer in South Korea and still working with 64 years experiences in the fashion industry. Since 1956, she holds a fashion show every year.
 In 1947, when she was 19 years old, she went to the U.S. to study fashion. After 2 years, she returned to Korea and founded the “House of Nora Noh”. Nora Noh was the first brand to establish itself in the Korean fashion industry. She was the first person to hold a fashion show in Korea in 1956 and launch designer ready-to-wear clothing for career women in 1963.


South Korea’s first fashion show at Bando Hotel in 1956
During a period where the Korean women were restricted to careers choices such as being a housewife or factory worker, she made the way for Korean women to become more liberated through fashion. Nora dressed the Korean famous singer Yoon Bok-hee in a miniskirt. It brought a national sensation in the 1960s. She also styled the duo vocal group Pearl Sisters in flared pants called Pantallong.
Yoon Bok-hee in a miniskirt designed by Nora Noh


Pearl Sisters in flared pants called Pantallong designed by Nora Noh
In 1979, she became the first Korean fashion business to have ever entered the U.S. market. The designs of Nora Noh were featured on the cover of Vogue and Bazaar. She was also the first Korean designer to have her clothing showcased by Macy’s. For a period of 15 years, Nora Noh consistently sold its collections to Macy’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Henry Bendel, Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin, and Bullock’s.
The cover of Vogue by Nora Noh in 1985
Last year, the documentary film about her life, Nora Noh, was released and invited to the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul.
This film uses “fashion” as a medium and attempts to illustrate women’s desire and compose women’s cultural history in the 1950s and 1960s. The director contextualizes the life of Nora NOH, who cultivated an independent world, by weaving together the representation of the past, the usage of video and film images, and the process of preparing for a fashion show in the present. In this documentary, Nora NOH’s clothes are the links that unravel the memories and desires of various women who lived through that particular time period, and they also reveal how it was possible for women during the 1950s and 1960s to express themselves through fashion. (From Program note of The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul)

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Posters of the movie Nora Noh
In an interview with WSJ’s Scene Asia, after more than six decades as a designer, Nora calls herself a laborer and a “craftsman,” not an artist, arguing that fashion’s primary purpose is to serve people’s needs. “I always wanted women to feel confident in my clothes,” she said. “Once you are comfortable in the clothes you are in, you can move around freely. Then your thoughts are eventually liberated, too.”
Nora has always designed expressly for working women. “Through clothes, I strive to change the way women think, change the way they carry themselves and make their self-confidence shine,” she said.

Learn more about Nora Noh on Youtube, Movie Trailer and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Website.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

Suzanne Valadon, a French pioneer female artist

Suzanne Valadon


A daughter of an unmarried laundress turned into a model, the model turned into a painter.

The daughter of an unmarried laundress, Valadon began working at age 11 after a short attendance to primary school and worked in a variety of areas including a milliner’s workshop, a factory making funeral wreaths, a market selling vegetables, a waitress in a restaurant, and then finally in the circus. Valadon became a circus acrobat at the age of fifteen, but a year later, a fall from a trapeze ended that career. In the Montmartre quarter of Paris, she pursued her interest in art, first working as a model for artists, observing and learning their techniques, before becoming a noted painter herself.


Photo of Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938)
Valadon debuted as a model in 1880 in Montmartre at age 15. She modeled for over 10 years for many different artists including the following: Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, Théophile Steinlen, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She modeled under the name “Maria” and was thought to have had many affairs with the artists she modeled for. She was considered seductive, provocative, comely, voluptuous, and flighty as a model. Toulouse-Lautrec nicknamed her “Suzanne” after the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders. She was considered a very focused, ambitious, rebellious, determined, self-confident, and passionate woman. She was also known to be good friends with Edgar Degas. In the early 1890s she befriended Degas who, impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchased her work and encouraged her efforts. She remained one of Degas’s closest friends until his death.


Dance at Bougival, 1883, by Renoir
The most recognizable image of Valadon would be in Renoir’s Dance at Bougival from 1883. In the same year, Valadon gave birth to her ‘illegitimate’ son, Maurice Utrillo, at the age of 18. Later, the son became famous artist like his mother.
In 1885, Renoir painted her portrait again as Girl Braiding Her Hair. Another of his portraits of her in 1885, Suzanne Valadon, is of her head and shoulders in profile. Valadon frequented the bars and taverns of Paris along with her fellow painters, and she was Toulouse-Lautrec’s subject in his oil painting The Hangover.


Flowers on a Round Table, 1920, by Suzanne Valadon
Her first exhibitions, held in the early 1890s, consisted mostly of portraits. She regularly showed work at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris. Valadon’s first time in the Société nationale des beaux-arts; National Society of Fine Art was in 1894. Degas was notably the first person to buy drawings from her. Degas also taught her the skill of soft-ground etching. In 1896, Valadon became a full-time painter after her marriage to Paul Moussis. She made a shift from drawing to painting during her initial affair with Andre Utter starting in 1909. Her first large oils for the Salon were related to sexual pleasure, and they were some of the first examples in painting for the man to be an object of desire by a woman. These notable Salon paintings include Adam et Eve (Adam and Eve) (1909), La joie de vivre (Joy of Living) (1911), Lancement du filet (Casting of the Net) (1914). Valadon produced around 300 drawings and over 450 oil paintings by the end of her life. Valadon painted still lifes, portraits, flowers, and landscapes that are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colors.


Nudes, 1919, by Suzanne Valadon


Casting of the Net, 1914, by Suzanne Valadon


Reclining Nude, 1928, by Suzanne Valadon
She was, however, best known for her candid female nudes, particularly because it was unusual in the nineteenth century for a woman artist to make female nudes her primary subject matter.
Suzanne Valadon died of a stroke on 7 April 1938, at age 72. Among those in attendance at her funeral were her friends and colleagues André Derain, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.