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A Dress of Violet Taffeta

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A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready fo A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain? After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option. Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.


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A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready fo A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain? After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option. Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.

30 review for A Dress of Violet Taffeta

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    What a gorgeously written and beautifully woven work of historical fiction! The accomplishments of “Madame Lucile,” aka Lucy Duff-Gordon, come to life. Tessa Arlen has managed to capture Lucy’s incredible talent and vision for color, and then translate that to the written word for all of us to see. Lucy led an absolutely incredible life, from penniless abandonment by her first husband to building her own business and finding success as a fashion designer. Despite poverty and the scorn of divorce What a gorgeously written and beautifully woven work of historical fiction! The accomplishments of “Madame Lucile,” aka Lucy Duff-Gordon, come to life. Tessa Arlen has managed to capture Lucy’s incredible talent and vision for color, and then translate that to the written word for all of us to see. Lucy led an absolutely incredible life, from penniless abandonment by her first husband to building her own business and finding success as a fashion designer. Despite poverty and the scorn of divorce at that time, Lucy took control of her own destiny. At her side is Celia, also impeccably written. Celia is actually a composite of two women who were very important in Lady Duff-Gordon’s life and business. The chapters vary between Lucy and Celia, and this gives us a look at two different class experiences of women in the early 1900s. I also loved the peeks we get into the very dressing rooms of some of Lucy’s clients, and we get to see the way they are transformed by her amazing gowns. And we watch Lucy find love again. Lucy’s second marriage to Cosmo Duff-Gordon is written in a realistic way with all its ups and downs, especially their presence on and survival of the sinking of the Titanic, the media frenzy afterward, and its effect on their marriage. This is a mesmerizing, captivating work of art that transports us to late 19th and early 20th Century London (and later America). A Dress of Violet Taffeta truly shows us the life of a visionary woman who lived through hard times and made the most of them. Anyone who wants to read an incredible story of grit, determination, and extraordinary talent will certainly enjoy this gem by Tessa Arlen. I received a free print copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Austenprose Book Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna Lee Huber

    A sumptuous treat of elegant prose, evocative descriptions, and compelling emotions. Arlen’s writing absolutely shines in A Dress of Violet Taffeta. She succeeds in making fashion designer and Titanic-survivor Lucy Duff Gordon both relatable and sympathetic, and stirs the senses with her lush depictions of clothing and settings.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    Dresses, dresses, dresses...who can pass up a book about a famous dress designer. Lucy married a drinker and a philanderer. To her surprise and relief he left her. Divorce isn't something women did in the 1800’s, but it happened. Her mother was horrified because she said Lucy would be ostracized. That didn't stop Lucy....she started her own dressmaking business and created gowns for famous Americans and Europeans. A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA is about a real person Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. She is famous Dresses, dresses, dresses...who can pass up a book about a famous dress designer. Lucy married a drinker and a philanderer. To her surprise and relief he left her. Divorce isn't something women did in the 1800’s, but it happened. Her mother was horrified because she said Lucy would be ostracized. That didn't stop Lucy....she started her own dressmaking business and created gowns for famous Americans and Europeans. A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA is about a real person Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. She is famous not only for her designs, but that she was a survivor of the Titanic. Facts about investigations into the wealthy who survived was something I didn’t know. We get to join the workers in the designing houses and learn how they works and also how some design houses would steal designs by only changing a very tiny detail and call it their own. I do have to say it did drag on a bit, but I enjoyed it. Fashion fans and fans of this era will love this book. 4/5 This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    3-1/2* This is a lovely historical-fiction set in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s starring Lucy – Lady Duff Gordon who defied all accepted norms of that time period by divorcing her husband who had abandoned her and her daughter. Lucy, now penniless, at risk of being shunned by society because of the divorce, is completely responsible for her child and her ageing mother and Celia the only scullery maid she can afford to keep in service. A very scary position to be in! But Lucy is no shrinking violet 3-1/2* This is a lovely historical-fiction set in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s starring Lucy – Lady Duff Gordon who defied all accepted norms of that time period by divorcing her husband who had abandoned her and her daughter. Lucy, now penniless, at risk of being shunned by society because of the divorce, is completely responsible for her child and her ageing mother and Celia the only scullery maid she can afford to keep in service. A very scary position to be in! But Lucy is no shrinking violet – she has a gift and she will use it in spite of her mother being horrified at Lucy becoming a dressmaker!! Ladies of this era simply did not go into ‘trade’. As it turns out Celia is not as simple as a scullery maid is assumed to be and in fact becomes Lucy’s invaluable helper and assistant. Lucy’s dress designs are described sumptuously and the author captures the time period brilliantly and I was happy to find that Lucy enjoyed a second happy marriage to Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. They survived the sinking of the Titanic which placed them in an unpleasant position when they were called upon to give evidence at the Board of Trade hearing into the disaster. Based on the real La Belle Époque Lady Duff Gordon, this is a shimmering story of a woman way before her time who defied all the odds in a male dominated world to become an icon in her own right.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tessa Arlen

    Abandoned by her spendthrift husband who ran off with a pantomime dancer, Lucy didn't hesitate to sue for divorce: a scandal in 1893! A penniless single mother, Lucy spent her last few pounds on a bolt of silk and working from her cramped dining room started the perilous business of building a fashion empire Lucile Ltd. Achieving success, without any formal training in a fashion world dominated by men, bright, witty and undaunted Lucy opened salons in London, New York, Paris and Chicago. Her eye Abandoned by her spendthrift husband who ran off with a pantomime dancer, Lucy didn't hesitate to sue for divorce: a scandal in 1893! A penniless single mother, Lucy spent her last few pounds on a bolt of silk and working from her cramped dining room started the perilous business of building a fashion empire Lucile Ltd. Achieving success, without any formal training in a fashion world dominated by men, bright, witty and undaunted Lucy opened salons in London, New York, Paris and Chicago. Her eye for color, texture, and line made her one of the most original designers of her time liberating the natural curves of the female form from whalebone and layers of heavy Swiss cotton underclothes. By the turn of the century she had dressed some of the most richest and influential women in the world, and had survived not only the sinking of the Titanic, but its aftermath of trauma, blame and loss. A riches-to-rags-to-riches story: Lucy Duff Gordon was an innovator, a of woman of courage and passion, and a compelling heroine of the exquisite and cutthroat world of Belle Époque haute couture.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wendy W.

    Four and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭒ A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a fictional account of the life of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, and her rise to fame as a fashion icon. It’s a fabulous story of grit and determination. The story follows Lucy, from the betrayal of her first husband and subsequent divorce to her rise to fame as the owner of one of the finest fashion houses in London. After Lucy’s husband deserts her, she is left to raise her daughter, Esme, with only one scullery maid, Celia for help running the Four and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭒ A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a fictional account of the life of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, and her rise to fame as a fashion icon. It’s a fabulous story of grit and determination. The story follows Lucy, from the betrayal of her first husband and subsequent divorce to her rise to fame as the owner of one of the finest fashion houses in London. After Lucy’s husband deserts her, she is left to raise her daughter, Esme, with only one scullery maid, Celia for help running the house. Lucy must find a way to support them all, and with Celia’s help, she uses her talents as a seamstress and designer to start making and designing dresses for friends, family, and the high society of London. Lucy has an eye for fabrics and fashion and her designs are unique and become coveted by high society immediately and her empire grows fast. Lucy’s life changes when she meets Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, Lucy is reluctant to have a relationship after her previous husband deserted her, but Cosmo is very persistent. Later her life changes again when she embarks on a fateful trip to New York on the Titanic. I enjoyed this look inside the life of a strong, successful woman in a time when men dominated the fashion world in London. She overcame a lot of obstacles and I enjoyed reading about her struggles and her eventual success. I loved all the descriptions of the beautiful dresses, as well as how she creates them. I liked the alternating POVs between Lucy and her scullery maid Celia, who eventually becomes her business partner. I learned a lot more about Lucy, by reading Celia's chapters as she described her life working for Lucy. The author did a lot of research, and I appreciated her descriptions of Lucy’s journey on The Titanic and the aftermath of the disastrous sinking of the ship. I liked the way she described the elegance of the Titanic as seen through Lucy’s eyes, and she made sure to highlight the differences between the separate class accommodations. Make sure you read the author's notes at the end of the book as the author describes her research. I highly recommend A Dress of Violet Taffeta to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

    There are times when a book is so captivating that you’re sad when you reach the end. This is one of those books. I didn’t know Lucy Duff Gordon’s story before reading and was fascinated from the start as she bravely navigated divorcing a terrible man and put all of her financial eggs in one basket as she designed her first dress, to be worn at a fashionable house party in hopes of establishing a dress-making business. The business side of the story is interesting enough, but the personal side o There are times when a book is so captivating that you’re sad when you reach the end. This is one of those books. I didn’t know Lucy Duff Gordon’s story before reading and was fascinated from the start as she bravely navigated divorcing a terrible man and put all of her financial eggs in one basket as she designed her first dress, to be worn at a fashionable house party in hopes of establishing a dress-making business. The business side of the story is interesting enough, but the personal side of the story is truly wonderful. Where this book really shines for me is in the beautiful way Lucy and Cosmo’s relationship unfolds. I found myself marveling several times at how so much is conveyed in few words. If I was the kind of person who highlighted and annotated my books, those scenes would be full of notations. I admit that I was biased coming into this book, as I recently found Tessa Arlen’s books and have gobbled them all up in a short amount of time. I appreciate her writing, especially her subtle humor. I think this may be my favorite of all of her books, which is saying something. I laughed a lot. I cried during the Titanic scenes and a few times after. I loved every minute of it. Just for fun, my progress notes... page 50 I am completely enchanted. page 100 Oh hello, we get a siège d’amour mention! page 150 "The last thing she wanted was to hurt a man she admired and trusted and who had fallen for the woman she wished she was.” Le sigh. page 175 Esmé in France has me smiling and laughing. This book is so charming. page 200 If I was the type to use those little post-it flags to mark beautifully written passages or poignant moments, this book would be full of those little things. page 250 I don’t want it to end. page 283 Crying like a baby over this Titanic scene…and I know what happens already!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Bookworm Lisa)

    A Dress of Violet Taffeta is beautifully written. It chronicles the life of Lady Duff Gordon. She was a very strong woman who paved the way for women in business during the Gilded Age. The story begins after Lucy's (Lady Duff Gordon) husband left her for a dancer. He took all of the money and she was left to care for their young daughter. Her life of leisure was at an end. The servants were let go and she was left with one servant, who was not proficient in her duties. Celia became vital in her q A Dress of Violet Taffeta is beautifully written. It chronicles the life of Lady Duff Gordon. She was a very strong woman who paved the way for women in business during the Gilded Age. The story begins after Lucy's (Lady Duff Gordon) husband left her for a dancer. He took all of the money and she was left to care for their young daughter. Her life of leisure was at an end. The servants were let go and she was left with one servant, who was not proficient in her duties. Celia became vital in her quest to enter the world of fashion. I found this book to be fascinating. Lucy and Celia are real people who lived a life that made it possible for women to enter the fashion industry. A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a "rags to riches" story. The story doesn't end with Lucy's rise in fashion. She also survived the Titanic. If you enjoy reading about strong women and their determination to succeed, you should pick up this novel. Source: I received a complimentary copy from Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    I have always loved reading about fashion in the books I read, and this time, this story is about the icon of British fashion of the 19th and 20th century, Lady Lucy Duff Gordon. In addition to her fashion sense and style, she is one of the surviving passengers of the Titanic in 1912. Lucille is definitely a woman well ahead of her time, with a male dominated fashion industry, she is considered a trailblazer despite having to make her own way even after her cheating wealthy husband leaves her. L I have always loved reading about fashion in the books I read, and this time, this story is about the icon of British fashion of the 19th and 20th century, Lady Lucy Duff Gordon. In addition to her fashion sense and style, she is one of the surviving passengers of the Titanic in 1912. Lucille is definitely a woman well ahead of her time, with a male dominated fashion industry, she is considered a trailblazer despite having to make her own way even after her cheating wealthy husband leaves her. Lucille's life is not only a study in resilience despite harrowing circumstances, but she is also a woman determined to succeed with whatever she has - her talents, creativity, and finding opportunities and to never give up. I found the writing enthralling, and inspirational. The descriptions were immersive and really drew me into the Belle Epoque era, including the sights, sounds, and textures. This very well researched story was astounding and such a joy to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Maxwell

    This story breaks all the stereotypes about Gilded Age women being locked away at home, depending on their husband's riches in order to survive. Lucy Duff Gordon, after being abandoned by her first husband, made her own riches as a pioneer in the fashion world, a woman who understood other women's needs and desires when it came to the clothing they wore. The book takes the reader on a journey from desperation to success to tragedy to recovery, written in a sumptuous, engaging style that appeals This story breaks all the stereotypes about Gilded Age women being locked away at home, depending on their husband's riches in order to survive. Lucy Duff Gordon, after being abandoned by her first husband, made her own riches as a pioneer in the fashion world, a woman who understood other women's needs and desires when it came to the clothing they wore. The book takes the reader on a journey from desperation to success to tragedy to recovery, written in a sumptuous, engaging style that appeals to all the senses and brings Lucy, her creations, and her world vividly alive.

  11. 5 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    I have to say that Tessa Arlen has been an author that I have enjoyed in different ways over the years. I started reading her earlier books years ago which were mostly historical mysteries. Later on I discovered her new heroines and historical fiction series as well and later on a standalone historical fiction novel. Some times, some authors are better at writing mysteries while others thrieve with general historical fiction. Arlen is wonderful at all of them! I have loved many of her books for I have to say that Tessa Arlen has been an author that I have enjoyed in different ways over the years. I started reading her earlier books years ago which were mostly historical mysteries. Later on I discovered her new heroines and historical fiction series as well and later on a standalone historical fiction novel. Some times, some authors are better at writing mysteries while others thrieve with general historical fiction. Arlen is wonderful at all of them! I have loved many of her books for different reasons as they are always well written and researched. This book was a no brainer! First I featured an excerpt for a tour of the book, but I knew this would be one that I would absolutely read, sadly the tour timeline didn’t line up with my own reading calendar so I had to just do a feature for the tour but immediately started reading the book as soon as I read the excerpt! It sounded so good and plus—that COVER! I am so in love with the cover! It’s stunning and a wonderful historical fiction read. One of the reasons that I was so drawn to this book (besides the author and cover) was the time period. I love Edwardian era books so much and often they are few and far between with authors favoring either the Victorian era or WWI. The Edwardian era is such a weird time period with authors often just lightly touching on it and then moving on into WWI, but with Arlen I knew that I would get a well researched and well written accounting of my favorite historical period! And I was not disappointed! Before I read this book I had no idea who Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon was. Essentially I was a blank slate when it came to the main character of this novel and I found that the more I read her as a character, the more I wanted to know about her. I often found myself distracted from the book and down a Wikipedia rabit hole looking for more info about this interesting main character. That’s not to say that book was ‘boring’ just because I was distracted—on the contrary I was so interested in the main character that I wanted to know all the things about her! You cannot help but fall in love with Lucy. Her husband leaves her with a young daughter to raise and ultimately she is divorced from her first husband—practically unheard of in that time!She was also one of the survivors of the Titanic and the whole time I was thinking ‘I need to know everything about this woman!”. She instantly captured me heart and imagination. I felt positively transported by this book thanks to her character, not to mention the historical details! Arlen knows her history. But with this book she really highlights the fashion of the time period in addition to capturing the details of the time period. I love fashion and Edwardian era fashion was elegant and for women, complex. I can’t imagine wearing a dress that was so hard to get on that I needed a lady’s maid to help me! But then again I wear mostly gym clothes so there’s that! At any rate, I couldn’t help but be interested in the dresses and the designes of the time and I loved how Arlen let the fashion industry take the lead in some ways throughout the novel. This book is full of history and intereting characters and plot. But it doesn’t read like a history book. It isn’t full of boring and cold facts but rather it’s full of vibrant and interesting details and a thrilling story of perseverance, emotion, and charm. The prose is elegant and as you are reading you feel like you are reading something just as elegant and polished as one of Lucy’s designs. I absolutely loved this book and cannot tell you how much I recommend it. I knew it was going to be great but it ended up not just being great but exceptional! I adored my time with the characters and story and was sorry to see it end. Historical fiction fans, this is the book you have been waiting for this summer! Add this one to your TBR immediately!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Powell

    This is a story of the grit and determination of a woman who takes what some would consider her lowest point and turns it into a fashion empire! And I love that it’s based on real events. When Lucy’s cheating husband leaves her, Lucy decides she’s not going to sit around and pine for him. She lets all the house staff go because she can’t afford them on her own, with the exception of the scullery maid, Celia, who she can pay a little and train to help with her daughter, as well as work around the This is a story of the grit and determination of a woman who takes what some would consider her lowest point and turns it into a fashion empire! And I love that it’s based on real events. When Lucy’s cheating husband leaves her, Lucy decides she’s not going to sit around and pine for him. She lets all the house staff go because she can’t afford them on her own, with the exception of the scullery maid, Celia, who she can pay a little and train to help with her daughter, as well as work around the house. Lucy figures out how to make dresses for herself to save money and then realizes that she can sell them and support herself and her daughter and some staff. Celia turns into a great helper and soon they are creating dresses for the high society ladies who can’t get enough of setting trends. Lucy’s sister is going through her own family drama, and writes novels in order to support herself and their mother is none too pleased that her daughters aren’t sitting around trying to find new husbands. Soon Lucy is opening stores arising the world and she meets Cosmo, who turned out to be a great partner, advisor and lover and husband. All is well until they decide to voyage by ship and I’ll let you figure out what happens from there. Fascinating and educational. I enjoyed this trip back in time. Thanks to Berkley Books and NetGalley for this eArc in exchange for my review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    Fascinating, rich, and insightful! A Dress of Violet Taffeta is an enchanting, beautifully written interpretation that sweeps you away to England between 1893 and 1912 and into the life of Lucy Christiana Sutherland from her disastrous first marriage and subsequent divorce to James Stuart Wallace, her rise and fame as an international fashion designer, her courtship and second marriage to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and her survival of one of the most famous, tragic accidents of the twentieth century, Fascinating, rich, and insightful! A Dress of Violet Taffeta is an enchanting, beautifully written interpretation that sweeps you away to England between 1893 and 1912 and into the life of Lucy Christiana Sutherland from her disastrous first marriage and subsequent divorce to James Stuart Wallace, her rise and fame as an international fashion designer, her courtship and second marriage to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and her survival of one of the most famous, tragic accidents of the twentieth century, the sinking of the Titanic. The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are hardworking, innovative, and independent. And the plot is an absorbing tale of life, love, friendship, family, determination, passion, courage, survival, and the ins and outs of dressmaking in the early 1900s. Overall, A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a vivid, immersive, intriguing novel by Arlen that does an exceptional job of highlighting her impressive knowledge and considerable research into this renowned iconic figure whose ingenuity, life, and hard work had a tremendous impact on the world of fashion. Thank you to Berkley Publishing and Austenprose PR for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    There's a lot of fabric in this terrific historical fiction. Abandoned by her first husband, but with a gift of fashion design and her upper class connections Lucy Lady Duff Gordon became one of the most successful haute couture designers of the early 20th century. She's best known now for surviving the sinking of the Titanic, but this excellent back story focuses on how she attained her phenomenal success. 4 stars There's a lot of fabric in this terrific historical fiction. Abandoned by her first husband, but with a gift of fashion design and her upper class connections Lucy Lady Duff Gordon became one of the most successful haute couture designers of the early 20th century. She's best known now for surviving the sinking of the Titanic, but this excellent back story focuses on how she attained her phenomenal success. 4 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Historical Fiction

    Find this review, my favorite quote, and companion read recommendations at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs... Tessa Arlen's A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA is a decadent biographical fiction that chronicles the life of British fashion designer Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon. Lucy, known professionally as Lucile, launched one of the first international couture brands and dressed a glittering clientele of royalty, nobility, stage actors, and film stars. I don't have a particular affinity for hig Find this review, my favorite quote, and companion read recommendations at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs... Tessa Arlen's A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA is a decadent biographical fiction that chronicles the life of British fashion designer Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon. Lucy, known professionally as Lucile, launched one of the first international couture brands and dressed a glittering clientele of royalty, nobility, stage actors, and film stars. I don't have a particular affinity for high-end couture, but even I couldn't help appreciating the extent to which Arlen detailed the color and cut of Lucy's gowns, the innovation of her mannequin parades, and the scandalous sensation caused by her line of naughty lingerie. I enjoyed Arlen's chronicle of her professional rise but felt the novel lost its way in the third act when Lucy's name becomes inextricably linked to the fate of the RMS Titanic. Arlen seems to have included the material because it was too marketable to ignore, but I felt the chapters she dedicated to the incident lacked narrative continuity. The content is not framed around Lucy's personal journey and, as such, muddies the themes established in the book's first two hundred and sixty pages. Structural criticism aside, I would recommend A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA over Harper's THE IT GIRLS or Alcott's THE DRESSMAKER, as I feel Arlen is the only novelist to have captured Lucy's artistic imagination. Lucy's legacy is not limited to her survival, and I appreciated how this book honored that reality in its illustration of her career and unconventional spirit.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her? When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of he Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her? When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world—failure is not an option. Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story. This is a book that is more of the life and times of Lucy Duff Gordon than a novel Lucy was innovative in dress design. This book was overly long. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. This in no way affects my opinion of this book which I read and reviewed voluntarily.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    After Lucy's husband wastes their fortune on drinking and runs off with a showgirl, Lucy does the unthinkable to keep herself and her daughter Esme safe, she divorces from her husband. This is unheard of in polite society during Victorian Era London. Lucy has a plan to make money. She has always loved fashion and begins to design dresses. With the help of her one remaining staff, Celia, Lucy designs and makes a dress that is the envy of everyone. From there, Lucy begins taking orders. With Lucy' After Lucy's husband wastes their fortune on drinking and runs off with a showgirl, Lucy does the unthinkable to keep herself and her daughter Esme safe, she divorces from her husband. This is unheard of in polite society during Victorian Era London. Lucy has a plan to make money. She has always loved fashion and begins to design dresses. With the help of her one remaining staff, Celia, Lucy designs and makes a dress that is the envy of everyone. From there, Lucy begins taking orders. With Lucy's eye for color and cut on specific women and Celia's management skills, business takes off. Lucy meets Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and finds love as well as a business party. Lucile Ltd is now successful and thriving with clients around the world and a second shop in New York. Lucy, Cosmo and Celia make their way to New York with new dresses on the Titanic. When the unthinkable happens, all three manage to escape with their lives. However, the aftermath of the escape and the trauma will affect them forever. Lady Lucy Duff Gordon is known not only for her elegant fashion design, but for creating fashion shows and modernizing women's underwear. Despite this, most of what I knew about Lady Lucy was from the movie Titanic. While A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a fictional version of Lady Lucy's life, the author has done a lot of research and used Lady Lucy's memoir as well as her design books and a viewing of her fashion collection. I was in love with Lucy's character and temperament from the start as she decides that she will support herself and Esme after her husband leaves. Lucy's determination to fulfill her dream now that she is divorced is even more significant in Victorian society. There are absolutely wonderful descriptions of color and the process of how Lucy made her gowns and built her business from nothing. Her ideas for women's fashion were able to move women forward in society. As Lucy said, " I truly believe that what women choose to wear will dictate the sort of lives we lead in the decades to come." In addition to Lucy, the other female characters were also amazingly written. I was intrigued the most by Celia who began as an unpaid helper and rose to managing Lucile Ltd. I think it's a shame that we don't know more about the real Celia, although I would have loved more chapters from her point of view. Lucy's sister, Elinor Glyn is also a force in her own right and became a well-known romance author. The Duff-Gordon's experience on the Titanic seems to have been twisted and they were made to look like villains for not going back to rescue more people in their lifeboat. The survivor's guilt seems to have affected Lucy and Cosmo as well as their relationship. Overall, A Dress of Violet Taffeta is an amazing story of a self-made woman of history. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a historical novel based on the life or Lucy Duff Gordon. Lucy divorced her cruel husband in the late 1800's and needed to find a way to support herself and her young daughter Esme. She had a gift for design and slowly built a business as a fashion designer. Over the years her business expanded to a design house with a ballroom and models. She met a wonderful man, Cosmo Duff Gordon, and found personal happiness again ... before a fateful trip on the Titanic. I wanted A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a historical novel based on the life or Lucy Duff Gordon. Lucy divorced her cruel husband in the late 1800's and needed to find a way to support herself and her young daughter Esme. She had a gift for design and slowly built a business as a fashion designer. Over the years her business expanded to a design house with a ballroom and models. She met a wonderful man, Cosmo Duff Gordon, and found personal happiness again ... before a fateful trip on the Titanic. I wanted to read this novel because I love historical fiction and enjoyed the Poppy Redfern mysteries by Tessa Arlen. I also am interested in the Titanic (and long ago ship travel in general), so that added to my interest. This was a fascinating novel! I loved the glimpse of fashion design in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The descriptions of embroidery, beading, and especially colors, was so evocative -- I could picture the fashions described so vividly. It was also interesting how Lucy worked toward a more natural (and comfortable!) silhouette for women, away from the rigid corsets of the 1800's. Lucy was a wonderful protagonist. She was strong and caring and looked out always for her daughter and mother. I enjoyed her relationship with her often outrageous sister, Elinor Glyn (who created the idea of the "It Girl"). I also liked the way Lucy treated her employees, including a close friendship with her shop assistant, and assuring good work conditions and a positive shop experience for all the other employees. I also enjoyed the story of Lucy's slow moving romance with Cosmo. He was a unique man for the time in his loving support of his wife's career goals. The Titanic story was vividly evoked, and the story of the lifeboat escape was harrowing -- especially as the survivors witnessed the devastation of the ship at such close range. I found A Dress of Violet Taffeta fascinating, and recommend it for other fans of historical fiction. Readers with an interest in fashion history or the Titanic will especially enjoy it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Kelly

    This novel is about the Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon who was a talented clothing designer in late 1800s England. Forced to find a way to take care of her daughter and her mother after she divorces her husband who was a ne'er do well. Unfaithful and an alcoholic. Married life with him was not what she hoped it would be. Divorce was frowned upon back then but it didn't matter to her. She loved making dresses for her dolls as a child and thought to pursue that talent that she had. She be This novel is about the Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon who was a talented clothing designer in late 1800s England. Forced to find a way to take care of her daughter and her mother after she divorces her husband who was a ne'er do well. Unfaithful and an alcoholic. Married life with him was not what she hoped it would be. Divorce was frowned upon back then but it didn't matter to her. She loved making dresses for her dolls as a child and thought to pursue that talent that she had. She became well known for her designs, particularly her tea gowns, and evening wear, and went on to design lingerie which was considered to be risque for some. She also was credited for training her professional models and having the 'catwalk'. Her clients were among the wealthiest in England and America. She also dressed actresses and dancers including Ziegfield Follies. Her company, Lucile Ltd, was one of the elite fashion houses and flourished from the turn of the century to the 1920s. She was the sister of Elinor Glyn who was a novelist and scriptwriter, very famous in her own right. Lucy married Sir Cosmos Duff-Gordon. They traveled quite a bit and were passengers on the fateful day the Titanic sunk. They survived but later were questioned in the inquiry in Britain. He was accused of paying bribes to get on a lifeboat which was not true as he wanted to help out the seven crew members that shared the lifeboat with him and his wife. He gave them each some money so they could replace what they lost. He was eventually exonerated but was depressed for the rest of his life because of it. I really enjoyed this book, I love stories about strong women, especially women from this time period. Written with superb research, I think that the author definitely did Lucy justice. I received a cop of the book for review purposes only.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather Moll

    In 1893, this story jumps into Lucy Wallace’s dire situation: abandoned by her alcoholic husband, out of money, down to one mediocre maid, about to divorce, and living with a difficult mother. But Lucy has a plan to design and sell gowns, and she has the determination to pull it off. The POV also includes her maid Celia, raised in a workhouse and who yearns for more after helping Lucy with her sewing ambitions. Lucy has a discerning eye and a gift for colors and fabrics. She begins to design and In 1893, this story jumps into Lucy Wallace’s dire situation: abandoned by her alcoholic husband, out of money, down to one mediocre maid, about to divorce, and living with a difficult mother. But Lucy has a plan to design and sell gowns, and she has the determination to pull it off. The POV also includes her maid Celia, raised in a workhouse and who yearns for more after helping Lucy with her sewing ambitions. Lucy has a discerning eye and a gift for colors and fabrics. She begins to design and secretly sew gowns for her and her sister’s wealthy friends. Celia with her business acumen quickly becomes her devoted assistant. A lot of Lucy’s character comes through in Celia’s observations. I wish we saw more of Lucy’s reflections because her life was full of fascinating experiences. Her sister Elinor was a successful and scandalous playwright but their friendship and rivalry wasn’t highlighted. Nor was her relationship with the man who would eventually become her second husband and greatest supporter until it all fell apart—an element we don’t see in the book. There wasn’t a character arc to Celia or Lucy. We watched their steady progress from afar as it’s more of a name dropping and event-reviewing walk through the 1880s-1910s than an in-depth look at Lucy herself. There was no narrative thread to connect the string of events, so by the time the Titanic sank I had lost interest and then the book just stopped. Too much telling and not enough character development for me, but the setting comes alive and this is a well-researched gilded age fictionalized account of an acclaimed designer. 2.5 rounded up. I received an arc from NetGalley

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Pros :: Loved this book and learned about Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, her business Lucile Ltd, and what fun it was to read about fashion, a strong woman, all sprinkled with romance. Strong characters include: Lucy, her sister Elinor (what a hoot she sounds like, maybe a historical novel of her?), Celia Franklin (the manager), Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and even Lucy and Elinor's mom, and Mrs. Kennedy. Good pacing, conversations and all around well-written book. Interesting to learn about their (Lucy, Cos Pros :: Loved this book and learned about Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, her business Lucile Ltd, and what fun it was to read about fashion, a strong woman, all sprinkled with romance. Strong characters include: Lucy, her sister Elinor (what a hoot she sounds like, maybe a historical novel of her?), Celia Franklin (the manager), Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and even Lucy and Elinor's mom, and Mrs. Kennedy. Good pacing, conversations and all around well-written book. Interesting to learn about their (Lucy, Cosmo & Celia) from the Titanic and the inquiry afterwards. So fascinating that Lucy had shops in London, NYC and Paris yet is doesn’t seem to have a well-known name, a name that’s been lost to history. So grateful to read about true women making their own way, regardless of society’s restrictions. Resilience, luck and hard work. Cons :: Nothing over all. For me, it would have been interesting to know how Lucy sourced her materials, including the silk materials and a mention of how the dyes were done to the fabric. Just a couple of paragraphs or so. It's also nice to have photos, even with a fiction book. Nothing to take away from the author for these two things. Cover art :: 4 out of 5 Love the edges and the color of the dress. Gah! Another cover with the model turned away from us....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    After divorcing her husband, Lucy Sutherland needs a way to support herself and her young daughter, causing her to turn to fashion design. Under the name of Lucile, she designed popular gowns for the British upper class and even led a new trend in underwear. Lucy also attracted the attentions of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who became her second husband. As a couple, they sailed on the ill-fated Titanic, which left them both with a legacy beyond fashion. This novel made for a compelling and interestin After divorcing her husband, Lucy Sutherland needs a way to support herself and her young daughter, causing her to turn to fashion design. Under the name of Lucile, she designed popular gowns for the British upper class and even led a new trend in underwear. Lucy also attracted the attentions of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who became her second husband. As a couple, they sailed on the ill-fated Titanic, which left them both with a legacy beyond fashion. This novel made for a compelling and interesting read, especially the scenes toward the end, on Titanic's lifeboats. Still, I appreciated that this novel was about more than just the Titanic, giving me a fuller sense of the life of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon.

  23. 5 out of 5

    ROCKY

    I waited months for this books & it was so worth it I loved this book!! Totally recommend it if u love reading about couturieres & designers which I love!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becca Kate

    Historical Fiction, Fashion and The Titanic? Say no more! I knew instantly that this book was for me and I’d enjoy it. And I was right! I majored in Fashion Design and a big part of my studies was learning about historical fashions so I was delighted when I started this book and realized how intricately detailed the fashion process and designs were conveyed. The author paints a very detailed picture that just makes everything come alive in the story. I could just imagine the beautiful colors and Historical Fiction, Fashion and The Titanic? Say no more! I knew instantly that this book was for me and I’d enjoy it. And I was right! I majored in Fashion Design and a big part of my studies was learning about historical fashions so I was delighted when I started this book and realized how intricately detailed the fashion process and designs were conveyed. The author paints a very detailed picture that just makes everything come alive in the story. I could just imagine the beautiful colors and designs! I absolutely loved reading about Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon. Talk about a remarkable woman! Her story is very inspiring and I enjoyed getting to learn about her and her anything but ordinary life. If you want to read about a powerhouse woman check out this book when it’s released next week on July 5th! Thank you Berkeley Publishing Group for the advanced copy and Tessa Arlen for shedding some light on this amazing woman!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carol (Reading Ladies)

    Thanks #Netgalley @BerkleyPub #AustenProsePR @AustenProse for an e ARC of #ADressOfVioletTaffeta by Tessa Arlen upon my request. All opinions are my own. Lady Duff Gordon, Lucy, is forced to support herself and her young daughter after being abandoned by her alcoholic husband. Interested in fashion and dress design from a young age (making dresses for her dolls), Lucy strikes out to be a couture fashion designer, a field few women had tried. Facing stiff competition from men, Lucy starts with a l Thanks #Netgalley @BerkleyPub #AustenProsePR @AustenProse for an e ARC of #ADressOfVioletTaffeta by Tessa Arlen upon my request. All opinions are my own. Lady Duff Gordon, Lucy, is forced to support herself and her young daughter after being abandoned by her alcoholic husband. Interested in fashion and dress design from a young age (making dresses for her dolls), Lucy strikes out to be a couture fashion designer, a field few women had tried. Facing stiff competition from men, Lucy starts with a lovely piece of violet taffeta and builds her couture brand (Lucile Ltd) dress by dress. She persists through all the obstacles thrown at her, wins a messy public divorce, and survives the sinking of the Titanic. From designing doll dresses as a child to fashion couture icon… I enjoy stories about real people and Lucy is a fascinating “self-made” woman and fashion icon. Some readers may find her less than likable but I think she needed to be persistent, tenacious, and ruthless in order to make it in the highly competitive world of fashion couture. One trait I especially admire is her loyalty to family and employees. I enjoy reading about women who are innovative and creative. Lucy has a special eye for color, texture, and lines. She has a vision for slimmer gowns whose fabric flows and creates a line of undergarments that were quite risque (at the time) to complement her designs. The ending of the story is dramatic as we learn how Lucy and her husband survive the sinking of the Titanic and about the consequences of that night. Themes: Thoughtful themes include successes and setbacks, a second chance at love, survival, believing in yourself and your talents/gifts, taking risks, grit, loyalty, persistence, and determination. I think readers who are interested in dress design will enjoy reading about the history of fashion and couture and the independent, forward-thinking woman who influenced fashion trends. For more reviews visit my blog www.readingladies.com where this review was first published.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Selena | Beauty's Library

    I received a free copy of A Dress of Violet Taffeta through Austenprose PR for a book tour. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I genuinely love historical fiction novels that are inspired by true events and people. And this is another one to add to the list of just beautifully inspiring reads! A Dress of Violet Taffeta gives us a story of a strong determined woman who decides to take control of her life after being deserted by her husband. Instead of allowing men to run her life, she made a p I received a free copy of A Dress of Violet Taffeta through Austenprose PR for a book tour. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I genuinely love historical fiction novels that are inspired by true events and people. And this is another one to add to the list of just beautifully inspiring reads! A Dress of Violet Taffeta gives us a story of a strong determined woman who decides to take control of her life after being deserted by her husband. Instead of allowing men to run her life, she made a plan to become a fashion designer and eventually became a fashion icon. Lucy, or Lady Duff Gordon, is such an inspiring woman! I loved reading her story from start to finish. I was captivated by the descriptions of the gowns she designed and the fabrics she used. As a designer myself, I really connected with her, especially in the little moments where she found inspiration in the world around her, making mental notes on colors that would work well together. I simply admired Lucy’s tenacity to push back on societal norms. No longer caring to be seen as a divorcee, not needing the support of a man, and being brave enough to enter an industry that was dominated by men. I also appreciated seeing the dual perspectives, not only do we get to see Lucy’s point of view, but we also see the point of view of her scullery maid who later becomes her business partner, Celia. I really enjoyed seeing Celia’s perspective, so we got to see both sides of the business. Celia often encouraging Lucy to be more assertive with her business. And we also see Celia’s confidence grow becoming more self-assured of herself and eager to see Lucy’s fashion business grow. I highly recommend this to those that enjoy historical fiction, have a love for fashion, and seeing strong leading women!

  27. 5 out of 5

    i_hype_romance Andrea Jenelle

    This is a wonderful story about a woman who uses tenacity and ingenuity to reinvent herself and her prospects when the world hands her a rotten egg. Lady Duff Gordon sees light, color and fabric like very few people. She can see how the folds will drape over a woman's body, how the light will catch on her hair and reflect brilliantly in her eyes because of what she is wearing. When her wastrel husband leaves her with a pile of debt and a family to support, she decides to turn her innate skill in This is a wonderful story about a woman who uses tenacity and ingenuity to reinvent herself and her prospects when the world hands her a rotten egg. Lady Duff Gordon sees light, color and fabric like very few people. She can see how the folds will drape over a woman's body, how the light will catch on her hair and reflect brilliantly in her eyes because of what she is wearing. When her wastrel husband leaves her with a pile of debt and a family to support, she decides to turn her innate skill into a means of support. There's a huge obstacle, though, to her success. The world of fashion design is dominated by men, even though the seamstresses they employ carry the industry. So her business begins innocuously. She decides she will make fashion available to working women and the wives of industrialists and bankers, the nouveau riche as well as the aristocracy. Her business campaign works, and she builds a fashion empire. But this business owner never forgets to uplift and supprt other women, to give them the credit for her success. The story of this extraordinary woman had me enthralled. It's a deep dive into the double standards of Victorian misogyny, class difference and the rise of the middle class. It's an examination of ambition and commitment as tools for improving an impossible situation. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction who've enjoyed the books of Fiona Davis, Marie Benedict and Philippa Gregory. A huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Thank you to NetGalley, Tessa Arlen, and Austenprose for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review! Fashion history can be a tough subject to base a piece of fiction on. We know the hallmarks and signatures of designers like Lucile so well, and it is easy to see if the author has done their research. Arlen has done more than her fair share of research with this book. She has brought Lucile’s life alive again, and done it with no small amount of skill.  Although her first and second marria Thank you to NetGalley, Tessa Arlen, and Austenprose for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review! Fashion history can be a tough subject to base a piece of fiction on. We know the hallmarks and signatures of designers like Lucile so well, and it is easy to see if the author has done their research. Arlen has done more than her fair share of research with this book. She has brought Lucile’s life alive again, and done it with no small amount of skill.  Although her first and second marriages are obviously featured in the book, I loved that Arlen focused on Lucile’s career and relationships with women, particularly her assistant and friend, Celia. Having several chapters from Celia’s POV not only gives us insight into their relationship and business, it also helped to flesh out this Edwardian world for me. Given that she was essentially invisible in her own world, she is able to see many things that Lucile would not have been able to, and it is crucial for world-building.  I will admit, I went into this book having an idea of how the sinking of the Titanic would be written but I was happily surprised. “Seeing” the ship and the events from Lucile’s perspective brought it into a new light for me. 

  29. 4 out of 5

    Diane Peterson

    Interesting fictionalized biography. Full of historical information, but a little slow.

  30. 5 out of 5

    gwendalyn _books_

    A Dress of Violet Taffeta A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of fashion with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly unique designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her? When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, L A Dress of Violet Taffeta A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of fashion with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly unique designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her? When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world—failure is not an option. Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.

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