A Dress of Violet Taffeta
by Tessa Arlen
Publication Date June 24, 2022
Published by Penguin
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Genres: Fiction / Biographical, Fiction / Historical / General, Fiction / Women
Reading Challenges: 20 Books of Summer 2022
***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
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.
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.
A Dress of Violet Taffeta counts towards my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: