⦁ Title: A Dress of Violet Taffeta: A Novel⦁ Author: Tessa Arlen
⦁ Genre: Historical Fiction
⦁ Publisher: Berkley (July 5, 2022)
⦁ Length: (352) pages
⦁ Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
⦁ ISBN: 978-0593436851
⦁ Tour Dates: June 27-July 11, 2022
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.
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.
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Tessa Arlen writes historical fiction when she is not toiling away in her garden. She is the author of the Edwardian mystery series: Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson; the Woman of World War II mystery series. Poppy Redfern. And two standalone historical novels: In Royal Service to the Queen, and A Dress of Violet Taffeta.
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