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A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen: A Book Review

A Dress of Violet Taffeta 
Author: Tessa Arlen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: 2022
Pages: 348

Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: 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 design from the USA Today bestselling author of In Royal Service to the Queen.


     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.


     My Review: Lady Duff Gordon was a famous fashion designer in the early 20th century. She was also a Titanic survivor. A Dress of Violet Taffeta begins with Lucy being abandoned by her husband. In order to support herself and her daughter, Lucy makes dresses for wealthy women. This leads to her becoming a celebrated designer. The novel also tells the story of her marriage to her second husband and her harrowing tale of survival on the ill-fated Titanic.


    Before reading A Dress of Violet Taffeta, I knew very little about Lady Duff Gordon. However, I found her to be a fascinating heroine. Lucy is not only a very strong woman, but she is also a clever entrepreneur. She uses her passions for clothes to pursue her own career. Therefore, I really admire Lady Duff Gordon’s ability to innovate and be able to become successful. I also like her relationship with her maid, Celia. They had a true friendship and she played a major role in Lucy’s success. Thus, Lucy was a very compelling heroine, and I was glued to my seat to see how the novel ended.


     Overall, A Dress of Violet Taffeta is about friendship, dreams, and survival. The message of this novel is to never give up and to pursue your passions. I found all the characters to be very complex and developed. Some of the things I did not like about this book were that I thought Celia’s narration often detracted from Lucy’s story. There were also some slow parts in the story that I thought were unnecessary. Still, there is a lot of glitz and glamor that will keep you captivated. A Dress of Violet Taffeta is full of drama and reads like a soap opera. It is also rich in historical detail and is very lyrical. This novel is a must read for fashion enthusiasts. I recommend this novel for fans of By Her Own Design, Mademoiselle Chanel, and The It Girls!


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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