[A Dress of Violet Taffeta]: An ARC Blog Tour Review

A Dress of Violet Taffeta Tour Graphic

I am thrilled to participate in the Blog Tour for A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen. A big thank you to my friend Laurel Ann Nattress for including me in the tour.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

This book intrigued me for several reasons:

  • Historical fiction set at the turn of the 20th century, a time period that intrigued me
  • Lucy Lady Duff Gordon, a real person and fashion icon as the protagonist
  • the Titanic disaster as part of the story

This novel was a captivating story about the life of Lady Lucy Duff Gordon and her rise to the top of the fashion design world. Set during the turn of the 20th century, this story follows Lucy’s rise to fame as a gifted designer amid the changes and challenges of a new age.

A Dress of Violet Taffeta cover 2022

Book Summary: “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.

One of the highlights of this book were the descriptions of the dresses that Lucy designs. Clearly, Lucy has a talent for design. I love how she creates her dresses and names them as well. The way the author describes everything is beautiful from the fabric to the color, the details on the dresses to the way they move in the light. Everything is intricate and beautiful. I love the moments when Lucy sees a color combination she wants to use in a dress like in a sunrise, the ocean, or a room. The details about how dresses are designed and then created is fascinating and intricate. I loved learning about that process and how passionate Lucy was about her work. Now I hope to one day see her gowns on display!

Seeing Lucy Duff Gordon’s rise in popularity against the backdrop of the early 1900’s was fascinating. I haven’t read many books set in this time period and I was surprised by how much modernization and changed occurred during this time. Electric lights and central heat become more standardized for the upper classes. Women wear less intense corsets. Dress styles change. Women could file for divorce. Travel across the ocean is faster than ever. The aristocracy and people with new money are changing. And America is gaining momentum as a world power. I was intrigued by how similar some aspects of life during this time were to our current time. And also how the old ways were being held onto. The class system was changing but wealthy people still led changes in fashion and life. I was surprised how some of her clients paid so late for their dresses! And how the American and British clients were so different. Most interesting were the scenes on the Titanic and their experiences surviving that horrific disaster. I was shocked to read about the inquiry and the ways the Duff Gordon’s names were drug through the mud. It was sobering to think about how ill prepared for an emergency the Titanic was and how few life boats were on the ship. A horrible disaster that really changed their lives at the end of the book.

The characters are well developed, and I especially enjoyed Lucy’s rags to riches story. She is so strong and determined throughout the book especially as she begins her business with Celia. Lucy treats people with respect and kindness. I appreciated how she trains up Celia and changes her life. And how her many employees respect her and continue to work for her for many years. A beautiful tribute to the kind of person Lady Duff Gordon was. I loved that so much of her story and personality were based on the author’s research on Lady Duff Gordon’s life and Lucile’s history. That adds a special dimension to the story. Lucy is so strong and I was impressed how she builds a successful business after she gets out of a bad marriage. Her rise to fame and wealth was impressive. I also love her romance with Cosmo Duff Gordon. Their friendship turns to love in a natural, beautiful way. The scenes in France and Venice leading to their marriage are lovely and enchanting. Their love story is beautiful.

This fascinating historical novel blended fashion design seamlessly within the changing world of the early 20th century. Definitely an adult audience book as there are adult themes like Lucy’s potentially abusive first marriage, the horror of the sinking of the Titanic and adult situations within marriage and outside of it. I enjoyed the journey Lucy Duff Gordon goes on through the novel from her first dress of violet taffeta to a fashion empire with stores in London, New York and Paris. Her history and her determination were fascinating to experience. A great historical read!


Which are your favorite time periods for historical fiction?
Have you read any novels set on the Titanic?

Tessa Arlen Headshot 2055

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


EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR INTERVIEW Read an in-depth interview with author Tessa Arlen revealing insights into her new historical fiction novel, A Dress of Violet Taffeta.

2 thoughts on “[A Dress of Violet Taffeta]: An ARC Blog Tour Review

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jane. I enjoyed your detailed review. Lucy was such a trailblazer for fashion and women entrepreneurs. Arlen did a fabulous job with the era, fashions, and characters. I am looking forward to her next novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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