Hats & Frocks

At the height of her success Miss Lily Elsie was setting the fashions in the first decade of the last century. Her glamorous image, both on and off stage, depended on natural good looks and the skills of her costume designers.

Costume designers for the shows Elsie appeared in;

Attilio Comelli.
A Chinese Honeymoon

Percy Anderson. (1851 - 1928)
Lady Madcap
Little Cherub

Mrs Freed and B.J. Simmons and Co..
See See

C. 'Wilhelm'. (1859 - 1925)
The New Aladdin

'Lucile'. (Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. 1863-1935)
The Merry Widow

One of Lucile's costumes for this show.

Another example.

"...The triumph of The Merry Widow was also a personal triumph for me, for of all the plays I dressed, and there were many, it was my favourite. 'The Merry Widow Hat,' which I designed for Lily Elsie. brought in a fashion which carried the name of 'Lucile.' its creator, all over Europe and the States. Every woman who wanted to be in the swim, had to have a 'Merry Widow Hat', and we made thousands of pounds through the craze, which lasted longer than most fashion crazes, for the charm of the play kept it alive..."

"...From that day I designed all her [Elsie's] clothes both for the stage and in private life and some of my most successful models were created for her, for once she had 'found herself' she wore them so charmingly that every woman who saw them wanted to have them copied..."

Contemparary watercolours of Lucile's costumes for the Merry Widow. Click images to enlarge.

Painting by Talbot Hughes from the
1909 anniversary programme.

Another painting by Talbot Hughes.

The cover of a souvenir songbook.


One of Lucile's costumes for this show.

The Dollar Princess

One of Lucile's costumes for this show.

Another example.

A Waltz Dream

One of Lucile's costumes for this show.

The Count of Luxembourg

One of Lucile's costumes for this show.

The Great Love - Film

See also Elsie's wedding dress.

Click here for a contemporary description of some of these dresses

Norman Hartnell. (Sir Norman Bishop Hartnell 1901-1979. Dressmaker to the British Royal family.) Court Dressmaker, 10, Bruton Street, Berkley Square, W1.
The Truth Game

'Once the Guv'nor [Edwardes] realised that the "Widow" was a success, he ordered a new set of clothes for me from Lucile. Everything she made was a work of art. After that I couldn't go to anyone else. But I never understood why that black hat I wore in the last act was such a sensation. It arrived from Paris a few days before we opened. It had a few black wisps of paradise on it; it wasn't particularly large, but it created a craze for huge hats. It became the Merry Widow hat.'

'And what about the blue osprey hat you wore in The Count of Luxembourg?'
'I always thought it a common hat. It was badly made by Gracie Ansell. I never liked it, but I thought it would look well on the stage.'

Elsie in 'retirement' (1912) from 'Vogue' magazine. Another Lucile outfit.

A selection of adverts from 'The Play Pictorial', a monthly magazine, No. 108 - The Count of Luxembourg, 1911. (Cost, 6d)

Artistic Millinery. "Hats by Theresa". (30/- = £ 1.50)

Stagg & Mantle. Dresses. (39/6 = £ 1.98)

Hats & Gowns. Madame Hille. (3½gns = £ 3.15)

Imperial Hair Dyes & Co. "Harmless & Perfect" from 2/6 (15p)

Mercedes Corsets. "The Vogue of the season" from 10/6 (55p)

And from the theatre program for A Chinese Honeymoon, London, May 1904

Stagg and Mantle again. 'The Luminous', accordion Pleated silk, 2/11 per yard.

Jaegar. Golf Jersey - light, warm and elastic.

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