Cover Art for a Dress of Violet Taffeta

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 and survived the sinking of the Titanic.




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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.

Advance Praise:

“This absorbing and beautifully written novel reveals a shocking episode in history and showcases the fortitude of an extraordinary woman”  Historical Novel Society full review here.  

“Arlen deftly uses evocative descriptions of fabric, people and settings, to bring each scene to life.” Booklist 

“A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a vivid and detailed portrait of the life of the legendary Lucy Duff Gordon. Tessa Arlen has crafted a transporting and beautiful homage to Lucy Duff Gordon’s creativity, perseverance, and influence on the fashion industry.”
— Chanel Cleeton, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author of Our Last Days in Barcelona
“Tessa Arlen delivers a fascinating tale based on the real-life fashion icon, Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, who went up against a male dominated industry and revolutionized it. Her daring designs were worn by royals, aristocrats, and the celebrities of her day.  Filled with a glorious ensemble cast of characters. Rich and atmospheric, Arlen’s descriptions of haute couture are simply breathtaking. A must read for fashion fans everywhere.”
— Renee Rosen, USA Today bestselling author of The Social Graces
“Tessa Arlen’s novel is as elegant as a Lucile gown, full of movement, color and beauty. It brings to life some of the most important and fascinating people and events of her generation, from Nijinsky to the Titanic.  For anyone interested in fashion, in the Gilded Age, in stories about strong, visionary woman, Tessa Arlen’s novel is a must read!”
— Jeanne Mackin, author of The Last Collection

“A Dress Of Violet Taffeta is the epic story of a self-made woman, and a fresh and captivating look at the birth of fin de siècle runway fashion. From cramped terraced house sitting rooms to ballrooms, readers will be enthralled by the parade of notable historical figures whose appetite for clothing allows a single mother to not only raise her daughter, but to do so in growing comfort, style, and notoriety. Arlen doesn’t shy away from hardships and tragedy, but with a bright, hopeful, industrious protagonist like Lucy Duff Gordon at the forefront, the reader is never burdened.  A true pleasure from start to finish.”
— Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Sisters Of Night And Fog
“A sumptuous treat of elegant prose, evocative descriptions, and compelling emotions. Arlen’s writing absolutely shines in A Dress of Violet Taffeta. She succeeds in making fashion designer and Titanic-survivor Lucy Duff Gordon both relatable and sympathetic, and stirs the senses with her lush depictions of clothing and settings.”
— Anna lee Huber, USA TODAY Bestselling author of A Perilous Perspective