LADY CURZON, VICE-QUEEN OF INDIA
Karl Lagerfeld names his latest collection Paris Bombay Métiers d'Art and speaks about 19th century India. "I like the idea of the Vice-King, that’s fun. That’s why I came out with Stella Tennant, because she looked very much like Lady Curzon, the famous Vice-Queen around 1900 who was a very beautiful woman. She is so English, but in the nice way, in the good image of England mixed with India."
Bombay, 1898. George Curzon, freshly appointed Viceroy of India, takes his place as the highest ranking official in British India. His wife, Mary Victoria Curzon, joins him as Vicereine. Her sophisticated beauty and style were to make a lasting impression that is still felt to this day.
Mary was an impassioned advocate of Indian culture and local fabrics. Her status gave her considerable influence in matters of style. She contributed to the design of a gold-embroidered gold-weave gown for Queen Alexandra of England, which was crafted in the same Chandni Chowk atelier in Delhi from which she supplied her own wardrobe.
This blend of English fashions and Indian inspiration was echoed in Mary’s lifestyle. She caused a sensation with the peacock dress she wore for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1903, a gold-stitched gown embroidered with the feathers of the famed Indian bird.
Lady Curzon fuelled the renown of Indian artisans by championing their skill and craftsmanship. She helped promote producers of fine fabrics by wearing Indian cloth in her own dress. She advised silk weavers and embroiderers, encouraging them to use motifs and weaves that reflected fashionable trends.
Painting by William Logsdail, "Mary Victoria Leiter, Marchioness Curzon in her Peacock Gown" (1909), photography by John Hammond © Bridgeman Art Library, Paris 2011