Lucy Christiana Sutherland was born in June 1863 in London, England, and even as a child, she had an eventful life. She and her family learned the news of the American Civil War, and almost immediately, Lucy had to get acquainted with boats and ships.
Her father passed away when she was just an infant, so her mother brought her across the Atlantic to settle in the Canadian province of Ontario. She stayed there for just a few years, until 1871 when her mother remarried. At this point, she and her sister Elinor returned to Europe, this time settling in Jersey, in the Channel Islands.
An Ill Omen
Even though Lucy was used to ships by the time of her first boating mishap, it's starting to seem like she was a little unlucky. On the other hand, maybe ships just had a much, much larger chance of running aground and sinking at that time. Anyway, she and her sister were traveling when the boat they rode ran aground in the English Channel.
Both of them survived, but there is a bit of a pattern emerging. During this period of her life, Lucy developed a love of fashion – she dressed her collection of dolls. She studied the dresses women wore, eventually making clothes for herself.
The First Marriage Begins
In 1884, Lucy married her first husband, a man by the name of James Stuart Wallace. She and James had a child, Esme, born in 1885 – Esme would eventually go on to become the Countess of Halsbury after marrying the 2nd Earl of Halsbury.
However, this marriage didn't have very strong legs – Lucy's husband was quite the cad, sleeping around, and Lucy responded in kind. She began a long extra-marital affair with famous surgeon Sir Morell Mackenzie as her husband found his own solace in drink and women. As you might imagine, this didn't exactly make for a relationship that survived through thick and thin.
The First Marriage Ends
Lucy and James separated in 1890, a mere six years after they tied the knot, and Lucy began divorce proceedings in 1893. Things were finally over in 1895. It was during this tumultuous time of separation that Lucy turned to something she had always enjoyed to get her through it – designing clothes.
Lucy, at this point, had to take care of both herself and her daughter, and she couldn't just depend on her lush husband to support her, so she started coming up with dress designs. This really helped her out during a tough time, and even started making a name for herself in the years to come.
A Talent Comes to the Fore
Though Lucy got her start as a dressmaker from home, she was able to open her first store in 1893. It was called Maison Lucile, located at 24 Old Burlington St. in the center of the fashionable West End of London. Before that, she worked for a year in her mother's flat at 25 Davies Street.
Before too long, her business proved successful, and Lucy opened a larger shop in 1897. Her clothing was finding its way to the wardrobes of British society's most fashionable, and at the same time, Lucy was landing in the spotlight, including as an eligible bachelorette.