The 1920s were a remarkable time in the history of women’s fashion. Influenced by the smooth, mechanized, geometric forms of the art deco movement, fashion from this time period has an innately delicate elegance and opulence about it. And stories of star crossed lovers from this period are rife with passion, intrigue, and untimely deaths. However, unlike the literary fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the story of Eleanor Velasco Thorton is quite true, and much like The Great Gatsby, her story has greatly influenced pop culture beyond her lifetime.
When Rolls-Royce first began production at the turn of the last century, their automobiles did not feature their iconic hood ornament, “The Flying Lady.” Without such an ornament, however, the hoity-toity entitled rich who purchased them couldn’t feel “flashy” or “customized” enough, and the Scion wasn’t going to come out for almost another century. (Although, really, you’re worried your hugely expensive, still pretty radical piece of technology isn’t noticeable enough?!) So, to allow its prestigious drivers to mark their vehicles with their own extravagant mascots, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost allowed for a small gold/silver statue to be attached atop the radiator. Sadly, as happens whenever you allow a group of people to glue whatever they want to something, people began to affix “inappropriate” mascots to their cars, and so Rolls-Royce sought to commission a standard mascot that would be “more suitably dignified and graceful.”
This career-altering task fell to a young artist named Charles Sykes, who, frankly, only received the commission because he was friends with the then-managing director of Rolls-Royce! He was instructed to form a mascot that embodied the spirit of the car company: “speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace.” Having been hired by a friend, Sykes turned to another friend for inspiration in a story about a secret and forbidden passion (aren’t all the forbidden ones usually secret?) between the second Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his secretary, Eleanor Thorton. (Or, as I like to call her, his secret-ary. Ba dum ching!)
Despite their deep affection and dedication to one another, their love remained hidden for over a decade because - you guessed it - Eleanor’s low economic and social status meant that dating the “lord” of anything was pretty much out of the question. Finally, crumbling to the pressure of his family and social status, Lord John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-I-won’t-leave-any-names-for-anyone-else-Montagu married Lady Cecil Victoria Constance. However, marriage amongst the rich of the real “roaring Twenties” carried about the same weight as it does in The Great Gatsby, and the affair between Ms. Thorton and Lord Montagu continued, known only to their close circle of friends, until a tragic turn of events.
Eleanor had been accompanying Lord Montague on his journey to India when their ship, the SS Persia, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Crete. Eleanor was among the 343 passengers killed; however, Lord Montague survived. Haunted by the loss of his love, Montague turned to his friend, Charles Sykes, to sculpt him a personal mascot for his Rolls-Royce using Eleanor as the model. Sykes immortalized the lost lover with her finger pressed gently against her lips, her robes fluttering in the wind, urging those passing by to not divulge the secret of their love.
When asked to evoke the spirit of mythical beauty for the standard Rolls-Royce mascot, Sykes’s mind fell on the most feminine representation of grace he had sculpted. The original pose, now referred to as “The Whisper,” was altered so that now, Eleanor stands with her arms stretched out behind her, her head tilted into the wind, her robes flying up behind her like wings, her face an expression of sheer pleasure, and her eyes fixated upon the distant horizon: “The Spirit of Ecstasy.” Of it, the artist once said, ”She is a graceful little goddess, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight and alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor car to revel in the freshness of the air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies.”
Much like Charles, I too was inspired by the ethereal form of Eleanor Thorton, “The Spirit of Ecstasy.” These gloves combine the clean geometric styling of the art deco movement with the pulchritude and “ecstasy” of Sykes’s sculpture. A small ribbed cuff wraps around the wearer’s wrist, evoking the spirit of Ms. Thorton’s wings of silk soaring behind her like the goddess Nike.
A small amount of a cashmere blend is used here to represent the only luxury that Lord Montagu couldn’t buy: Eleanor. Wear these gloves as you run through the fresh air, listening for the song of her robe, dancing in the wind.