Rose Dolores by Frieda Rieß

Frieda Gertrud Rieß :: Die kühle und distanzierte Erscheinung. Die selbstbewusste und kluge Frau. [The cool and distant appearance. The confident and smart woman] Mrs. Tudor Wilkinson. Scherl’s Magazin, Band 4, Heft 11, November 1928

From : Die persönliche Note im Gesicht der modernen Frau • The personal touch on the face of the modern woman • Scherl’s Magazin, Band 4, Heft 11, November 1928.

Mrs. Tudor Wilkinson, born Kathleen Mary Rose (1893-1975), known as Dolores or Rose Dolores started to work for the fashion designer Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon around 1910. During the First World War, Duff-Gordon’s focus shifted to her New York office which she had opened in 1910. For her New York fashion shows she imported her own models from England, although Dolores was not among the first she brought over. The shows became so popular that she had to start holding them in a theater. It was probably at one such event around 1916 that Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife Billie Burke discovered Duff-Gordon’s designs and her model Dolores. Ziegfeld was enraptured by Dolores and the luxurious spectacle of the show and Burke ordered two of Duff-Gordon’s creations. Soon, Duff-Gordon was making costumes for Ziegfeld’s theatrical productions, the Ziegfeld Follies.

Ziegfeld decided to base a scene in his next Follies on one of Duff-Gordon’s fashion shows and to use Duff-Gordon’s girls to model the clothes. Dolores made her first appearance for Ziegfeld in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 in which she played the Empress of Fashion. In Midnight Frolic of 1919, Dolores played the part of The White Peacock in the Tropical Birds number (wearing the iconic peacock costume).

Rose Dolores was called “the loveliest showgirl in the world”. She had a laconic and androgynous beauty, and a haughty demeanor on stage that had been cultivated by Duff-Gordon and was naturally aided by Dolores’ height. Dolores, like the other former mannequins, was only required to walk and pose when on stage. It was said that she never smiled during an appearance. It was also said that Duff-Gordon had trained her to act like a Duchess. 

Diana Vreeland commented, “I remember his [Ziegfeld’s] girls so vividly. Dolores was the greatest of them – a totally Gothic English beauty. She was very highly paid just to walk across the stage – and the whole place would go to pieces. It was a good walk I can tell you – it had such fluidity and grace. Everything I know about walking comes from watching Ziegfeld’s girls.”

In 1923, Dolores married the St. Louis art collector Tudor Wilkinson in Paris and retired from the stage. After her marriage, Dolores adopted the severe masculine style of dress and hair popular at that time, appearing in Eve, The Lady’s Pictorial in March 1925 [see picture below] in a suit jacket and tie. [partially quoted from wikipedia]

Mrs. Tudor Wilkinson. Published in : Eve: The Lady’s Pictorial, March 1925. Retrieved from: Laura L. Doan: Fashioning Sapphism. The origins of a modern English lesbian culture (published 2001) @ internet archive

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