With the upcoming Titanic Fashions talk at Merseyside Maritime Museum, we thought we’d take a look at the incomparable fashions of the Edwardian era. Passengers travelling on RMS Titanic showcased an array of outfits, and were expected to change their attire from occasion to occasion throughout the day.
If you’re enthralled by the elegance of the ocean liner’s passengers, or you’re hoping to master the perfect Edwardian costume for a Titanic-themed event, we’ve got you covered. From comfortable morning dresses to airy evening attire, it’s incredible to see how people dressed as they travelled upon 1912’s largest ship in the world.
EDWARDIAN FASHION ON RMS TITANIC
It’s safe to say that fashion has shifted immensely since 1912. Fashion on board was a far cry from our loose jeans and crop tops, but many remain fascinated by the elegance and intricate detail of clothing worn throughout the Edwardian era.
The first episode of Downton Abbey began with the sinking of the Titanic, and the show quickly became a worldwide success. One of the main fixations with the show has of course been the costumes. The world possesses a real nostalgia for the decadence of Edwardian times, despite the pain of corsets!
In the morning, you certainly wouldn’t have seen Titanic’s passengers in their pyjamas. You’d have been likely to see a First Class lady wearing a tailor-made suit, which would include a wool jacket and skirt complemented by an intricate blouse.
This comfortable trend had reached lower classes by 1912, and while First Class passengers could afford to wear full suits made from tweed, face-cloth or worsted wool, the middle and lower classes tended to wear suits made from cheaper materials such as tweed or wool serge.
Extravagance would have been a focus of clothing on the Titanic, as 1912 fashions moved gradually away from feminine Edwardian shapes and closer towards the more comfortable and innovative clothing of what became known as the infamous ‘roaring 20’s’.
Although the trend was more accessible to the lower classes, it’s likely that you’d have been able to distinguish classes by the colour of their morning attire. Tailor made suits in white were likely to be worn by more affluent passengers, while typically, lower classes would have been seen in black, brown and navy colours.
However, Edwardian fashion had shifted in 1912 and new colours and patterns were enjoyed by both the rich and poor. You could have seen various passengers in deep purple, olive green, medium blue and burgundy.
Lunch & afternoon tea
The female first-class passengers abroad RMS Titanic would have carried a range of outfits for varying occasions.
For the rich, the voyage was considered much more than simply a method of travelling. Titanic for the upper classes was a party at every opportunity, and a chance to express wealth and social status through lavish attire and accessories.
Though lunch is 2017 is usually an informal affair, dining for lunch or afternoon tea upon the 1912 ocean liner would have included at least three courses, and of course, a change of outfit!
For lunch, First Class passengers would have been expected to change into formal attire. Dresses tended to be worn in more dark and dramatic colours like greens and purples. And in alignment with the occasion, these wardrobe staples would have involved a straight silhouette, V-shaped neckline and a high waistline.
However, when it came to afternoon tea on the RMS Titanic, this was a whole other affair entirely.
While Victorian tea dresses were a more flirtatious design resembling boudoir robes, tea dresses in the Edwardian era had transitioned with social conventions into a more wearable, summer wardrobe piece, suitable for popular tea locations such as the porch or the garden.
White tea dresses were favoured for the warmer months of the year, while darker colours were more suitable for enjoying tea through winter.
“THE TEA GOWN, ON THE OTHER HAND, DRAPES THE FIGURE LOOSELY SO AS TO FALL IN GRACEFUL FOLDS, AND MAY BE REGARDED AS A DISTINCT ECONOMY, AS IT SO OFTEN TAKES THE PLACE OF A MORE EXPENSIVE DRESS.” – THE EVOLUTION OF FASHION, FLORENCE MARY GARDINER 1897
You’ll likely to remember Kate Winslet floating around in fancy dresses in The Titanic in the 1997 blockbuster. And though some have suggested her infamous red frock wasn’t quite era appropriate, it’s fair to say that the elegance and glamour of Winslet’s wardrobe wasn’t vastly different to the real thing.
Though the film’s costumes and make up may have been a little more Hollywood than Edwardian, evening dresses aboard the Titanic were certainly glamorous.
Evening gowns were lighter than everyday tailored suits, usually made from an airy chiffon material or lightweight satin. Women could also take a break from the more rigid outfits of Edwardian fashion with lightweight sleeves and a more smoothly flowing skirt perfect for dancing.
COSY COATS FOR THE COLD
With the cold temperatures of the Titanic voyage, a comfortable and cosy winter coat was an essential piece for the wardrobe.
Edwardian fashion for upper class passengers certainly didn’t compromise on style, as coats aboard the ship were just as luxurious as their evening wear. Passengers were keen to showcase their wealth through the materials of the coat, particularly through wearing fur.
30 James Street Hotel
At 30 James Street Hotel – Home of the Titanic, we offer guests the ultimate experience of Titanic’s luxury decor and history. Located in the former White Star Line headquarters, the infamous voyage plays an integral part in Liverpool’s maritime history, and we always aim to honour it.
With rooms and decor based on the decadence of the ship, we invite guests to join us in their most glam attire and enjoy more than simply great facilities. Naturally, our building radiates character and history, and we always aim to commemorate the fateful voyage with thought and respect.
To find out more about Edwardian fashion on RMS Titanic, Merseyside Maritime Museum will be transporting guests back to the opulent period for a series of special events throughout the next few months.
Over February half-term in Liverpool on 23rd February between 1-4 pm, you can learn about the fashions that passengers wore and the personal objects they carried with them.