Passenger Fashion Gallery


sashka pozzetti

I thought I would jump in at the deep end and start my very own thread. It is on the specific subject of actual descriptions and pictures of what people were wearing on the ship, or at the time it sank. I know there is some discussion elsewhere, but it seems easier to start a new thread, and hopefully get all the description s together, so that people like me can get a really great idea of the the real evidence about the fashions, and work wear on the Titanic.
It may sound morbid, but when the dead were recovered their clothing and effects were recorded. For example, Katherine Buckley was wearing a long blue overcoat, blue skirt, blue jacket and a white blouser, while Mr James Farrell was wearing a dark suit. Both of these individuals were travelling third class. I think that these descriptions are useful because they relate to humbler passengers, rather than the "toffs" in first class.

Having said that, there was probably little discernible difference between upper and lower class people. As a general rule, all of the men would have worn a three-piece suit with neck-ties and some form of hat - any differences between the classes being in terms of the quality of materials, rather than fashion.

I wonder, however, if any of the foreign passengers (and by this I mean non-English speakers) could have been distinguished by their clothing? We know, for example, that French or Russian working men wore distinctive clothing, whereas British workmen invariably wore suits (obviously not their "Sunday best") - a point noted by at least one French observer, who thought that this was an outward sign of democracy!

sashka pozzetti

Branson Museum not only have some Lucile gowns, but also a simple ladies bodice, probably 3rd class, that was in a trunk floating around in the ocean after the sinking.
I agree with Stanley that the differences in attire between the various classes were probably much less marked than recent films and television dramas would have us believe.

In Cameron's 'Titanic', Kate Winslet arrives at the docks in Southampton wearing a stunning white and purple ensemble, topped off with a chapeau which would not have looked out of place at Ascot or Auteuil. Yet would any woman of the period - no matter how wealthy - really have dressed for an ocean voyage in the same way as for a Society race meeting or garden party? I very much doubt it. Dockyards were filthy places and biting sea breezes would have filled the air with smuts pouring from a thousand funnels. White was definitely NOT a suitable colour to wear on such an occasion. I can't help thinking that the vast majority of first-class ladies would have been attired in a similar style to Mrs Odell in that famous 'group shot' taken on the Boat Deck by Father Browne...a neat tailored suit with a small hat (possibly with a veil over the face), leather gloves and shoes and a simple fur stole or muff to keep out the chill. Very smart but, more importantly, practical too.

In 1912 (and until very recently) good furs were hugely expensive. Stylish women wore them in a variety of ways; stoles and muffs, as I've mentioned above, besides collars, tippets, wraps and full-length coats. Many first-class ladies would have owned a variety of furs (minks, ermines, sables and whatever else was particularly fashionable that year) and this would have been an obvious external difference, marking them out from their fellow travellers in the lower classes.

In the case of the male passengers, most would have worn suits, no matter what their social background. Nevertheless, there would (at least to the discerning eye) have been a great deal of difference between the cheap apparel worn by steerage passengers and the Savile Row tailoring (or the American equivalent) sported by those on the upper decks. I'm particularly thinking of the cut and the quality of the fabric - the very obvious hallmarks of a good suit to this day.
White Star Line Steward's entrance examination - Toff recognition test. You see these two mixed groups approaching. To which Class will you direct each individual?

I agree with you, Martin. There was certainly such a thing as overdressing in 1912, and the voyage would not have been a social highpoint to many of the more prominent passengers.

When I was a kid reading about the Titanic, I thought that no first class passenger would leave their stateroom without being dressed to the nines (even to board a lifeboat) and that third class passengers would have been clothed in patched-up rags.

When I started visiting ET, I saw that this was a perception others still had. They displayed it when insisting that photos of first class passengers (the Father Browne photo of the strolling couple; the photo taken from Carpathia of what must have been one of the early, half-filled portside lifeboats drawing up) HAD to be second class passengers.

As you say, Martin, a black and white photo doesn't go very far towards revealing the quality of textiles and tailoring.
That's a misconception most of us have shared at some point, Brian. I love your observation about fellow board members insisting that some of those individuals featured in Browne's photographs HAD to be from second-class - my own mother, whilst looking at these same snaps, observed slightly ruefully, 'well, it doesn't look as glamorous as I'd imagined!'

But real life, I suppose, is NEVER as 'glamorous' as Hollywood or Merchant-Ivory would have us believe. 'Real' people, then or now, are not professional actors, with hair-stylists, make-up artists and dressers dancing constant attendance to ensure immaculate presentation at all times. Nor are the fashion magazines of the period, with their carefully posed models and couture frocks, necessarily the best representation of what was actually worn back then. After all, when walking down the King's Road today, how many girls does one see who look like they've stepped, chic and pristine, from the pages of latest issue of 'Vogue'? Not many, I can tell you! least where the first-class passengers are concerned, we have to remember that they really DID dress themselves with incredible opulence. This is not mere conjecture - some of the insurance claims filed after the sinking (and yes, I now know that some may have been 'exaggerated') show that many ladies were travelling with enough clothes to make even the wardrobe of Victoria Beckham look sparse. Charlotte Cardeza is the most famous, and the most extreme, example - among her vast array of finery, she had exquisite gowns by Worth, Rouff, Redfern and our very own Lucile. But Mrs Cardeza can't have been all THAT unusual. It would be very interesting to see itemised lists of the clothing lost by the likes of Madeleine Astor, Eleanor Widener and Marian Thayer (who was once acclaimed as 'the most superbly fashionable woman in Philadelphia Society'). Even those of more 'modest' means - and I use the term in a relative sense only - such as Molly Brown and Leontine Aubart were travelling with dresses, shoes and hats by the dozen. I realise that the round of social activities participated in by the wealthy in 1912 called for constant changes of attire, ranging from the casual to the formal, and also that, when they travelled, the rich were often abroad for months...but I would still argue that many of those in first-class would have had very impressive wardrobes (if only we had the opportunity to rummage through their steamer trunks!)

After all, over twenty women were accompanied by personal maids, who had absolutely nothing else to do but superintend and maintain the clothing of their mistresses. Nowadays, we may wonder how they filled their time - but, with corsets to lace, alterations and repairs to make, hair to arrange, suitcases to pack and unpack, gowns to lay out three or four times daily, gloves, shoes and blouses to button, I bet they were kept on their toes!

sashka pozzetti

I think that one of the reasons that there were so many clothes was also that the ladies had been on their Spring shopping trips, and were returning with all their purchases for the summer season. I read that some women changed clothes up to 6 times a day. Do any passengers describe the kinds of clothes they were were wearing, in the days before the disaster?
>>Not many, I can tell you!<<

When I was stationed in San Diego, I watched a fashion shoot being done at Horton Plaza. It was all too easy to identify the model as even in supposedly "casual street clothes" she was signifigently overdressed and adorned. Just about everybody else was in jeans with a simple shirt/blouse and little adornment beyond a watch and some costume jewelry.
Good question, Bob, and a tough one!

My guess would be that the group on the right at least is largely working class people. I think it's the unflattering fit of the men's suits that makes me think so, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you what good-fitting suits in 1912 looked like. So I wouldn't be surprised to find I was wrong.
From what images of people in the 1900's I have seen over the years, either in photos, archive film, or fashion history books, people of all classes tended to be dressed in garments of a darker hue. Urban environments at the time were generally pretty much polluted by smoke from numerous coal fires, both industrial and domestic - one only has to look at the blackened stone of many of the Victorian buildings in what were, 100+ years ago, cities dominated by smokestack industries, to see evidence of this. Also, passengers would have travelled to the Ocean Terminal by steam locomotive - hauled train, and as anyone who can recall the age of the steam train will testify, railway stations were pretty dirty places, so not a wise idea to wear anything light coloured for travelling!

As tailored suits (or "costumes", as ladies' suits were often referred to), were widely worn for travelling, wool was the predominant fabric for outer garments. Men wore woollen worsted suits, as this particular type of cloth was hard wearing and would last for years (very important to the average man whose income could not stretch to a wardrobe full of bespoke Savile Row suits), while women wore costumes of fabric such as wool flannel or crepe. Whilst the style of garment was basically the same for all social classes, there would of course be a difference in the quality of the fabrics and the cut of garments the higher up the social scale one went. As far as the ladies went, it was part of daily routine of the time that an upper class woman would change her outfit several times in one day, she had designated "afternoon gowns", which she most likely would have worn during afternoon tea. Blouses and skirts were also fashionable for day wear, with the blouse being of a pale colour and the skirt darker.

As regards to fallout of coal smuts from funnels, it may have been quite likely that once on board, a fashionable woman expensively attired, may have kept herself inside to avoid dirt soiling her finery.

By coincidence, the BBC is running a TV series called The Edwardians in Colour, which features rare documentary films and photographs commissioned by the French millionaire Albert Kahn who, around 1913, sent his photographers around the world to take pictures using the Lumiere colour process. The resulting images reveal that dark blue and brown were very popular colours for suits and skirts, although shirts and blouses were invariably white.

In reviewing the first programme, The Sunday Times TV critic A.A.Gill makes a very pertinent point. He remarks that everybody looked very elegant in these haunting, dreamlike photographs - "it was the last moment before mass production and synthetic materials and a global fashion industry. Everybody, from market costers and herdsmen to plutocrats and princes had handmade clothes. And everybody was better dressed than they are today". This immediately made me think of old photographs of Titanic passengers, who do indeed appear very well dressed by today's standards!
Interesting points both...the very same thing struck me two or three days ago, as I scanned various 'crowd pictures' taken around this time. Dark colours - black, brown, navy, grey - really DID seem to be the most popular choices for the suits and skirts that were most often worn. Which must have made the 'Ballet Russe' palette introduced by Poiret and Lucile even more striking - although I don't for one minute believe that this had much impact on the clothing of the general public.

I like the observation Lucy has made about well-dressed women aboard the 'Titanic' keeping themselves away from the elements. I'd also had this idea and it is indeed true that very few ladies appear in the handful of photographs we have of first-class 'open air' deck spaces. Mrs Odell, obviously...the 'mystery woman' (who I firmly believe is Anna Warren) walking with her husband or friend...and hardly any others - at least, not who can be seen clearly. Possibly most preferred to remain in the lounge or the palm court, periodically venturing out for a stroll under cover of the enclosed A-deck promenade?

sashka pozzetti

I have seen lots of original Edwardian clothes, and you would be surprised how bright some of the colours are. Often it is the lining, or a facing to a collar that is really outrageous, even if the main colour of the clothing is more ordinary. I suppose even nowadays it is like that, as few people want to walk around in bright colours looking like a large piece of fruit, or a pantomime character!!!. I am a bit confused by how you can tell what colours people are wearing in the photographs on board, am I missing something here?
Well, quite...obviously, all the photographs taken on board are in black and white! But I really don't think that, were they in colour, we'd be dazzled by bright shades of blue and pink! Even today, most 'classic' or 'traditional' English clothing, such as can be purchased on Savile Row or Jermyn Street and which would have been worn by the wealthier passengers, is in tweedy hues of brown and green and grey.

However, it is worth remembering that the coat of one second-class passenger (who was it? Marion Something? The one who sang in the dining saloon on Sunday evening) now preserved in an American museum is in fact mulberry red, faded to a black and white photograph that too would show up to be quite dark!

sashka pozzetti

I am not sure how we can tell, I would have thought there would be lots of different colours, even if a lot were dark. I have a book of colour photos from 1910, and the clothes are quite colourful, and are only of ordinary middle class people doing normal things. I would think that a certain percentage of people as nowadays , would want to wear different colours. Also in an opulent time people want to show off their wealth , and success with bright 'look at me' colour, so I would think that some people would want to do that.
Is there an online picture of the red coat, as it would be nice to post it on this thread?
I've seen Edwardian film footage of long lines of passengers disembarking from a Cunard liner at Liverpool, and without exception the women are dressed in everyday 'street clothes' and hats which are dark in colour, no doubt for the very practical reasons which others have posted. Unlike in the opening scenes of Titanic, nobody looks like an extra from the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady!

A point to keep in mind is that the black & white films in use in 1912 were insensitive to red light, which means that anything basically red or brown in colour generally appears to be darker in shade than it really was, whereas blue can appear to be much lighter and lacking in contrast. Marion Wright's 'lucky coat' is within the violet/purple area of the spectrum, so it comes out looking just about the right shade of grey in the charming pic of her wedding day in Geller's book. There's also a colour pic, but for copyright reasons the image can't be posted here.

sashka pozzetti

thats what I was thinking. I wonder how they work out the colours in those colourized films you can get? Is it possible to post a B&W of the coat here if anyone can without breaching copyright?
I don't think those images have been published anywhere other than in Judith Geller's book. But for that one happy picture of Marion and her new husband just 5 days after the sinking, with Marion wearing her lucky coat and clutching a bouquet hastily fashioned from church decorations, the book is worth buying!