Rose's dresses


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Tania Jones

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I know there's a few around here who are fans of the Edwardian clothes worn in the movie by Kate Winslet, including myself. For me the costumes are my favourite part of the movie. All are so beautiful.

I was wondering what everyone's favourite costumes are that Rose wore? Mine personally are the "jump" dress, the Tea dress she wore while making that remark about Freud and the "flying" dress.

Here is a lovely website with mountains of information all about Rose's dresses:

www.geocities.com/titaniccostumesfan

And here is the site of a lady who reproduces the costumes upon request:

www.moviecostumes.com

Both great sites that are well worth a visit if you like Rose's dresses.
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Susan Alby

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Hi Tania-
Rose's costumes were beautiful and were so fitting for Kate's colouring. The light green "tea dress" and the blue "flying dress" were my favorites. Also, the sash dress, or should we call it the "sinking" dress was also lovely. One of my favorite images in the movie was Rose and Jack running past the firemen in the engine room with Rose's dress flowing behind her as she ran. I think that dress signifies her relationship with Jack because it is so free and flowing.
 
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Rachel Walker

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I'm a fan of the "sinking" dress, too. And the "heaven" dress. You don't really see it too well in the movie, but it's actually identical to the "dinner" dress, only all in white. I like the “dinner” dress, but the colors at the bottom kind of clash. I would have used black instead of that salmonish color.
 

Susan Alby

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Hi Rachel-
I am not sure which "dinner" dress you are referring to? Their were only two that I can recall, the "jumping" dress and the "party" dress when she went dancing with Jack. The light green(sage) dress with the layers of lace was the dress she was wearing when Jack first saw her after she left the tea "luncheon" with Ismay and company. I thought the salmon sash was a nice complement to the dress.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Susan:

While Kate Winslet is undeniably attractive in Titanic, please don't take her appearance as anything particularly authentic.

The walking suit she wears in her first appearance is the very LAST thing a woman of 1912 would have worn for travelling to the ship. Travelling was a dirty business in those days, with unpaved roads, coal smoke, and horse poo as just some of the hazards. You wore a dark colour, to hide the grubbiness that was bound to occur. Titanic was a new, clean ship, but Rose had a lot of dirty docks and gangways to traverse to get there. Dark travelling clothes were just S.O.P. in those days.

The "jump" dress is nicely designed, but red was not a colour much worn by ladies or the ladylike then- it still had a lot of "bad girl" or "scarlet woman" connotations. Most red then was as off-shades like cerise, often just as trim. Pastels and metallics were the thing in those days for evening wear; Lucile was famous for her subtle use of them. The "Heaven" dress at the end of the movie is what Rose would have worn to dinner with Caledon.

Two other things that bother me about Kate Winslet's appearance in Titanic:

Rose wears her hair down to her shoulders in some scenes before the sinking. Wearing one's hair up was a sign of adulthood then; young girls would begin working on their mothers to be allowed to wear theirs up around age twelve or so, exactly as today's kids start campaigning for makeup and piercings. It was not appropriate for an adult woman to wear her hair down in public; flowing hair was considered erotic, something not to be seen by anyone but one's maid and one's husband. I buy the idea that Rose's hair would have come unfastened during the sinking, but before then, her display of unbound hair is really incorrect.

And Winslet moves nothing like a well-brought-up young woman of 1912. Oh, she tries in the early scenes, but as soon as she meets Jack, she reverts to the most galumphing, splay-footed, rolling walk I've ever seen on an actress. Someone should have made her watch My Fair Lady, where Audrey Hepburn not only learns to speak properly, but learns to move as a lady should. Hepburn's performance is extremely good for this- she begins by moving in a natural, undisciplined manner as the flower girl. By the end of the movie, she really has learnt her lessons; her body language is that of the upper classes, in addition to her speech. Winslet moves like Xena, Warrior Princess.

Movies are rarely totally authentic (Audrey Hepburn's hair in My Fair Lady is not authentic for 1912 in most scenes, though it is in some), but Winslet's appearance has much more to do with making her look good to a 1997 audience than it has to do with history. I don't mean to spoil your enjoyment of the costuming work; it's actually very good for what it is, and the clothes are correctly styled.
 

Susan Alby

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Sorry, Rachel. I know what you meant NOW! The "dinner" dress did have a coral color underneath the outer layer. I guess that is shown a little when she is dancing with Jack. I was confused with the reddish color sash in the "tea" dress.

Sandy- There are really only three scenes when Rose has her hair down in public. The first is the Jumping scene when her hair comes unfastened while she is running. The second is after Jack draws her and they try to get away from Lovejoy. The third is during the sinking. This was understandable because in reality many women had to hastily get dressed and get into lifeboats.

You could look at Rose's character as the opposite of Audrey Hepburn's character in My Fair Lady. Jack aloud Rose to be free and to be herself, in contradiction to what society wanted her to be.
 
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Good observations- and I concur, Sandy with all of the above. Actually-I think Rose also has her hair down when they are walking on the deck at one point-and she seems inadequately clad for the weather as well. Still, I believe this was all deliberate, if not gross overkill, to show Rose to be a rebellious and independent girl, yearning to kick over the traces. Quite right about the white pinstriped boarding suit- nobody would ever think of wearing such an ensemble to the docks. Studying many old photos of large groups traveling on trains, cars, and such, -dark (one suspects navy blue, black or charcoal, maybe dark brown or olive) was certainly practical and motoring veils and "dusters" as well as goggles protected the large hats and suits while on the road in an open car. The use of red in the jump dress, although covered with a black lace overlay and jet beading, was not generally a color for very young ladies it is true, but it certainly shows old Kate to advantage and implies a sassy and daring gal ready to thumb her nose at convention. I think Rose would have come off as more believable and more sympathetic if some of those corset-busting devices had been toned down. We got the message without the spitting, beer-swigging, raucous dancing on her toes, hair down, bosom-heaving, nude-posing, romping , striding, hands on hips, fire-axe wielding, bird-flipping, wild sex in the backseat, in your face scenes. I almost think it would have been more endearing to have had her a little more demure and ladylike which would have made for better contrast when she was called upon for heroic efforts. And of course at the very end when old Rose dies, we have to see all the photos of rootin'tootin' Rosie astride-like a"may-un" on horseback in pants, and doing all those wild and wooly things she and Jack discussed. So, Hollywood takes its liberties. And of course no lady would have been seen without a headcovering and gloves on deck. I recall the hat and glove thing continued well into the early 1960's-for men and women. John Kennedy made the bare-headed thing popular, and oddly enough Mrs. Kennedy brought back the pillbox, gloves and hats. Thanks to Princess Di, hats again became the rage in the early 1980's after her wedding-and those Red Hat gals are keeping it going, for which I say hurray!
 
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Shelley:

I was also amused at the idea of Rose surviving after nearly everyone else in the water had died. I admit Cameron was clever there- the chunk of panelling she clings to was copied from a real one. But one has to remember that she had already spent over an hour in the freezing water aboard the ship, doing gymnastic feats that only a Hollywood stunt person could pull off. In real life, Marconi operator Jack Phillips collapsed and died after being pulled out of the water into Lightoller's boat (Collapsible B), because of the strain he'd been put through. That strain consisted of a 12-hour work shift on Sunday, two hours frantically keying distress calls during the sinking, then a short time in the water- nothing LIKE what Cameron puts Rose through. Phillips was wearing a lot more than a few wisps of taffeta and georgette, too!

Susan:

I take your point about Rose being intended as an inversion of Eliza Doolittle. That is why I think it would have worked all the better if Kate Winslet had been able to modulate her performance more. It might have been very nice to see her fail at some task because she was being too "ladylike", before she finally "got it" and dropped the pretensions her mother had drilled into her. In My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn goes through four distinct sets of body language- the first very natural and unschooled as the flower girl, then clumsy but trying to learn manners as Henry Higgins' pupil. After that, she goes through a period where she knows how a lady should move, but the old Eliza keeps popping out. Lastly, she reaches a point where her manners and grace have become an authentic part of her. Subtlety like that is seldom found in movies today. P.S.- If you ever want to see an exquisite reproduction of an Edwardian evening dress, you can't beat the one Hepburn wears to MFL's ball. Hepburn's hair is incorrect in the scene, but that dress is pure Lucile, designed by Cecil Beaton.

I very much like the costuming for Frances Fisher as Ruth Bukater; Ruth is an older woman, and her clothes show that she has slipped a little out of style without realising it; they're a bit stiffer and grander than the "Lucile Look". Her hair is still a version of the pompadour of 1905, and she is leaning a little too hard on the rouge pot, trying to look young when she isn't, really. I also like Kathy Bates' costumes as Molly Brown, Bates really looks like Molly to begin with, and the clothes are spot-on.
 
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The clothes are spot-on for Molly B, true, but as always, Hollywood makes her sound and behave like a goodtime gal from the local honkeytonk. She worked hard learning to speak several languages and acquire some polish and society manners. Although no stuffy, pompous phoney (a fact which endeared her to the aristocrats of Europe who had plenty of those), Molly knew how to behave, and cultivated a taste for music, art and the finer things of life, and reportedly could speak in refined tones. They will take pains to tell you all of this at the Molly Brown House in Denver.We have Debbie Reynold's interpretation to thank for that "Belly Up to the Bar" personna. I bet old Ruth's corsets were pinching the daylights out of her. Whenever I see her on television I am always amazed at the difference in her real life image, for that frosty, social -climbing matron of society with tightly pursed lips and pinched nose left quite an impression. The scene where the mother is carefully instructing her daughter to mimic her table manners over the teacups is also memorable.
 
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Yes, I too always wondered why Jack and Rose did not take turns on that paneling. After all the endless action sequences, carefully planning when to step over the rail at the end, calculating their best shot- kind of makes one wonder why he just clung like a guppy waiting to freeze to death and did not paddle around to keep the blood pumping. Maybe another bit of debris could have been found. And she might have blown that whistle sooner too! Oh well- nobody asked us.
 
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Shelley:

Within the bounds of Kathy Bates' limited screen time, I'm okay with the portrayal of Molly; Bates does not have a lot to work with. Bates' Molly DOES know her stuff; she coaches Jack adequately and subtly enough to get him through dinner. Her line about the flatware (cutlery to those of you in the U.K.) is correct: "Just start from the outside and work your way in." That really is the mnemonic etiquette writers used to offer in their books. It's not a fully-rounded portrayal of Molly, but it's much closer than anything else I've seen. Molly's eminent respect for humanity comes through, and that is the least-known aspect of the real Molly. Denver's most rarefied circles may have looked down on her, but the rest of the town depended on her heavily for her skills at organising charitable work.

If you're amazed by Frances Fisher on talk shows, etc., you should get a load of her portrayal of Lucille Ball sometime. It was in 1991's "Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter". Don't ask me how a woman from Milford-on-the-sea knows how to impersonate Lucy Ricardo, but she does.
 
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This thread is great although some points seem an almost exact reprise of discussions we had on this site a few years ago. I am glad to see a broader understanding of the discrepancies between authentic 1912 wear and what was worn in the movie.

The liberties taken would have been inexcusable in Edwardian times but make complete sense for 1997. In a period piece the director needs to equate a leading lady’s beauty to modern standards while moving generally within the parameters of the fashions of the era being replicated. A costumer does his or her best to accommodate that desire with varying results. I think Titanic’s designers accomplished the task very well indeed and even managed to use vintage clothing to best effect — Ruth’s green boarding suit ensemble being a good example. That suit was from 1905-07, terribly out of date for a first class passenger, yet perfectly fitting the mold of the conservative character of Rose’s mum.

Rose’s being without a hat in daytime outdoor scenes and her hair even being worn down in other scenes has been touched on here and elsewhere as the most glaring departure from Edwardian custom. But these scenes are not marred by the lapse. Rather they allow the audience to appreciate Rose’s beauty, something not quite possible to this hatless generation if her hair was always covered up. In those scenes it was necessary to deviate from period style to sate the contemporary aesthetic.

Rose’s hair being worn down during the sinking was quite in keeping with the emergency. Survivor accounts bear out that not all women on Titanic bothered putting their hair up that night. I recall the story of one survivor (Selena Cook I think) who mentioned that many women on Carpathia had "their hair down their backs" although some had tried to secure pins (without success) from the barber shop on board. That the barber had run out shows how self-conscious women were of the lapse in propriety in having their hair down in public.

The comparison (or rather contrast) to Eliza Doolittle made above is very savvy. I’ve said it in other threads but Audrey Hepburn’s splendid white ball dress in MFL took more than general cues from the "Lucile Look." It was in fact a very conscious salute to Lucile by Cecil Beaton, who based it on the original Lucile gown Lily Elsie had worn in her opening scene in Lehar’s "The Merry Widow" in 1907. As Beaton was friends with Lily Elsie, it was also a tribute to her memory (Lily had recently died).

See more about Lily Elsie, the English "Merry Widow," on this site.

http://www.lily-elsie.com/

A while back I helped the webmaster identify Lily’s Luciles but there are so many we gave up!. Click on "Hats and Frocks" for pictures and also on "People" for more on Lucile.
 
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Randy:

You're quite right that period costuming in a movie always makes allowances for current fashion at the time of filming. In fact, a general rule might be that the star is always wearing the least authentic costuming, because stars have to conform to audience expectations. To that extent, Titanic is very much a classic Hollywood picture.

There are exceptions. For the Edwardian period, 1962's The Music Man is quite good, except for the dancers' costuming in the "Shipoopi" number. Designer Dorothy Jeakins quickly discovered that Shirley Jones looked absolutely wonderful in the clothes of the era. In fact, the sashes and cummerbunds of the period helped Shirley a lot- she was pregnant with Shaun Cassidy during filming.

It might interest you to know that I got to see the My Fair Lady ball dress many years ago, before its sad, accidental loss. The workmanship was absolutely incredible. The crystal embroideries had been copied from an actual dress of the period, though the overall design was Beaton's. I was told that the cost of the dress had been nearly ten thousand dollars, which was an extraordinary sum in 1962-63, when it was made. I keep hoping that it was stolen, instead of accidentally thrown away, as was supposed, so that it will someday re-surface. Hollywood history is the poorer for its loss; the craftsmanship that produced it barely exists any more.
 

Susan Alby

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Sandy
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Criticism is fine, but anyone of us (excepting Randy, of course) would DIE (or kill) to get into one of Rose's Titanic costumes, authentic or not.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Susan:

I'm a guy, too, so any attempts to squeeze me into a Lucile-inspired dress would not have good results, LOL!

Please understand that the costumes in Titanic ARE extremely beautiful and very well-made; I was astounded at the workmanship, because it has been a long time since I saw that in a Hollywood film. Merchant-Ivory movies, yes, but not a mainstream Hollywood effort.

And Randy is quite right that every era's recreation of the past permits its present to creep in, because absolutely authentic fashion of the past often looks odd to modern eyes. I doubt very much if anyone today would want to see the oily, brilliantined hair of 1920's and early 1930's women in a film, for instance. Robert Altman's Gosford Park is extremely authentic for the most part, but his actresses have the clean hair of today.

There are some of Rose's costumes I like very much. The "Sinking" coat is terrific, and so is the "Heaven" dress, which unfortunately cannot be seen full-length in the completed movie. And the suit in Rose's first scene is sensational (the hat is particularly splendid), just worn under the wrong circumstances. The only dress I really dislike of Rose's is the "Jump" dress, because of the blatant red.

Aside from the "Jump" dress, my real quibble is the loose hair, before the sinking. In Rose's time, that was every durn bit as inappropriate as wearing a thong to the mall would be today. Loose hair was an erotic, seductive display at that time, and those things have to be done in their time and place, then as now. Titanic is far from the first movie to show loose hair incorrectly; 1944's Meet Me In St. Louis shows Judy Garland with it. And the first portion of Gone With the Wind has it, too; technical advisor Susan Myrick nearly died when she saw it, sending a letter of apology to Margaret Mitchell for being unable to stop the film-makers from doing it. Scarlett's hair should properly have been in a chignon from the get-go, as Mitchell's novel clearly describes it.

None of this should detract from the beauty of these movies, nor the care and craftsmanship that went into them. If you think movie clothes look great onscreen, you should see some up close(if you haven't already). The moment you lay eyes on them, you know you're looking at something only Hollywood could afford.
 

Susan Alby

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Oct 22, 2004
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Excuse me, Sandy, sorry for that confusion! I never bothered to look at your profile.

I see that you are a "Newbie", Welcome to ET! Randy is our resident 'fashion expert', so now I guess you will give him some healthy competition
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In the case of Scarlett's hair being worn down- maybe the directors were trying to convey her sweet, yet beguiling innocence in contrast to her character later on in the movie. We could go on forever about this, but I guess we are not the one's who make the decisions. I think it best to try and appreciate all the wonderful costumes that Hollywood has brought to the public eye without getting too over analytical.

Susan
 

Inger Sheil

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Very interesting comments on the hairstyles. I remember when the movie Gettysburg was released in Oz, one paper ran a feature story 'History Stops at the Hairline' about this very aspect of costuming in historical films (and noted that Gettysburg had made something of an effort with its almost exclusively male cast to get all those beards, burnsides, and dundrearies of the 1860s correct). I read Gone with the Wind before seeing the movie, and was quite disappointed with the lack of chignons, as I've always liked that look from the era...although wasn't Melanie shown at the Wilkes' BBQ with something along those lines? I suppose it cued us visually to what a reserved, proper young lady she was! Raintree County, set in a similar period, abandoned any effort at accuracy when it came to hair - I think there was one 1861 scene where a female lead character had her hair in bunches or a pony-tale or something along those lines.

And then there are the ringlettes...when wanting to indicate events are taking place in the 19th century (any era of the 19th century, doesn't matter when), female characters must have clusters of ringlettes. Nearly as ubiquitous is the crinoline, although sometimes filmmakers make a stab at a bustle or baloon sleeves.
 
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Yes, welcome Sandy.

I am intrigued that you got to see the Hepburn dress. I had no idea it had gone missing. I promise I don't have it, although I bet anything some other collector does!

Susan is kind (I think!) to say I’m a resident expert, though it might be a dubious distinction. At any rate, I welcome your own great insight and expertise, which is apparent. For myself, I’ve studied only the 18th century French rococo and neoclassical periods in art and fashion and the late Victorian period through the 1930s. Other eras are of little interest to me aesthetically, so I admit to having limited knowledge of them.

As to Susan’s comment about being overly analytical. I agree and disagree. I appreciate Hollywood’s take on period costuming a great deal but as fashion history is my bag, I’m passionate about authenticity. So I can’t help but hate it when a costume designer who should know better takes strident liberties with the clothes of a given period. On the other hand, I’m ecstatic when I see a film’s costuming beautifully done. As with any project, nothing can be totally accurate, but when the overall treatment is apparently seamless it thrills me.

For the record, one of my favorite dresses in Cameron’s Titanic is the yellow and cream number that Rose wears when she meets Jack on deck and looks at his drawings. I think it fits perfectly the 1912 vibe — from the collar and sleeves to the fit of the bodice, but especially the draping of the skirt. This dress actually looks like a vintage original and not a costume at all. Another one that strikes my fancy is the so-called "Swim" dress, mentioned already, because of the artful blending of colors in the skirt and in the sash, which gives a rainbow effect. This was a specialty of Lucile gowns. Many surviving museum examples of her designs feature the same sort of wide, cummerbund type of waist made of lengths of folded ribbon in graduated hues.

Another dress that is lovely is the ivory satin dinner dress worn by the actress portraying the Countess of Rothes. It is very authentic and could pass for vintage. Maybe it is? It could certainly fool me. I’d say the worst costuming was done on the actress playing Lucile herself. Although the actress looks a bit like Lucile and she did a good job acting the part, the accessories she wears with the black dress in the dinner scene are very severe and matronly. Lucile was only 48 and a young looking 48 and she would not have worn that awful, dowdy Queen Alexandra choker. Nor would she have worn that headdress which looks like a giant corkscrew! Still, I imagine the aim was to have her seem overly grand or austere and to stand out from the others. She certainly does!
 
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Melanie's Gone with tThe Wind middle-parted Madonna look was just the ticket- and I think the bun actually had a snood as well. Olivia had the face for it, and am always stunned at her nasty character in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte as we were totally convinced she was a saint. I see you are a writer Sandy-I wonder if you write about what you know so much about- fashion and film? I agree the workmanship and quality of film costumes and haute couture are amazing. It is only recently I have had the opportunity to examine both closely. Having costumed for the stage-and amateur theatre at that, those poor rags are held together with spit and pins. I went backstage at the Goodspeed Opera House last week and was so disillusioned at the costumes- it all looks so good behind the footlights. I talked to the wardrobe mistress who explained the union rules which were fascinating. There is a strict schedule for how often every type of garment must be laundered-stockings and underpinnings daily. There was a row of wigs on stands which are always sent out to be cleaned as a new actor takes up the role. Interesting stuff-.
 
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Randy:

I believe that I read somewhere that one of the costumes worn by Rochelle Rose as the Countess of Rothes was vintage; I'll see if I can track down more information.

I agree that Rosalind Ayres didn't look too much like Lady Duff-Gordon, and that the hairdress was a great part of the problem. It's too bad; Ms. Ayres is a very good actress, and quite able to portray period correctly, as she proved the year after Titanic, in Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters, where she played Elsa Lanchester. I rarely "buy" a modern-day actress playing a classic star, but Ayres was very convincing as Lanchester.

The purported demise of the ball dress from My Fair Lady is genuinely heart-breaking, if true. It is said that it was loaned for some sort of exhibition, then accidentally thrown out when someone temporarily placed it into a paper bag for their idea of safe-keeping. I sincerely hope that was the "cover story" for some sort of theft; I'd much rather someone own the dress illegally than have it in a landfill.

You might be interested to see a couple of articles I've written on Hollywood costume design. One is for the online magazine I edit, Jetsetmodern. It covers the work of many designers, including Edith Head, Adrian, Irene, Travis Banton, and Hubert de Givenchy. The URL is:

http://www.jetsetmodern.com/issue5/designingwomen.htm

For the Divas site, I wrote an article about Norma Shearer's use of illusion in creating her onscreen image; it's here:

http://www.divasthesite.com/sorceress.htm

Hollywood costuming and ships are two topics I try to do articles on as often as possible.
 
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