White Star Line Officer's Uniform Circa 1912

Jun 18, 2007
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Very interesting article...nice detail on the officers' uniforms, and some interesting color photos to go with them.

There are a couple of questions that I have about one of the types of uniforms mentioned in the article. The "Court Dress"...was this only worn by the senior officers on those extremely formal occasions? Or was there the real possibility of putting the poor junior officers in this getup? And what kind of occasions are we talking about here, exactly?

I'm just shocked they still dragged out the bicornes even for something formal!!!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Very good article, John! Given the way merchant uniforms evolved, it's very difficult to pin down one particular moment in time (I've got photos of WSL officers throughout 20s that have been known to give folks headaches). I would quibble with the inclusion of the rumour about the engineer's purple, though - this is something of a merchant service urban myth!

I have a photo of Lowe in bicorn, epaulettes, sword etc, and it is indeed a sight to behold...
 
Mar 3, 1998
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John,

I'm glad that you undertook the effort to categorise the uniforms and have a couple of suggested items for you to look at.

In 1912, only deck officers wore the "executive curl," as the looped sleeved braid was known, on WSL uniforms. This runs counter to the way in which other shipping lines and the RN wore them.

Dr. Griffiths, who has written several books about Merchant Marine history, had the complete story about the engineers' purple on his website, which now appears to have been taken down. The purple was denoted in regulation long before Titanic sank, but was not universally observed until sometime after the disaster. The coincidence has led to the current myth.

Your reproduction WSL cap badge looks like the ones that I designed for Robert Anderson of Canada. Is that where that badge is from?

Parks
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Some great photos John! Here are a few others from the collection which did not quite fit in the article. I think the panelling and fireplace, and other "props" really set a vignette worthy of the real ship interiors. Just a little more gray and you will really have Capt. Smith down to a whisker!
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Apr 11, 2001
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The frock coat is surely one of the most flattering styles for men and especially as a uniform dressed up with plenty of gold braid.
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Jun 18, 2007
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"I have a photo of Lowe in bicorn, epaulettes, sword etc, and it is indeed a sight to behold..."

Oh dear...there goes any future viewings of Hornblower...won't be able to keep a straight face...