The Titanic’s cabins were crammed with suitcases, chests, and boxes. Most of them contained clothing. That’s right, ostentatious and heavy attire forced the ship’s workers to wear girdles to protect their waists, special trolleys to transport luggage, and immense lines of men carrying the cargo on board.
The Titanic received men and women from all walks of life, but beyond the economic differences or the coexistence that ultimately existed, it is interesting how these garments marked history and made the ship one of the biggest fashion conventions of its time.
Perhaps unconsciously, they wore on board a series of magnificent outfits that marked status, yes, but also the context in which the world lived. In other words, it was an explosion of styles that marked the growing euphoria for clothing and the birth of fashion houses that, to this day, are grand and current.
So with simple designs, others very ostentatious, hats as accessories, strange fabrics, satin, diamonds, and extravagant hairstyles, among other trends, the Titanic became a fashion reference, beyond the catastrophe that engulfed it.
The dresses had innovative cuts that combined with other geometric garments, such as jackets. The fabrics used to be heavy but were combined with casual pieces, worn mainly by younger girls. Hats were also a popular accessory in that decade.
In this way, combinations between textures and prints were beginning to make their presence felt. These two examples show lines in different directions and two different outfits: one very formal and the other more casual.
Other recurring accessories were umbrellas, which were combined with two-piece suits and, of course, with ostentatious hats. Pre-teens followed the hat trend but wearing still childish clothes like lace dresses with fuller cuts, without many embellishments.
Widows, on the other hand, used to demonstrate their status with somber, but never plain, clothing. They usually wore two pieces and covered themselves as much as possible; i.e., gloves, turtlenecks, and wide skirts.
The lowest class also had certain trends. Passengers traveling in third class were less ostentatious but equally enigmatic. With dresses with asymmetrical cuts in the neckline and 3/4 sleeves, most women went about their daily lives.
The sportswear was quite uncomfortable. Skirts were long, and bulky and were accompanied by blouses made of thick fabrics. Therefore, few women joined the fitness life of those years, more for comfort and lack of special clothing, than for health.
The girls used to wear simple garments, such as light, airy dresses; however, they showed their family’s status with accessories and details. She, for example, shows off a large bow tie and a thick ribbon at the waist.
Makeup was simple but obvious. Every highborn woman had to wear lipstick and a pale face. As for the accessories, they were also great; but only if the young woman was single and looking for a husband. In the case of married or engaged women, they had to reduce the fabulousness of these.
The artists on board had a somewhat different mentality than the rest of the single women and, therefore, wore a rather simple, but less restricted look. The fabrics were less tight and their hairstyles looked more casual.
This type of veil was also very common in female passengers since their purpose was to show off the wearer’s face, beyond covering from the cold or the sun. They were made of silk and were ideal to demonstrate status.
For the cold, the most used garments were not coats, but furs. There were of many sizes and lengths, some were only for covering from the morning weather, and others were used during the night when winter took hold of the sea.
Most of them used to show their tiny waist, as it was something that denoted beauty and style. Therefore, they deformed their figure with corsets but accentuated it with tight belts. She shows off her slender body posing for the camera.
Age was an important factor in fashion. The younger they were, the more ostentatious they dressed, but if they intended to find a husband, they wore neutral colors. On the other hand, free-spirited single women were simpler and chose bright colors such as red or blue.
We don’t doubt that haute couture was one of the most spectacular on the boat; however, it was even more interesting to see the combination and mixture of ideas and styles, as well as trends that gradually mutated into what we now wear. Just look at the wardrobe of the 1998 film, which adopted the aesthetics and reworked them in a very close way.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva