Dress Aboard the Titanic

When first class passengers boarded the Titanic in April 1912, they did so with large trunks full of clothing for the voyage. It was customary to change clothes several times each day on many of the large ocean liners, and the Titanic would be the most elegant of all. Certainly, fashionable women, and men too, desired to fit in with their peers and show off their finest attire on the grandest ship ever to cross the Atlantic.

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Men’s Formal Wear in 1912

            Passenger Archibald Gracie later recalled, “Full dress was always en règle; and it was a subject both of observation and admiration, that there were so many beautiful women—then especially in evidence—aboard the ship.”

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Colonel Archibald Gracie

A well-known fashion designer was aboard, named Lady Duff-Gordon. Famous in New York, London, and Paris, her designs often featured a split skirt, low neckline, less-restrictive corset, and more revealing lingerie. When other first class passengers discovered Lucile, as she was known professionally, would be on board the Titanic, many of them made sure to obtain some her creations to wear during the voyage.

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Lady Duff Gordon

The Edwardian style focused on straighter lines and less constricted clothing for women, rather than the bustles and full skirts seen in Victorian days. But the fine details were everywhere, from elegantly trimmed hats and expensive jewelry to silk draping off the shoulder and delicately embroidered footwear.

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            Dinner on Titanic was a formal occasion, where men dressed in tailcoat, white waistcoat, and white bow tie. Women wore evening gowns, no hat, long white gloves, kid leather or satin shoes to match their gowns, opera bag, fan, and perhaps a scarf. Hats were worn only during the day.

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            After the ship collided with the iceberg on the night of April 14, a steward gave Benjamin Guggenheim a sweater and a lifebelt to wear. When he realized he probably would not survive, he and his valet returned to their cabin and changed into their finest dinner apparel. They then helped load women and children into the lifeboats. Guggenheim told a bystander, “We’re dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”

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Benjamin Guggenheim

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