Titanic Threads

Hobble skirts, Kimono-style dresses, tea gowns and opulently beaded dinner dresses…..

What is the Belle Epoque?

How is it different to the Edwardian Era?

Can you read a piece of antique fashion like a historical document?

And just how does a costume designer on the set of a movie like Titanic decide what to dress the actors in to reflect authentic period fashion with just the right amount of Hollywood-style creative license?

We are just a week out from our fascinating History week seminar Titanic Threads which will be illuminating the answers to these questions and more.

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Fiona Reilly, Head of Costume at the National Institute of Dramatic Art( NIDA) and herself a talented and experienced theatre, film and television costume designer will be bringing insight into the processes behind this seemingly glamorous profession. More than this she will also have in tow a selection of gorgeous and authentic fashion items from and inspired by the Belle Epoque era for a fashion parade by NIDA students at the event. NIDA has an extensive costume collection including antique clothing dating back as far as the 1800s kept for the purposes of student research.

Titanic Threads will also connect with our current exhibition Remembering Titanic: 100 years that features beautiful costumes from the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. Walking through the exhibition with Fiona she explains how there would have been at least 6 of each of these outfits, spares are always made on the set of a film in case the outfit is snagged, stained or damaged during production (and if you’ve watched the ending it’s no wonder that more than few of the infamous “sinking dress” were required to withstand multiple takes of running around the ship and hours of wading in water). Jack’s costume is the one she really disagrees with, even a third class passenger would have dressed much more formally than this, it would have been quite scandalous to be caught in what he wears most of the time- something akin to an undershirt. Of course there are other discrepancies, a little bit of a creative take on history as films so often do- Rose shows far too much cleavage and a woman of her breeding wouldn’t have ever been caught outside without a hat to match this yellow sundress. Other elements are quite true to form however, costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott would have spent extensive time researching from photographs and actual vintage fashions to recreate the style and feel of the era.

Molly Brown costume concept sketch

Molly Brown costume concept sketch. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox

Our resident historian, author and Titanic enthusiast Inger Sheil will also joining the line up at Titanic Threads to share the stories of some of the couturiers on board the infamous vessel.

Fashion can be a very special index of a period in history- social mores, economic climate, political identities and artistic influences. The Belle Epoque is no different.  To this end Titanic Threads will also unveil some of the historical context behind this era’s shift in styles that took puffs sleeves to tapered, wasp-waisted corsets to chemise – brassiere combos, and the emergence of bustle-free, oriental inspired and empire line garments that changed the course of fashion as we know it.

Titanic Threads

Wednesday 12 September 6-8pm

$20/ $18 members ( includes light refreshments and exhibition entry)

Bookings Essential and available online

4 thoughts on “Titanic Threads

  1. Pingback: La Belle Époque | Australian National Maritime Museum

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