“When the light begins to fade and shadows fall across the sea, one bright star in the evening sky, your love’s light leads me on my way.”

I’ve been dreading trying to put into words the emotions I felt watching the MS Balmoral set off. I think it would be best to start off explaining the costume I created for this historic event and then to share my experience with you towards the end.

In a completely odd way my costumes were planned starting with Sunday and working my way back to the  Train outfit I wore on Friday.

So to start. Unlike my other projects were I worked with a few images in mind, my inspiration image came from the fashion magazine De Gracieuse:

I knew this costume was the one for me when I realized I owned the parasol already. The first thing I did was go to Goldhawk Road and spend too much money!

How utterly perfect did that turn out?

I wanted to try to conquer the skirt first so using the same Thornton’s pattern (notice a trend?) I set about creating the skirt. Unlike the other skirts where  I added an overlap I drafted this skirt pattern as it was originally meant to be:

A fun tip when making a lining: press the darts in opposite directions to reduce the bulk!

Voila! One finished skirt (minus the buttons).

Moving on to the half coat!

I cut the top part on the stand and then transferred it to my body to finish fitting it. This is my toile using leftover fabric and I was very pleased with the way the sleeve turned out.

Once I was happy with the fit I cut out and stitched the real one together. I initially pinned in the sleeve because I don’t have a good track record in putting sleeves in but it actually worked out fine!

Here is my terrible toile! Once I was satisfied with the fit I drafted the same skirt pattern and altered it so that the waist would close at the side.

A quick slip stitch and the half jacket is complete!

I completely forgot to take photos of how I made the trim. I ended up using leftover scraps from my brown linen train dress and created binding which resulted in all my slip stitching ended up being covered! I was rather amused since I thought I did such a lovely job on the hem. C’est la vie!

I made a quick belt and added one of my Victorian (shh!) buckles.

The reason I wanted to have such a wide cuff was because I planned to deviate from the fashion plate by adding a trim to break up the color. Using my leather thimble (the hide was a little too thick to use my normal thimble) I attached the fur to the wide trim and then attached it to my sleeve.

I’m pleased with how I did this but looking back I’m rather annoyed because Lizzy was terribly late on finishing her costume and we ended up running late and missing most of the boarding.

I lost my original velvet trim and had to make do with this trim. If you are Stateside you would recognize this trim from Joann’s, the only difference is that I pulled the leather out of the center.

All packed and ready for Southampton!

I ended up being very lucky by running across a pair of shoes on Ebay that looked like they would match, when I opened the box I realized the Gods of Fashion had intervened in my Ebay search by sending me a pair of shoes that were made for this dress. They were also Clarks which only added to their complete awesome-ness.

(Sorry for the bed spread! I forgot to take pictures and stole the photos from the ebay page!)

And now I feel the need to apologize because I am about to post A LOT of photos from Sunday!

I have to mention the amazing gentlemen at The White Star Memories who really made this event absolutely spectacular. Bravo gentlemen!  I honestly felt like I was stepping back into 1912 and preparing for an adventure at sea!

When I walked down to the docks to wave farewell to the smiling masses onboard the MS Balmoral, I saw the ghosts of those who set sail for a better life smiling back at me. For this moment 1912 and 2012 were intertwined as one, the past and the present overlapping through the pages of history.

Ok I will admit that at first I was slightly miffed that we couldn’t actually go down to the docks but I do understand that in this day and age safety precautions have to be the priority. Luckily the lovely Captain of the SS Shieldhall  invited us onboard and saved the day!

When the Balmoral first started up the band was playing modern music which ruined the mood.  I stood on the stern of the SS Shieldhall and were talking about how we couldn’t cry when songs like “Save the last dance for me” and “Sway” were playing. “On Moonlight Bay” was the popular song of 1912 and I was looking forward to hearing that!

So we stood there thick as thieves promising not cry . .  which was a complete and utter lie since we  sobbed like little girls.

When the Balmoral started off and the shout went up we both began to wave, our handkerchiefs flying  in the wind. I was so happy to see the smiling crowds and suddenly I realized that 100 years ago the crowd stood here full of joy and happiness never knowing that for many this would be the last sight of their loved one. I’m not sure which one of us started crying first but when we looked at each other we dissolved into tears.

I was starting to calm down when the sun came out and we both started sobbing all over again. The sky had been dark and grey with black clouds rolling in all day. When the Balmoral turned the clouds parted and the sun highlighted the ship. We both firmly believe in our hearts that this was a blessing from the ones lost aboard the Titanic.

I stood there on the stern of the ship celebrating for the Balmoral and mourning for the Titanic. Somehow in the middle of my tears I let the Titanic go. The ghosts are laid to rest and she will forever live on in my memories. We stood there until she disappeared and then turned to leave.

I fully recommend The White Star Tavern if you are thinking of visiting Southampton! Not only were the staff friendly and amazingly knowledgable about the Titanic, they were kind and so wonderful to work with. The food was delicious and I’m still dreaming of the wonderful bed!

And so to end the Titanic Project I present the original fashion plate:

Followed by my own recreation.I still see flaws but I hope I was able to do justice with my humble attempt at re-creating the beautiful work of art from De Gracieuse:


“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” ― Coco Chanel

I was invited by Dr. Butler to Southampton to give a talk on fashion from 1912 and to explain what type of costume the ladies would have worn onboard.

When I first started planning this event I knew I wanted a suit but I was unsure what type I wanted.

The first style I was looking at was something like this:

and then I found this image:

And from my inspiration a costume was born.

Continue reading

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

According to Titanic Style by Grace Evans the fashionable first class passenger would have changed her outfit at least six to seven times a day. With apologies to the period I’ve decided to limit my wardrobe to two outfits a day!

As I previously mentioned I will be traveling by train to Southampton so I thought perhaps I should start off my dress diary with the outfit for Friday.

Kings Cross Station, Camden Town, London. Taken c 1925 Ref: BB72 01476 © Crown Copyright. NMR

When researching my costume for this day I came across my most helpful source “The cyclopaedia of social usage ; manners and customs of the twentieth century”  by Helen L. Roberts  (1913). The author describes the Traveler’s dress as  “Simple and suitable and extremely tidy should the costume be for those who voyage by land or water. For a long railway journey, a woman should not wear a large hat garnished with fragile or showy trimming. Ostrich plumes, white lace, and pink rose, do not stand the sea air or coal smoke well. Nor do delicate pale silks, airy muslins, or superb velvet appear to advantage on trains or boats. A woman’s traveling-suit by land or sea should be compact, comfortable in appearance, and preferably dark in color: that fabric is best for a steamer or railway suit that stands the test of dust and moister well. Neat shoes, well-fitting gloves that are not shabby, a fresh stock or ruche, or ribbon, or frill at the throat and hair that is in immaculate order mark the capable woman traveller whose appearance is always agreeable” (Roberts, 457).

 At first I was looking at some sort of outfit based on this line drawing.

 But then I came across this fashion plate on page 25 from Evan’s Titanic Style and I fell in love.

The first thing I try to do when I plan an outfit is to look and see what I have in my closet and fabric bin first. Here are the results!

From my Eowyn Refugee dress I had about three metres of brown linen leftover, a black and brown Edwardian parasol, a lace collar, and a cream blouse which I could possibly dye if I don’t run out of time.

One of my favorite finds from the antique markets in London was made in Spitalfields last year. I purchased this beautiful fox stole lovingly dubbed Sir Charles Brandon. When I ran across the photo of a dress worn by Queen Maud of Norway I knew that Sir Charles would be accompanying me on this journey!

Queen Maud of Norway 1935

For the skirt I drafted my own pattern loosely based on the one below.. For the skirts on Saturday and Sunday I altered the pattern to have a more hobbled shape but due to the need to be able to walk to the train, walk down the steps at Vauxhall and Victoria, walk through the tube station, and finally arrive at K’sC I shaped the pattern for a small sweep.

 I added 4″ to the waist so my skirt would settle just under the bust. It is made of 2 metres (and a bit) of dark brown linen

I’m worried about having enough fabric left to make the diagonal overdress. Currently I have the blouse and the skirt on my mannequin with an antique lace jabot at the neck finished off with a small bow of brown velvet and an antique wide collar draped as a peplum.

And finally here is a photo of my suitcase that I will be traveling with. Sadly it’s only from the 30s but if you won’t tell, I won’t tell!

As promised, the update on the costume!

In the background you can see the current decorations I am playing with.  1 outfit down, 4 to go!

I was so pleased with how my hat turned out!

Looking back I am completely gutted about this costume. I ended up rushing off and leaving Sir Charles Brandon in my flatmates car. Unfortunately this is my least favorite costume.

“God himself could not sink this ship!”

On April 10, 1912 the R.M.S Titanic set sail from Southampton, United Kingdom. In four days she would sink taking with her over 1,500 souls to the quiet abyss of the Atlantic ocean.

There would be no smiling, cheering crowds waiting for the Titanic in New York on April 17. On April 18th the RMS Carpathia sailed into the harbor with a little over 700 bedraggled  and weary survivors. For many this was meant to be the entry into a new life , a new opportunity to better the lives of themselves and their families. Instead the arrival only brought into focus the clear and cold reality of what had just been lost.

According to the memoirs of Lady Duff Gordon, ” . . .  where ten thousand men and women had waited for over two hours in a drizzling rain for news of friends and relatives who had been on the Titanic. Before the ship anchored we caught glimpses of white anxious faces with desperate eyes scanning our decks as the vast crowd waited silently. Women wrapped in costly furs and millionaires who had driven up in luxurious cars stood shoulder to shoulder with men and women from the slums, allied in a common sorrow, hoping the same forlorn hope. Most of the women were crying and the men stared straight ahead with set faces.”

Thus the Titanic sank into the dusty tomes of History. Forever remembered as a horrific tragedy that for many not only took with her the greatest men of the day, but the very end of the Edwardian era itself.

One hundred years later the path of the RMS Titanic will once again hold court with a new ship: the MS Balmoral. She will set sail from Southampton on Easter Day April 8, 2012 and on the 15th of April she will reach the wreckage of the Titanic. At 2:20 am the passengers will gather  and  mark the 100th year exactly that she sank beneath the waves.

On April 6th a fellow costumier will join me at King’s Cross Saint Pancras in London. Garbed in full 1912 attire we will board the train that 100 years ago would have taken us to Southampton. Over the course of the weekend we will reenact the year 1912 and the excitement of the period will be resurrected. On Easter day we will gather at the docks to bid a safe journey to the MS Balmoral.

This is the beginning of the dress diary documenting the research and steps taken to re-create an appropriate wardrobe for 1912. I present to you, The Titanic Project.