Titanic Era Research: Part 1

Wow. It’s been, like, 2 days since I decided to do an Edwardian costume and already I am pretty much a veritable expert on the era. I’ve just been glued to the Internet lately. XD You should see how fast my Pinterest board has grown! I only started it a few days ago and already it has over 120 pins, which is almost as much as my medieval board- my oldest board, with about 130 pins. And I’ve had that since… June? As you may have figured out, I am absolutely loving this era!

Anyway. I can tell you all about combination chemises and column silhouettes and hobble skirts and all that… which I certainly will! That’s why we’re here today! *evil grin*

So first I’ll expand a little bit on the definition of the Edwardian era. Some people will say it goes from 1901 to 1914, when World War I started. The Edwardian era also is the end of a larger era called the Belle Epoque, which means Epoch of Beauty. I can totally see why. The Belle Epoque also includes some of the Victorian era in the 1800s, but I’m no Victorian fashion expert so I can’t tell you exactly when the Belle Epoque began. Anyway… The years 1910 through 1912, in particular, are called the Titanic Era because, well, that’s when they had the Titanic. I’m doing a 1912 dress. Part of my reason for that is because my great grandmother (who lived long enough that I remember her) was born that year. Oh, and the Titanic sank that year. Which is slightly important, I guess. 😛 So,. I’ll be referring to the era in which my costume is from as the Titanic Era. Or Late Edwardian might also work, but 1910s fashion is very different from 1900-1909 fashion.

What makes 1912 fashion different from early or middle Edwardian fashion? The main thing that sets it apart in my mind is the difference in the silhouette. What is a silhouette, you may ask? (Other than it being what happens when there’s bright light behind you?) Well, that is basically the sewing term for the shape of the female figure. This varies greatly form era to era. In the Middle Ages they liked a natural silhouette, without any corsets or bras or any sort of structure. In the Elizabethan era they had very long, flat corsets to give a sort of cylinder silhouette with no curves or anything. (I don’t know anything about 1600-1900 in fashion so no comment on that.) The early Edwardian period is famous for a heavily corseted, pigeon breast hourglass look.

Now, this picture could be “photoshopped.” They didn’t have photo editing software back then, obviously! But they might hand paint some areas of the picture to touch it up. This lady’s waist might not actually be that small. But many people have said that a classic Edwardian waist could be 18 inches around or less. That is very extreme! My waist is 24″ and people are constantly saying I’m very skinny. The point of all this is to say, the early Edwardian silhouette- before 1910- was the S-bend silhouette. The chest would be very full and thrust forward, the waist would be very small, and the hips and bottom would be very full and thrust backwards. This makes a sort of S shape.

I was considering doing this early Edwardian S-bend. I wasn’t planning on cinching my waist very much because that’s unhealthy. That causes organ displacement and digestion problems over the long term. But I was considering cinching my waist a little bit- one or two inches at most- and putting LOTS of hip padding and bust padding to fill out the corset and give it a sort of fake S-bend. They did do that back then. But then… I found out about the late Edwardian/Titanic era silhouette.

The silhouette is still very slim, and reasonably full-chested. (I’m not full-chested, but hey, what else are bust improvers for? those are an actual thing from the era!) But the difference is, the waist is not quite so small- it is more natural- and they really tried to minimize the hip curves. At this point they had much longer, slimmer, more tube-shaped corsets. So, yay, I thought. I’ll still need to make my bustline look bigger but at least I have good waist and hips for this silhouette! The 1910s silhouette was a sort of transition between the extreme S-bend shape of the early 1900s and the flat, boyish shape of the 1920s. Pretty ideal for what I’m doing.

For comparison, check out this early Edwardian corset, and the 1912 corset below that.

This is a pretty drastic change in silhouettes, and because of that I consider the Titanic era to be a different era than the early Edwardian era.

Overall, what does the Titanic era style look like, aside from having a different silhouette from the early Edwardian era? A lot of things changed besides the silhouette. The early Edwardian style was very poofy with lots of lace and frills. But the Titanic era style, while still having plenty of lace and embroidery, was more sleek and elongated. It had several sources of inspiration: The classical ancient Greek/Roman draped feel, the traditional Japanese/Oriental kimono style, and a high Empire waist reminiscent of the Regency era, in the early 1800s.

As you can see, the skirt is slim and draped kind of similar to a toga, and the neckline has a very kimono-ish sort of look, and the waistline is an Empire waist. I really love the Empire waists because that will be good for my impressive height of barely 5’2″! I sort of wish the skirts were poofier, but many of them have trains so that’s okay. And I really love the Asian inspired style partly because it’s just pretty, and also because some of it really reminds me of a Jedi tunic.

So, it’s an antique, flowery, lacy, Jedi dress! Yay!

That’s actually because Jedi clothing and culture is also inspired by Asian clothing and culture. But that’s a whole different story.

This has been a pretty long post so far, so I think I’ll make it into a Part 2 which will discuss all the layers and undergarments and such, as well as the resources I’ve used so you can verify that I haven’t just made up everything I said here. 😛

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