Titanic Costume Design

Titanic Costume Design

It is the 112th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic today. We thought we’d take another look back at the 1997 film and it’s Oscar winning costume design by Deborah Lynn Scott. Her work on this film resulted in some of the most iconic and recognizable film costumes of all time. 


Deborah restored a lot of vintage Edwardian garments and created new ones with vintage lace, fabric and beading. The costumes were kept as historically accurate as possible (except the over-bust corsets). 50 people spent a year working on the costumes. 


Deborah has spoken many times about the logistical chaos of the water scenes and how hard it was on the costumes and actors. They wore wetsuits underneath their costumes and everything had to be dried in a big heated closet between takes. Water damage is visible on many of the surviving costumes. 

The pink wool coat below, featuring soutache embroidery, was worn on screen again in 2002 by Alexis Bledel for her film Tuck Everlasting. Alexis wears an alternate version. 


One of the most memorable designs was, of course, Rose’s white stripe ‘boarding’ suit. This was inspired by a photograph in a 1912 issue of Les Modes magazine of a suit by the British designer Amy Linker & Co. whose couturier was based out of Paris. The company was in business at least between the 1900s and 1950s. 


The costumes were highly important in portraying Rose’s story and position in society as contrasted with Jack’s. We see her being laced tightly by her mother, visually representing how suffocated she feels with the expectations that have been placed on her. Later, she sheds everything to be sketched on the chaise lounge by Jack, wearing only the ‘Heart of the Ocean’ necklace, totally free. The design of this costume piece was inspired by the Hope Diamond owned by socialite Evelyn McLean, now housed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The necklace is the centrepiece of the movie as it’s the reason for the voyage to the wreck that unites Brock with Rose and allows the story to be told. 


Another example of the powerful costume storytelling of the film is the beading on Rose’s red ‘jump’ dress that tinkles against the railing of the boat as she contemplates suicide. This sound was used in the soundtrack, placing Rose’s journey at the centre of the story. 


In 1998, the J. Peterman Company bought dozens of the original costumes and created their own line of reproductions for purchase, then selling the originals to private collectors.  


British fashion designer Lady Duff Gordon famously survived the sinking and features as one of the characters in the film, played by Rosalind Ayres. 


The third class passengers also wore great costuming that accurately reflected their characters. The famous jig scene below deck when Rose removes her shoes gave us a closer look at the mostly Irish, Scandinavian and British 'steerage' passengers. One woman seen in the rear wears a red crossover wrap/shawl over her blouse, very common amongst poor Irish women and would have been worn under a 'Galway Shawl' in colder months. 

What’s your favourite costume from Titanic? 

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