The dress consists of a coral coloured underdress, described as a satin backed silk. Looking at pictures of the dress on exhibit, it's clear that the satin doesn't extend up over the shoulders, and that the small sleeves are simply made of the black sheer material. The skirt of the underdress extends back into a square train, which has a loop on one corner for carrying. There are two sheer ruffles on the inside of the skirt of a lightweight pink material. Ruffles of this type were stitched into the underside of skirts at the time to help give the skirt more body, but these don't seem to have much umph to them, and hang rather limply when we see them. The ruffles do not extend back onto the train, they are only inside the skirt around where a floor-length hem would fall.
There's a narrow band of tulle at the neckline of the underdress, which has a row of beading or sequins (probably sequins, since they are lightweight).
The overlayer of black is what gives the gown its pizazz. While it looks like chiffon, it's been describe by those that have seen the gown in person as "very fine tulle". It's beaded with "silver sequins, silver seed beads (with some black seed beads used at the bottom of each overskirt layer), silver hexagonal beads and tiny rhinestones scattered randomly for sparkle" (from The Titanic Project).
The overlayer is where the dress gets complicated. There doesn't appear to be any evidence of waist or side seams. All the shaping is done with the underdress layer, and the gathering of the drapery.
The skirt is split at the left-hand side to reveal the coral underlayer. On the right-hand side, there are four beaded tiers. The tiers have a gentle angle on the front of the dress, wrap around the side, and then slope down dramatically and and lengthen to form a train, which is slightly shorter than the train of the coral layer. The tiered side of the front is drawn up at the bodice and pinned in place, creating an asymmetry to the length of the front overskirt.
It's hard to tell whether or not these tiered layers are sewn directly to the underdress, or if there is a separate layer of tulle that they have been sewn down to. There are several pictures that show a gap between the tulle layers where you can clearly see the coral beneath, like the one above. Here's a closeup:
The question is, how far are they stitched down? Are they attached all the way down the train, or is there some point when they just do their own thing, or some point where an underlayer of tulle takes over and they tiers are sewn down to that? Maybe they're only stitched to the dress until the floor-length, and then on the train they're stitched to each other. It's all a mystery.
Here are some blurry shots of the back of the dress, to confuse us further:
Only three of the tiers seem to make up the train. The top tier from the left-hand side seems to end at floor-lenth. The very top tier you see on the back is actually the right-hand side front, which is one big piece that wraps around to the back to join the other tiers, and is pinned in place with a large brooch.
The right-hand side hangs straight down on the front, without any tiers. The beading follows the edges and the hemline. The entire piece wraps around to the back, and tacks down to the opposite side-back with another brooch. The edge appears to be angled to follow the line of the top tier of the left-hand side.
The sleeves of the dress are completely separate pieces from the rest of the overlayer. They likely attach to both the underdress and the overlayer in order to give more support.
The tiers all have extensive beading on them. From a behind-the-scenes featurette, it was said that it took 1,000 hours to complete! It's heaviest at the hem edges of the tiers, but there is also scattered sparkle along the left-hand side. Also on the left-hand side, the beading flares out from the top-front, in a triangle toward the hem and the back. It's hard to explain, but you can see it clearly in this picture.
Next time, we'll look at the accessories. I'm working on some sketches for the tulle layer to get the pattern hammered out, and I'll share those as soon as I'm confident they'll work in real life.
For more pics, check out Costumers Guide, and Back To Titanic (start at Act II).