Rose's Elevator Dress

November 22, 2014

So, I have a bit of a costuming confession. I've always had a slight obsession with the gowns from Titanic. And why not? They're completely fabulous! All those details, the wonderful designs. They're fantastic. I've toyed with recreating some of them for years, but never really buckled down and did it. But, 2015 is my year. I'm getting my Titanic dresses, and you, dear reader, are going to have to put up with all my research posts and mild obsessing.

One of the weird things is, I really want to recreate the more obscure dresses. Everyone knows the Jump Dress and the amazing, iconic Dinner Dress, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Elevator Dress. It turns out that this dress was not actually made for the film. It is an actual antique dress from the period, that the production team purchased from an antique dealer. The shop, Victoriana, is somewhere in the Carolinas, but unfortunately, they don't have a website or any online contact information (though the owner still seems to frequent large antique events). There are very few pictures of this dress, and in the movie you only see it from the waist-ish up.


Not a great picture. And it flies by on screen so quickly that that's about as good as it's going to get. We do have one full-length shot of the dress, but the resolution is terrible and it doesn't give us much detail.

Thankfully, the original owner of the dress did provide a few clues. The white part of the dress is a separate "tunic" of a "sheer white textile", likely georgette, with a white slip underneath it. The black is a full skirt, and does not appear to be pleated like the tunic. The sash is only described as a "broad black band", and from the picture it is clear that it has some sort of geometric pattern to it. The only thing that was changed from the original dress to the film version was the colour of the flower, from white to peach. In the full-length pic, it looks like there might be a band of black around the bottom of the tunic, but the original owner didn't mention anything about it, so I could be wrong.

The only other thing we have to go on is the Franklin Mint doll. They used the original costumes as references when creating the doll's dresses, so they aren't just pure fantasy, but we do have to be careful as they are designed for dolls and give an approximation, and are not going to be exactly the same as they were on the originals. Jenny la Fleur has a great page with pictures of all the doll outfit pieces, including the accessories. Here's what I've been able to discern was most likely also on the original gown:

-A kimono style pleated tunic that closes down the center front, in white georgette, with black edging on the bodice
-The bodice and skirt of the tunic may be two separate pieces, connected at the waist, the seam hidden with the belt
-A black, floor length skirt in (probably) plain black silk (the doll dress has a strapless underdress in white, with black only from the knee down, which would not be something seen in period, as far as I know)
-A solid white slip with thin straps, same length as the tunic (from original owner's comments)
-A sheer camisole or chemisette with elbow-length sleeves and a square neckline that is trimmed in lace, to fill in the deep plunge neckline of the kimono tunic. There may or may not be lace at the sleeve cuff, as well. (Hard to tell from the screenshot, but you can see the higher neckline with the lace, and in the original owner's pics there appear to be elbow-length sleeves visible from the underlayer that don't have the pleating of the tunic. Doll includes a sheer undershirt with sleeves.)
-A wide black belt with a geometric/square pattern, possibly beaded or in something like burnout velvet or an unusual lace
-Both the on-screen version and original version included a flower at the center front, just above the belt. The colour of the flower was changed for the film.
-A necklace with a teardrop-shaped pendant (hard to see in the screenshot, but it is there, and the doll includes a crystal necklace with a teardrop, and matching earrings)
-A small black handbag (seen on screen)
-Rose wears the dress with a pair of black gloves and a black shawl

That's about as good as it's going to get. Without being able to speak to the original owner of the dress or someone at the studio that worked with it (would they even remember the dress?), there isn't much more information to glean from the few sources we have.

This dress is definitely on the docket for 2015. I'll post more once work on the dress begins. ^^

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