The Longchamp Racecourse and Fashion Promenade

Attracting enormous crowds, by the late 1800s, the Longchamp Racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris had become one of the most fashionable public venues in France.

Spectating at the races was an immensely popular and socially prestigious pastime.

A place to see and be seen, Longchamp was like a giant stage to vaunt one’s social position.

The Races at Longchamps from the Grandstand by Giuseppe de Nittis, 1883

Attended by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie, who sailed down the Seine River on their private yacht to catch the third race, Longchamp Racecourse opened to the public on Sunday, April 27, 1857.

Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie
Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie

And it wouldn’t only be French Royalty who loved Longchamps—King Edward VII of Great Britain attended too.

The King's carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.
The King’s carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.

Enclosures were reserved for aristocrats and the well-connected and ladies were required to be escorted by a gentleman in order to enter.

The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 - 1932)
The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 – 1932)

But grabbing the spotlight was a new class of celebrity: the demimonde.

Supported by wealthy lovers, these were women on the fringes of respectable society.

The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891
The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891

Arriving alone, demimondaine were forbidden access to the enclosures but were as much of a spectacle as the races themselves.

Mixing with society women, they often shared the same couturier but appeared a little more chic.

1908 Longchamp

Attending the Longchamp races as the mistress of wealthy textile heir Étienne Balsan was a young Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Although she didn’t quite fit the mold of a typical demimondaine, Gabrielle appeared in the loose, simple dress that would later influence an entire generation of “flappers” during the Roaring Twenties.

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel

Paris had become the fashion capital of the world and it wasn’t long before designers realized that Longchamp was a goldmine.

Fashion houses outfitted models with their finest clothes, sending them to the races to show off the latest styles.

Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908
Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908

Join us as we travel back in time to the Longchamp Races from 1907 to 1935—a time of elegance and flamboyance that may never be repeated.

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Edwardian Photoblogging

Kensington and Chelsea Libraries in London, England, uncovered a series of images suggesting that the Edwardians might have been the world’s first photobloggers.

Amateur photographer Edward Linley Sambourne (1844 – 1910) was the chief cartoonist for the British satirical magazine “Punch” which was first published in 1841.

He captured a slice of Edwardian life in these amazing candid photographs.

Read more …

Young women walking to work in London; ladies and families strolling the boulevards of Paris; couples crossing the English Channel on steamships; friends enjoying the beaches of Kent and Ostende; and housemaids hard at work cleaning the steps to plush city townhomes.

Continuing the long, elegant lines of the late Victorian period, the Edwardian era was a time of transition in women’s fashion.

It would be the last time women would wear corsets in everyday life.

And as these images show, women were enjoying a new level of freedom from the rigid conventions of heavy ankle-length Victorian gowns and bustles.

Embracing leisure sports, the upper-classes drove rapid developments in more mobile, flexible clothing styles made of lightweight fabrics for more active lifestyles.

Women’s fashion would never look back.

“however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women’s skirts.”

Oxford University historian Arthur Marwick.

As Oxford University historian Arthur Marwick (1936 – 2006) noted, “for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women’s skirts.”

Sambourne’s hobby gave us glimpses into a past that looks oddly familiar.

It was 1905.

What is this woman thinking as she walks to work?

She had similar worries to most of us today—a to-do list as long as your arm, what to make for dinner, helping her little sister with her homework, whether to accept the advances of a work colleague who seemed like a true gentleman …

Apart from her hat, the practicality and style of her clothing wouldn’t change much for decades to come.

A young woman in Cromwell Road, London on July 12, 1905 in a stylish striped shirt with a belt and an ankle-length skirt

Think the Internet generation was the first to truly embrace mobile multi-tasking? Glued to a book on the walk to work in London, this woman reminds us of how much we rely on mobile devices today.

A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908

No need to look where we’re going—other people will simply adapt and move around us. As long as we don’t walk into a lamppost, we’re good to go.

This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906
This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906

Big hats with giant bows and cycling may not go together well today, but Edwardians made it work. Cycling was in vogue as the way to get around, but to be without one’s hat was sacrilegious.

Hats could be hazardous to one's cycling, 1908
Hats could be hazardous to one’s cycling, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908

Sambourne used a concealed camera to capture candid moments. But it looks like this woman has an inkling that something is going on.

Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908
Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908

Few things in the Edwardian era were worse than being out-hatted. One had to keep a close eye on the competition.

On the lookout for photographers, 1908
On the lookout for photographers, 1908

Edwardians too had to suffer the inescapable feeling of incredulity at the various scandals of politicians and celebrities.

Shocking news
Shocking news

Imagine this woman is checking her iPhone. The little dog doesn’t seem too impressed.

A young woman carrying something. Can't be an iPhone, can it
A young woman carrying something. Can’t be an iPhone, can it
Two women talking carrying books, 1908
Two women talking carrying books, 1908
You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road
Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road.
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907

More freedom of movement in Edwardian clothing allowed these women to put their best foot forward.

The brisker the walk, the better
The brisker the walk, the better

Be careful! Having a good sense of balance was important for wearing an Edwardian hat.

A young woman on Kensington High Street with horse-drawn buses in the background
A little more formally attired, 1906
A little more formally attired, 1906

Whistle while you walk to school with Mother. A charming picture of a happy moment in time, captured forever.

The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907
Putting your best foot forward, 1906
Putting your best foot forward, 1906

Confidence. Perhaps for the first time in history, Edwardian women were free to project confidence and begin determining their own future.

Enhanced and colorized brings a little more life

We move to Paris, France. Higher hemlines were a feature of Edwardian skirts that afforded women greater freedom of movement, but at least one of these ladies prefers to lift her skirt to clear the puddles just in case.

Three women walk the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 1906

Arm-in-arm. What could be more perfect than an afternoon stroll around the Tuileries Garden in Paris?

A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

Black mourning dress worn for months or years was a convention carried over from the Victorian era and still widely practiced.

Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906

Notice the wheels on the horse-drawn cab. Inspired by the wheels of bicycles? These were interesting times—a transition from horses to automobiles was underway.

Paris in the Spring, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906

Time to see and be seen at the Place du Louvres.

Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Crossing the boulevard, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

A brisk breeze, sea air, and steam power.

This lady is aboard a steamer—a ship propelled by steam—crossing the English Channel to visit Ostende in Belgium.

Invented by Victorians, the steamship enabled the upper classes to see the world and as prices fell, the middle class were able to enjoy the occasional weekend getaway.

On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Looks like this woman found a nice spot on the ship that was sheltered from the wind.

A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Hitting the beach in Edwardian times was a very formal affair.

Getting a tan was still many decades away from becoming a fashionable or even desirous thing.

On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906

Hidden from gazing eyes, this woman enters a Victorian bathing machine to change out of her modesty.

Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty
Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty

Hats and coats against the wind.

No weather could prevent one wearing one’s hat.

That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

Hold onto your hats, ladies!

Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn't see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn’t see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

How do we get rid of that pesky photographer, Mr Sambourne?

How about we ask him to fetch a bucket of water and a brush and help us clean the steps!

You going to just stand there watching or fetch me some more water

And he’s off …

Thought that would do the trick.

Bye bye Mr Sambourne, and thank you for this incredible journey into the Edwardian era.

One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906
One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906

20 Handmade Dolls Tell the History of Fashion

This is the story of how a series of exquisite handmade dolls, representing the history of French haute couture made their way to the United States as an expression of gratitude.

The year was 1948 and France was still suffering from the effects of World War II. Housed in boxcars and dubbed the “Friendship Train”, American aide organizations had sent large-scale relief the year before.

Read more …

Now it was France who wished to show its gratitude for America’s generosity by creating the “Gratitude Train”—a set of 49 box cars filled with French-made gifts, like handmade toys and priceless works of art.

The French fashion houses banded together to create something very special.

They tasked their most talented designers with creating a set of fashion dolls that would show the evolution of French fashion.

Measuring 24 inches tall with bodies made from open wire, the designers used human hair to fashion the hairstyles.

Using period paintings, literature, and fashion plates as references, each designer chose a year between 1715 and 1906.

Representing their creative interpretations, the designers used the same level of care and attention to detail as they did for full size work.

It was a unique moment in the history of French couture.

“1715 Doll”. Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)

"1715 Doll". Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)
“1715 Doll”. Marcel Rochas (French, 1902–1955)

“1733 Doll”. Jean Bader (French)

"1733 Doll". Jean Bader (French)
“1733 Doll”. Jean Bader (French)

“1755 Doll”. A. Reichert (French)

"1755 Doll". A. Reichert (French)
“1755 Doll”. A. Reichert (French)

“1774 Doll”. Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)

"1774 Doll". Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)
“1774 Doll”. Jean Dessès (French (born Egypt), Alexandria 1904–1970 Athens)

“1779 Doll”. Lucille Manguin

"1779 Doll". Lucille Manguin
“1779 Doll”. Lucille Manguin

“1785 Doll”. Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)

"1785 Doll". Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)
“1785 Doll”. Maggy Rouff (French, 1896–1971)

“1787 Doll”. Mendel

"1787 Doll". Mendel
“1787 Doll”. Mendel

“1791 Doll”. Martial & Armand

"1791 Doll". Martial & Armand
“1791 Doll”. Martial & Armand

“1808 Doll”. Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)

"1808 Doll". Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)
“1808 Doll”. Madame Grès (Alix Barton) (French, Paris 1903–1993 Var region)

“1820 Doll”. House of Patou (French, founded 1919)

"1820 Doll". House of Patou (French, founded 1919)
“1820 Doll”. House of Patou (French, founded 1919)

“1828 Doll”. Henriette Beaujeu (French)

"1828 Doll". Henriette Beaujeu (French)
“1828 Doll”. Henriette Beaujeu (French)

“1832 Doll”. Marcelle Dormoy (French)

"1832 Doll". Marcelle Dormoy (French)
“1832 Doll”. Marcelle Dormoy (French)

“1866 Doll”. Marcelle Chaumont (French)

"1866 Doll". Marcelle Chaumont (French)
“1866 Doll”. Marcelle Chaumont (French)

“1867 Doll”. Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)

"1867 Doll". Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)
“1867 Doll”. Jacques Fath (French, 1912–1954)

“1873 Doll”. Madeleine Vramant (French)

"1873 Doll". Madeleine Vramant (French)
“1873 Doll”. Madeleine Vramant (French)

“1884 Doll”. Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)

"1884 Doll". Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)
“1884 Doll”. Nina Ricci (French, 1883–1970)

“1892 Doll”. Germaine Lecomte

"1892 Doll". Germaine Lecomte
“1892 Doll”. Germaine Lecomte

“1896 Doll”. Bruyère (French, founded 1928)

"1896 Doll". Bruyère (French, founded 1928)
“1896 Doll”. Bruyère (French, founded 1928)

“1902 Doll”. Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)

"1902 Doll". Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)
“1902 Doll”. Robert Piguet (French, born Switzerland, 1901–1953)

“1906 Doll”. Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

"1906 Doll". Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)
“1906 Doll”. Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

References
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Edwardian Fashion: A 5-Minute Guide

The Edwardian era was the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended to 1919.

King Edward VII in coronation robes

Edward loved to travel, setting a style influenced by the art and fashions of Continental Europe.

English socialite Vita Sackville-West and friends at Ascot, 1912

“A leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag.” —Samuel Hynes.

Reminiscing in the 1920s, after the horrors of world war one, the Edwardian era was remembered with nostalgia.

A bygone time of long summer afternoons and garden parties, basking in a sun that never set on the British Empire.

Garden party at Fort York, Toronto, Canada, c1909

Time for some Edwardian fashion fun.

Two French evening dresses from the Edwardian era (1901 – 1919) battle for your vote. Which one will win? Cast your vote to find out.

Dress A

c1905 Gala Dress. Silk tulle, machine woven silk in plain weave and satin. Silk ribbons, metal hooks. French, now owned by National Museum Norway.

Dress B

1909 evening gown with empire waist, short sleeves and fishtail hem; skirt is square sequins on net over satin fitted to fishtail. Callot Soeurs.

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Which dress do you prefer?

The Edwardian era marked a prominent turn in the direction of fashion for women.

Couturiers of Paris introduced a new columnar silhouette, with a distinctive “S” shaped curve.

It signaled the demise of the corset, which had been an indispensable garment of fashionable Victorian women.

The Edwardian era saw the full flowering of Parisian haute couture as the arbiter of styles and silhouettes for women of all classes.

Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909

A series of Edwardian fashion plates give us a good idea of the couturier designs that formed the basis for what women would wear.

Featuring Spring season designs from 1901 to 1906, these New York fashion plates also have notes from the designer.

The first plate features a rose red dress with a high collar and long sleeves. The dress has two decorative bands, one with horizontal stripes of deep pink and black, and the other with pink floral brocade. The collar and bodice have a “v” design, and the sleeves include puffed sections of rose. The skirt is gathered to the waist, flaring out with a slight train at the back. Decorative bands create a petal effect above the hem.

The second plate features the dark, up-swept “Gibson Girl” hairstyle and long red dress with a black trellis-like diamond pattern on the bodice and skirt. The outfit starts with a high-necked, long-sleeved floral blouse in white, red, and black. The blouse extends beneath a full bodice, cinched at the waist with several black bands. The dress flows to the ground with a double layer of red ruffles and a train of tightly-gathered folds at the back, ending in ruffles. The rear view of the dress is shown in black and white.

The third plate features a yellow gown with leaf or abstract flower pattern, deep V-neck over a pink under-layer, and high lace collar. The collar has three or four picot-edged ruffles with narrow black bands and a rosette of eight loops of narrow black ribbon at the V-neck. Bodice features three vertical bands of black lace on each side of the center front.
Elbow-length sleeves mirror the collar with ruffles and a black rosette. The waist has three horizontal rows of black with bows at the back, and two long streamers over the gored skirt, flaring into a trumpet hem with a slight train. Vertical lines of black lace surround the skirt at knee length, and five bands of ruffles with picot-edged black ribbon adorn the hem.
Complete with elbow-length mitts and a black-banded, yellow flat-brimmed straw hat with white ostrich plumes.

The fourth plate features a home outfit with an elaborate up-swept hairstyle, rose-colored gown with floral-patterned sleeves, lower bodice, and skirt insets. Square neckline with pleats for fullness, floral lower bodice with rose cap sleeves, and bands of trim. Lower floral sleeves are full to the elbow, gathered snug from elbow to wrist. Softly gathered skirt flares into a trumpet hemline, flat at the front with three bands of decorative stitching on the hips. Ornate floral bands decorate the skirt below the knee on each side.

Of course, it just wouldn’t be the Edwardian era without hats, would it? Nine photographs of women numbered 1 through 9 show a variety of hats for Spring 1902.

In the upper left, number 1 wears a dark dress with a white jabot and a hat adorned with overlapping rows of leaves.

Below her, number 2 dons a high-necked white lace dress with a dark straw flat-brimmed hat featuring white on the crown and roses under the left side.

Number 3 sports a dark jacket over a white lace high-necked blouse. Her hat is woven straw with wide strands and several large feathers on the crown.

In the center column at the top, number 4 wears a white lace dress similar to number 2, with a hat covered in white lace, bows, and roses.

Number 5 wears a white lace gown with a jabot, and her hat has an upstanding brim adorned with rows of small beads and feathers fastened by a round jeweled brooch.

Number 6 is in a black outfit trimmed with white-edged ribbons, checks, and lace. Her dark hat has a high brim trimmed with white lace and adorned with many white plumes.

At the top of the right-hand column, number 7 wears a dark patterned high-necked blouse with a deep white collar featuring a scalloped hem and inset diamond patterns.

Number 8 wears the same dress as number 6. Her small-brimmed white hat is adorned with white flowers, bows, and black-dotted veiling.

Number 9, with her back turned, wears a light jacket with a fluffy white jabot. Her white hat has a banded brim turned up, trimmed with ruched dark velvet ribbon around the crown, and a jaunty feather at the side.

Edwardians showcased their latest fashions at horse races, as seen in the next plate featuring three women in conversation amidst an attentive crowd.

On the left, a woman wears a mulberry embroidered French voile gown with a high lace collar, softly gathered sleeves, and a flared skirt. Her high-crowned straw hat is adorned with purple flowers and a large black feather plume.

In the center, a woman dons a black chiffon satin taffeta gown with a high white lace collar extending to the waist. Top-stitched pleats at the shoulders create bust fullness, and the skirt features inverted box pleats. Her black velvet hat has a turned-up brim and is decorated with a large white ostrich plume.

On the right, a woman wears a pale yellow tussar gown with Irish lace, featuring a v-neck collar, released pleats, and elbow-length sleeves with lace cuffs. A soft bow tie and a fabric belt with a large buckle accentuate the waist. Her wide-brimmed straw hat, adorned with a black band and a large yellow rose, complements the ensemble.

References: Wikipedia, Clairemont College, National Museum of Norway, Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

10 Fascinating Facts About Titanic

The “Ship of dreams”, Titanic was the pride of Liverpool’s White Star Line.

Billed unsinkable, she would send 1500 souls to a watery grave on her maiden voyage.

There’s something for everyone in our latest post—the glamour, the fashion, the technology, and the tragedy.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about RMS Titanic.

1. Titanic was the largest moving object ever built

When she entered service in 1912, Titanic was the largest ship afloat. At 882 ft 9 in (269.1 m) long and 141 ft (53.3 m) high (waterline to top of funnels), she must have seemed like a floating city.

Sea Trials of RMS Titanic, 2nd of April 1912
Sea Trials of RMS Titanic, 2nd of April 1912

The New York Tribune ran a headline on Sunday, November 27, 1910 asking the question:

“How can we dock this marine monster when she reaches the port of New York?”

It showed an illustration of Titanic with the famous Halve Maen “Half Moon”—the Dutch ship that sailed into New York Harbor in 1609—wholly contained within Titanic’s hull.

Could people in the Edwardian era imagine that even Titanic would be dwarfed by passenger cruise ships of the future.

Today’s largest cruise ships—the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and sister ship Allure of the Seas are both 1187 ft (362 m) in length and reach 213 ft (65 m) above the waterline.

Titanic vs Oasis of the Seas (with Statue of Liberty shown for comparison)
Titanic vs Oasis of the Seas (with Statue of Liberty shown for comparison)

2. One of Titanic’s funnels was fake

Only three of Titanic’s four funnels were functional—the fourth was a dummy installed because it made the ship look more beautiful and was made into a ventilation shaft for the kitchen.

Imagine you are the Titanic’s designer. Which looks better—3 or 4 funnels?

Comparing 3 and 4 funnels
Comparing 3 and 4 funnels

3. Puttin’ on the Ritz

The interior of Titanic was modeled after the Ritz Hotel, with first-class cabins finished in the Empire style.

Related post: The Changing Face of the Second Empire

Aiming to convey the aura of a floating hotel, it was intended for passengers to forget they were on board ship, and feel as though they were in a hall of a great house on shore.

Titanic's first class stateroom. Credit Cliff1066
Titanic’s first class stateroom. Credit Cliff1066
The A La Carte restaurant aboard the RMS Titanic
The A La Carte restaurant aboard the RMS Titanic
First Class Lounge
Colorized version of the original black-white photo of Titanic's first class gymnasium.
Colorized version of the original black-white photo of Titanic’s first class gymnasium.
The cafe Parisien aboard the RMS Titanic
The cafe Parisien aboard the RMS Titanic

Take a “fly through” tour of Titanic’s opulent First Class smoking room.

4. Titanic’s hull was made from 2000 steel plates

Riveting stuff, right? Well actually, weak rivets are probably the main reason Titanic sank.

To appreciate just how impressive it is to fasten 2000 steel plates together at a time before sophisticated welding, we first need to know what 2000 steel plates looks like.

Besides making your eyes go funny, imagine each of those tiny gray rectangles is 30 feet long (9.1 m), 6 feet wide (1.8 m), and weighs 3 tons.

2000 Steel Plates
2000 Steel Plates
Rivets
Rivets

Each plate was between 1 inch (2.5 cm) and 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) thick and needed fastening together with steel rivets—three million of them. It’s the same principle used on your jeans.

Rivets are incredibly strong and hold together structures like the Eiffel Tower and Brooklyn Bridge.

Heated, then driven through holes by hydraulic machines, they held together Titanic’s plates with a watertight seal.

But here’s the thing—there wasn’t enough room to use the hydraulic machines on the bow (the forward part of Titanic’s hull). So men had to hammer them through by hand.

To make that job easier, the rivets for the bow of Titanic (and the stern) were made of softer wrought iron—the quality of which was questionable.

Imagine the rivets are like a zipper. If enough force is applied, once the first rivet breaks, the others follow. And so it was when Titanic’s hull collided with the massive iceberg—the plates ripped apart.

Sometimes the smallest things matter the most.

5. Titanic set a new standard for third-class accommodations

Third class cabin aboard Titanic
Third class cabin aboard Titanic

Titanic was one of the first ships to offer improved steerage (third class) accommodation.

While most ships only offered open dormitories with inadequate food or toilet facilities, Titanic offered private, comfortable cabins for two, four, six, eight and 10 passengers.

Third-class passengers also had their own dining rooms with pine paneling and sturdy teak furniture.

Substantial open deck space was also made available, as was a smoking room for men and reading room for women—both far exceeding the average for the time.

6. Titanic was an ideal venue for debutantes

For ambitious mothers looking to marry off their daughters to eligible bachelors, Titanic was a venue par excellence.

A passenger list was published before sailing—a veritable “who’s who”—to make everyone aware of which society elites would be gracing the ship with their presence.

Ladies, what would you choose to wear from this sample of Edwardian haute couture?

Related post: Dinner at Downton – What to Wear?

Titanic Dresses. clockwise from top left Callot Soeurs (French), Herbert Luey (American), Callot Soeurs, Paul Poiret (French). Credit metmuseum
Titanic Dresses. clockwise from top left Callot Soeurs (French), Herbert Luey (American), Callot Soeurs, Paul Poiret (French). Credit metmuseum

7. The Grand Staircase descended through seven decks

Drawing of the Grand Staircase onboard the RMS Titanic from the 1912 promotional booklet
Drawing of the Grand Staircase onboard the RMS Titanic from the 1912 promotional booklet
Grand Staircase. Credit Titanic Belfast
Grand Staircase. Credit Titanic Belfast

The Grand Staircase descended through seven decks of the ship, capped with a dome of wrought iron and glass to admit natural light.

Each landing off the staircase gave access to ornate entrance halls lit by gold-plated light fixtures.

It is thought that the inrush of water in the final moments pushed the entire Grand Staircase upwards through the dome.

8. “We are safer here than in that little boat”

John_Jacob_Astor_1909

John Jacob Astor IV, who went down with Titanic on that fateful night of April 15, 1912, was one of the richest men in the world.

As people jostled for space aboard lifeboats, Mr Astor initially dismissed the idea of leaving the ship’s safety, saying to his pregnant wife:

“We are safer here than in that little boat.”

Astor had built the Astoria Hotel “the world’s most luxurious” in 1897, which later merged with the Waldorf to become the Waldorf-Astoria complex.

His net worth was said to have been in the billions. But here’s the problem with calculating someone’s net worth in 1912: there were no income taxes—not until the following year.

Nevertheless, shortly after the disaster, the New York Times ran a detailed study of the real-estate holdings that Astor’s son, Vincent, would inherit. Factoring additional bequests to his wife and daughter, they arrived at $150,000,000—valued at around $3.75 billion today.

9. And the band played on

If there is any consolation for the eight musicians who perished aboard Titanic, it is that they indulged their passion for music until the very end.

Members of the Titanic orchestra
Members of the Titanic orchestra

These heroes decided to start playing to help calm the passengers as the crew helped women and children board the lifeboats. One survivor said,

“Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”

10. When time ran out …

From a Titanic exhibition at Southampton – a retrieved fob watch from an unknown passenger, that had stopped at the approximate time that the ship went down on that fateful night on April 15 1912 at 02:20.

This watch tells the story of when time ran out for over 1500 people.

From a Titanic exhibition at Southampton, a retrieved fob watch from an unknown passenger stopped at the approximate time the ship went down on that fateful night on April 15 1912 at 02:20.

Immersed into lethally cold water with a temperature of 28 °F (−2 °C), almost all died within 15–30 minutes.

Only 13 were helped into lifeboats, even though there was room for another 500.

References
wikipedia.org
CNBC—How Much Was Titanic Victim John Astor Worth?
The Telegraph

Dinner at Downton – What to Wear?

Imagine you’ve been invited to dinner at Downton Abbey.

It’s the first season covering the period around 1912-1914.

The decade leading up to our dinner at Downton saw the rise of Haute Couture; French for “high fashion” with its exclusive tailored clothing.

Paris was the fashion capital of the world and designers outfitted models with their finest clothes, sending them to Longchamp Races to show off the latest styles.

Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908
Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908

A new female silhouette had emerged from design houses Callot Soeurs and Paul Poiret. The new form-fitting gowns featured narrow skirts and raised waistlines and required a “straight line” corset, also known as the S-bend or health corset. It had a very rigid, straight busk, forcing the torso forward.

During Season One of Downton Abbey, a narrow-hipped and narrow skirted silhouette was all the rage.

Listed below are actual evening dresses from the period, donated by various wealthy families to the collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

An Edwardian lady in full dress was a wonder to behold, and her preparations for viewing were awesome.William Manchester.

What will you wear for dinner at Downton? Vote for your favorites.

Recommended reading & viewing:

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“The Master of Swish” – Boldini’s Elegant Portraits of High Society Women

Self-portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1892
Self-portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1892

In a dusty old Parisian apartment in 2010, a startling discovery was made.

No one had set foot on the premises for 70 years.

Hidden, as if in a time capsule, was a portrait by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.

It was of Marthe de Florian, a French actress and demimondaine during the Belle Époque. She was known for having famous lovers including a string of French premiers—Georges Clemenceau, Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau,  Paul Deschanel, and Gaston Doumergue.

The apartment belonged to de Florian’s granddaughter, who left Paris to live in the South of France at the outbreak of World War 2, and never returned.

Evidence of the painting’s authenticity lay in a love-letter and a biographical reference dating it to 1888, when the actress was 24.

Boldini is best known for his dazzling, elegant depictions of fashionable high society women.

A 1933 Time magazine article called Boldini the “Master of Swish”—one look at his striking, fluid brushstrokes explains why.

He was preeminently the artist of the Edwardian era, of the pompadour, the champagne supper and the ribbon-trimmed chemiseTime Magazine.

Born in Ferrara in 1842, the son of a painter of religious subjects, he moved to Florence to study painting when he was 20 and met the “Macchiaioli”—Italian precursors to Impressionism. It was their influence that set him on a course initially as a landscape artist, then as a portraitist.

On moving to London, he found fame painting society members including the Duchess of Westminster and Lady Holland.

From 1872, he lived in Paris, where he befriended Edgar Degas and became the most fashionable portraitist in Paris.

He lived to be 88, having married only two years earlier. At his wedding breakfast, he made a little speech:

It is not my fault if I am so old, it’s something which has happened to me all at once.

Vote for your favorites from the “master of swish” as you listen to The Swan by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns.

Miss Bell by Giovanni Boldini, 1903.

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If You Could be Princess for a Day, Which Princess Would you be?

The term “Princess” is most often used as the regal rank of a daughter or granddaughter of a king or queen, or the wife of a prince.

It is the feminine form of prince, derived from Old French meaning “noble lord” and from Latin princeps, meaning “first man, chief leader; ruler, sovereign”.

I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them.Princess Diana

Old English had no female equivalent of “Prince”, “Earl”, or any royal or noble title aside from Queen.

A monarch’s daughter would be called “the Lady” followed by her first name. For example, the Lady Elizabeth or the Lady Mary—both daughters of King Henry VIII.

The term Princess started to become popular in Britain in the 18th century.

I don’t want to be a princess who sits on the sidelines; I want to be present and actively involved. It’s a life with a purpose.Charlene, Princess of Monaco

George I’s children, grandchildren, and male-line great-grandchildren were automatically titled “Prince or Princess of Great Britain and Ireland” and styled “Royal Highness” (in the case of children and grandchildren) or “Highness” (in the case of male-line great-grandchildren).

In European countries, a woman who marries a prince will almost always become a princess, but a man who marries a princess will almost never become a prince.

Vote for your favorite Princess.

Portrait of a Lady – a Brief History of the term “Lady”

Today, the term “lady” is often used as a civil term of respect for a woman, as is “gentleman” for a man.

But there was a time when its purpose was to address women of high social class or status.

During the Middle Ages, princesses or daughters of the blood royal were usually known by their first names with “The Lady” prefixed, e.g. The Lady Elizabeth.

The Renaissance lady is described by Italian courtier, author, and diplomat Baldassare Castiglione (1478 – 1529) in his handbook for the nobility, The Book of the Courtier, (Amazon affiliate link) in which he writes that she was the equivalent of the courtier, with the same virtues of mind and equivalent education.

Castiglione writes that although culture was an accomplishment for the noblewoman and man alike—used to charm others as much as to develop the self—for the lady, charm had become the primary occupation and aim.

knowledge of letters, of music, of painting, and . . . how to dance and how to be festive.
La Mode Illustrée, 1865
La Mode Illustrée, 1865
Whereas the courtier’s chief task is defined as the profession of arms, a Lady’s pleasing affability is becoming above all else, whereby she will be able to entertain graciously every kind of man.

By Victorian times, ladies etiquette had become a fine art. Several handbooks provided advice on the complexities and nuances, none other than Florence Hartley’s The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness (Amazon affiliate link) advises that a lady should have knowledge of the forms and customs of society and how to show the gentle courtesies of life.

Emphasizing just how important dress was to the Victorian lady, is this Florence Hartley quote:

‘A lady is never so well dressed as when you cannot remember what she wears.’ No truer remark than the above was ever made. Such an effect can only be produced where every part of the dress harmonizes entirely with the other parts, where each color or shade suits the wearer’s style completely, and where there is perfect neatness in each detail. One glaring color, or conspicuous article, would entirely mar the beauty of such a dress.
La Mode Illustrée, 1863
La Mode Illustrée, 1863

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes the formal use of “lady” as a title of nobility:

any of various titled women in Great Britain —used as the customary title of (1) a marchioness, countess, viscountess, or baroness or (2) the wife of a knight, baronet, member of the peerage, or one having the courtesy title of lord and used as a courtesy title for the daughter of a duke, marquess, or earl.

Here are twelve portraits of titled ladies from the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras.

Which is your favorite portrait of a Lady?