Original Photos of the actual Titanic Costumes

By Jennie Chancey

Back in early 1998, the J. Peterman company bought dozens of original costumes from “Titanic.” They created their own line of reproductions for purchase, but they also sold the originals to private collectors around the world. I am tickled pink to be able to share the pictures on this page, courtesy of the collectors who bought the original “jump” dress and pink “sinking” coat from Peterman! These photographs are here due to the sheer generosity of this private collection and for your enjoyment. In addition, I have detailed descriptions of the gown and the coat and am thrilled to be able to give some long-coveted design and construction details that many of us costume enthusiasts have puzzled over for years! The lovely people who own these two costumes hope in the future to produce a booklet with full-color photographs of these costumes, but, until that happy day, here are some “sneak previews” to tide you over. And if you have further questions about the outfits, you can reach the collectors directly at TitanicRose123@yahoo.com. Please do note that these photographs are the property of this private collection and are not for distribution or publication. You are welcome to study them to your heart’s content, but please do not place them on another website or use them in any other form. Thank you!


The Jump Dress


Here is the original painting done for the issue of the J. Peterman catalogue which contained the original costumes for sale. The collectors who own the “jump” dress actually bought the gown after seeing a special on the “Today” show — before the catalogue had come out! So by the time this issue hit mailboxes, the gown was already gone (but we could dream, couldn’t we? ;-) Peterman’s detailed watercolor painting is true to every detail of the original gown, as you will see in the photographs below. From the owner: “I purchased both the ‘jump dress’ and ‘Pink coat’ from Peterman back in 1998. Concerning the Jump dress, I spoke with Arnie Cohen, who at the time was president of J.Peterman. He told me several copies were made, but the only one that had ‘survived’ during the many takes during filming was the one I was purchasing. The other ones were destroyed beyond repair. My copy did need some re-beading, which was done in Los Angeles before being shipped to me. The dress was especially made to accomodate a harness that Ms. Winslet wore under the dress. The safety harness was worn when she was hanging over the railing. I have a letter from the designer Deborah Scott and a letter from Costume Manufacting foreman, Sal Perez, stating this. I am not an expert in fashion design, but I would guess this would have cost $10K just to make one copy using the exact materials Paramount used. Austrian crystals, glass beading, and over 1,000 hours went into the making of this gown. This gown is very heavy (about three to four pounds) with the weight of the beading and crystals.”


Above Left: Here is a full-length shot of the gown, with the train draped over the balcony on the right.You can see the flesh-colored net lining inside the bodice. Above Center: In this shot, you can see the rectangular shape of the train, as well as the tiny dots on the tulle material that makes up the overskirt and train. Above Right: Those famous beaded circles and beaded jet fringe! In this photo, you can clearly see where the second layer of black tulle is sewn onto the silk skirt beneath. The beaded edge of the uppermost tulle skirt layer just barely covers this seamline.

Above Left: Here you can see all of the intricate beading done on the bodice of the gown. Black seed beads were used here, along with the silver-lined red Austrian crystal beads. Above Right: The label you see here is sewn onto a very heavy-duty grosgrain ribbon over canvas “belt” sewn into the empire waistline of the dress. This area of the gown is heavily reinforced, since Kate Winslet wore a harness beneath the gown to hold her for the “over the railing” shots in the film.

Above Left: A close-up shot of the uppermost beaded skirt layer. Above Right: A detail shot of the bottom of the skirt with its beading.


Just for a point of comparison, here are the remains of another “jump” dress that is currently in the Fox Studios Costume Vault. You can see that the beaded bodice and train are completely missing. But this does give you a view of what the point d’esprit bodice looks like over that flesh netting. Very interesting!
Photo reprinted courtesy of the Home Theater Forum.


All the Juicy Details!

Now, for those of you who have puzzled long and hard over the construction details of this dress, you are about to get the “behind the scenes” treat directly from the owners of the original gown. The text here is pulled from e-mails and from a long phone conversation I had with them.

“How did they fasten that dress?”
Believe it or not, the “jump” dress opens down the back with a 20″ plastic zipper! Yes, yes, zippers were not invented until 1913, but this is one little “cheat” that is completely understandable for filming the scene that this dress went through! Kate Winslet not only wore a corset beneath this gown, but she wore a safety harness to prevent any accidental falls as she held onto the railing of the ship during her “suicide” scene. The bodice with its beading fastens at the top with hooks and eyes, but directly below these is the long zipper. The owners report that the zipper is black and is stitched into the gown by hand with red thread. The inside of the bodice is lined with a flesh-colored netting and also has a large, thick grosgrain waistband attached to a heavier reinforced canvas waistband. There are two long cotton loops attached to this band on either side of the gown — either for hanging the gown or to help hold the harness in place, we don’t know. At any rate, the bodice is sturdily reinforced so that all that intricate beading is kept safe during the filming (all that climbing and falling and such that Kate did!). From the owner: “Mr. Cohen told me a stunt double was originally planned to do the over the railing scenes, but Kate wanted to do ALL her own stunts.What a trouper!!! In fact, the jump dress was made for the stunt double and changed at last minute to accomodate Ms. Winslet.”

“What was the gown made of?”
The red silk of the dress is satin-backed silk, which has a sheen to it. It is very fine and lightweight, and the owners report that there is a long tear (since repaired) in one side of the skirt, which was made when Kate Winslet’s shoe heel went through the skirt and tore it. In the film, when Kate is lying on the deck, you can see her leg up to the knee. You are actually looking through the tear that was made in the dress. The tear was repaired out in California when the dress was sold, but the owners report that you can easily see the repair. The silk is also pieced in several places, which could mean there were other rips or damage during filming. The skirt is almost perfectly tubular, and the red silk is completely covered by extremely fine black tulle. The topmost layer of the skirt (not the train, but the layer with the first set of beaded circles) hangs free and is made of this tulle. The tulle is sewn into the waistline seam. The beading is done directly onto the tulle and does not go through the silk beneath. The bottom layer is the same, except that the tulle layer is sewn onto the skirt itself just beneath the beaded fringe of the top layer. Inside of the bottom of the skirt are two pleated layers of red chiffon or georgette that help reinforce the bottom of the skirt on the inside. These two “ruffles” of chiffon (one about 4 inches wide, the other about 7 inches wide) support the bottom layer of beaded circles and also help the dress stand out from the knees on down. As for the bodice, it is completely beaded all over, with the exception of the point d’esprit lace used for the short puffed sleeves and inset. This point d’esprit is lined inside with the flesh-colored netting mentioned before. The overskirt and train are made of dotted tulle with hanging beads sewn on in a “diamond” pattern. The edges of the overskirt have plastic sequins sewn all the way around. Interestingly enough, most of the seams inside the gown are unfinished (many are fraying). A few were pinked, but most were just left as-is. Since at least three gowns were made for the filming (one prototype not seen on film, one that was destroyed in the process, and this one–the survivor), it appears that inside finishing details weren’t considered important (after 1,000 man hours of beading, I don’t think I’d be thinking about binding seam edges, either!)

“What about all those beads?”
The owners report that there are many different types of beads used. The bodice is made up primarily of red Austrian crystal beads (silver lined to reflect light) and black seed beads. There are also some rhinestones set into the red and black beaded pattern. What is really fascinating is that the silver-looking “button” embellishments seen on the shoulders, bodice front and overskirt front are not silver at all — they are very pale blue Austrian crystal beads. The light used during filming gave them a silvery glow. The two bottom skirt layers each have eight beaded circles with rhinestones in the center. The circles are made of large black crystal beads and make the skirt quite heavy. A variety of beads was used on the “fringe” trim at the empire waist and on the two bottom skirt layers. These include black jet beads, trumpet beads and long tubular beads — all crystal (you can imagine the soft chinking noise this outfit makes when worn!).

“What size is the gown?”
This topic must have been debated more than any other when “Titanic” first came out. Many people thought that Kate Winslet looked “fat,” while lots of us (yours truly included) felt she had a wonderfully womanly shape and was perfect in the outfits. Are you ready for a big shock? The “jump” dress is a . . . size 4! It is so tiny that the owners really wondered if it had been worn by Winslet, but, indeed, it is the real thing! Kate was corseted for her role as “Rose,” and the dress is definitely created to be worn over a corseted form. But still! Did any of us imagine that the costume was really that tiny when we saw it on film? And this holds true for the other costumes Kate wore in the film. For those of you privileged to see the Paramount Costume Tour when it made its rounds, you saw first-hand how small all of Rose’s costumes were!


The Sinking Coat



This is the illustration from the Peterman catalogue containing the original “sinking” coat. From the owner: “I spoke to Alan Adler at 20th-Century Fox. He said Fox has other copies in addition to the one I have. My copy did receive some water damage as the silk lining on the inside is stained from the knees on down to the bottom. My wife wanted to wear this coat, but she is a very tall lady nowhere near the size of Ms.Winslet. So we purchased a repro that Peterman made. Can’t tell the difference other than the design of the buttons!” J. Peterman (which is now back in business on the ‘net after a brief bankruptcy hiatus) may still have some of these pink coats, and I hear they are exquisite! But your best bet if you want one is to check eBay and other costume sellers on the ‘net. (Or have one made by a seamstress specializing in “Titanic” recreations.


Above Left: Here is a full-length shot of the coat.Above Right Top: Here is a closer shot to show that beautiful braided trimming.Above Right Bottom: The collar of the coat along with the certificates of authenticity.


Details on the Coat
The coat is made of a very fine, soft pink wool and lined with perfectly matched pink silk. When the collectors received the coat, it had water stains from the knees on down, and they immediately called the folks in charge of the film costumes to ask if the sinking had been filmed in salt water (which would cause deterioration of the fabric over time). The answer was “yes,” so the owners promptly went to a preservationist at an art museum to ask what could be done to keep the fabric from shredding. They recommended a dry cleaner who specialized in historical textiles. The drycleaner cleaned the entire coat by hand, removing any traces of salt (although the water stains are still slightly visible). He had to remove the buttons, since a test revealed the color would run during cleaning. He put them back on when he was finished. Now the coat is preserved for future generations to enjoy!

What about the trimming?
The trim on the collar and cuffs is of very fine soutache braid, but the edges of the cuffs and collar are done with a much smaller, finer silk braid. All is hand-sewn in place. The J. Peterman reproductions of this coat match the trimming and materials exactly, although the buttons are different. The buttons on the original coat are hand-made with black silk worked over button form disks.

Isn’t the coat bigger than a size four?
Yes, indeed. This coat is around a size 8 or 10. This was done on purpose in order to make Kate look smaller and more vulnerable during the sinking scenes. The coat absolutely enveloped her, as it was meant to do.


Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip into Costume Dreamland! A big round of virtual applause to the wonderful couple who bought these costumes and agreed to share their pictures on my site! If you enjoyed these pictures and all the yummy details, please take a moment to drop a line to TitanicRose123@yahoo.com and say “THANKS!”
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