Fun and fashion are hardly the first words to come to mind when thinking about The Titanic but Lucy and Meredith of The History Wardrobe brought both to a rather dreary (weatherwise) afternoon at The Bagshaw Museum in Batley on Saturday. Last November I attended Lucy Adlington’s History Wardrobe presentation “Oh my poor nerves!” at The Red House in Gomersal and found I was “hooked”. After that performance I immediately booked for Titanic, thus securing ticket number 1!
The Bagshaw Museum, Batley
In 2012 I felt as if I never wanted to hear the word Titanic again. It seemed to crop up everywhere and on a visit to Belfast that June I even went to visit the Museum of the same name.
The Titanic Experience in Belfast
For 15 years now Lucy has presented history, and particularly women’s history, through women’s fashions. Visit her website here for a list of dates and presentations coming to a village hall or museum near you, soon.
The Titanic Set
Meredith, who took on the character of Lady Lucy Duff Gordon’s maid Mabel Francatelli, introduced the programme before Lucy, alias Lady Duff Gordon herself, made her grand entrance. Married to Sir Cosmo the three of them boarded the fateful ship at Cherbourg.
Lady Duff Gordon and her Maid Mabel
Following the collapse of her first marriage “In 1894 she rented a shop and workspace at 24 Old Burlington Street, London, between Bond Street and Regent Street. ‘Maison Lucile’ was a success and the ‘personality’ dresses of ‘Lucile’ were immediately popular. Each design was unique which enhanced their appeal. In 1897 new, larger premises were purchased at 17 Hanover Square. By 1900 the firm had become one of the great couture houses of London under the name ‘The Maison Lucile.’ In 1910 she opened a branch of Lucile Ltd. in New York. A further salon was established in Paris in 1912, and in 1915 a branch in Chicago expanded the empire.”
Second class suit and cream silk dinner gown with a ‘hobble’ skirt
Throughout the performance Lucy stressed the importance of class and gender on the ship from passengers to crew each had their role and adhered to the hierarchy of social class.
We learn that the ship was a floating palace, 11 stories high and that it smelt of the perfume of flowers. We are shown examples of the dresses worn by first and second class passengers but very few ‘steerage’ outfits survive. This is due to the fact that dresses were worn to threadbare or remade and repaired and then used as rags. Lucy has however rescued a single wool petticoat lined with glazed cotton – one of the prizes of her collection.
The Prize Wool Petticoat
We are also told about activities aboard ship the main one being eating; although one could walk around the deck for two miles or dip into the unheated seawater pool. We’re shown a cotton tea dress, a cream silk dinner gown with a ‘hobble’ skirt (the height of fashion in 1912) and a fur cape, boa, ladies underwear and nightwear.
A Maid’s Underwear and Boots
Meredith in Mabel’s Tea Dress
First Class Silk and Lace Underwear
A Maid and her Mistress in their Night Attire
Lucy ends the two hour non-stop show with a favourite quotation “Eat the cake! Think of all the ladies who turned away the dessert trolley!”.
Hooray for The History Wardrobe – my next visit will be to see the premier of “Women and the Great War” in March.