Renowned dress historian, Dr Jane Malthus, discusses what choices might the different classes of passengers on the magnificent new Titanic have made about what to pack, and wear, on board during their voyage. Some stories and artefacts survive, and we can speculate about other choices based on the fashions of the time and what we know about some of the passengers.
Passengers on the Titanic’s maiden voyage ranged from the very wealthy in the opulent cabins of first class, to the not quite so well-off in third class accommodation. There were approximately 1317 of them. All were no doubt very excited to be travelling on the then largest passenger liner. Some young couples were celebrating their honeymoon by visiting New York, and other passengers were emigrating to the USA for a new life.
Spaces for the 324 first class passengers included lounges, a smoking room, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a library, restaurants, and a reception room. All were lavishly decorated in various styles.
The 709 third class passengers were accommodated at either end of the ship, with single men separated from single women, married couples, and families. Cabins were smaller, and some had beds for up to ten people. Dining rooms, deck space, a smoking room, and a reading and writing space were also available for these passengers.
The passenger list included millionaires, industrialists, artists, sportsmen, writers, fashion designers, actors, and socialites.
Dr Jane Malthus, is an Honorary Curator at Otago Museum, and was a lecturer at both Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago. Her research focuses on historical, social, and cultural aspects of dress and textiles worn in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She also curates and writes about exhibitions of fashion and dress.