So I was noodling around YouTube as one does, and I discovered that Glamour magazine has hired a fashion historian named Raissa Bretaña to create some very slick videos looking at the historical accuracy of the costumes in various films. So far, she’s done Titanic and four Disney movies (Snow White, The Princess and the Frog, Frozen, and Beauty and the Beast). I’ve only watched the one on Titanic — and also grumbled that I should be paid to review the historical accuracy of costume in film, but that’s another story. I overall agreed with her analysis of Titanic, with its gorgeous costumes designed by Deborah Lynn Scott, but I have a nitpick! And isn’t the Internet ALL ABOUT nitpicking? So I thought I’d write a post. (Who knows, maybe I’ll have nitpicks with the others when I get around to watching them!)
Overall, other than the makeup, Bretaña gives a big old thumbs up to Titanic‘s costumes’ historical accuracy. I was nodding along, until she got to Rose’s (played by Kate Winslet) corset, when Bretaña says,
“We see Rose being laced into a corset in one scene of the movie where she has a really important discussion with her mom. The year 1912 specifically was a really interesting time for women and corsets because they were evolving and shaping with the silhouette, but the most modern women started to abandon the corset altogether. This scene perfectly illustrates this push and pull between this more tight-laced past and a more modern future. This is really the beginning of the straightened silhouette that we will see in the 1920s. Just ten years before, the dramatic silhouette was called an S-curve and you can see that in this picture here. Even though the most modern women were already abandoning corsets in 1912, the really rigid traditions of the society in which Rose lives really demanded that she wear one.”
All of Bretaña’s analysis is 100% correct according to my research… but despite showing an advertisement for a 1912 corset, Bretaña DOESN’T address the historical INaccuracy of the Titanic corset’s CUT…
Read all of this post about Titanic (1997) here!
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A very interesting post, thank you. I agree that overall, in general, most of the time etc etc there was a loosening and removal of boning corsets from about 1900 to 1930. During this time corsets changed from “essential” to “optional”. But the change was not uniform. In 1910 some women chose to be corsetless, and in the 1920s you can find adverts for corsets for 13 year olds for the “essential support”. This was the time was old age was respected as an authority, so many girls growing up in this period were subject to the opinions of their grandmothers – born in the severe corset period before 1900.
Kendra, I love your posts! I always wondered about Kate Winslet’s corset in Titanic, but not about the shape (about which you are spot on) but about the lacing. Were women in 1912 still being strapped in to their corsets from behind à la Scarlett O’Hara? I would have thought that most corsets by that time fastened in the front, allowing the wearer to put on and remove the garment by herself. After all, the Titanic had no 4-poster beds (that is true), so what would she have held on to while her mama cinches her in? And how would she have gotten herself out of her corset for her sketching scene with Jack?
Good question! Yes, front-opening busks allow the wearer to dress themselves — you loosen the ties to put it on, fasten the busk, and then tighten the ties in back. However, it’s ALWAYS fancier to have someone else dress you, so I think it’s a class thing.